Is This Thing Killing Your Productivity?

smart-phone-1024x512
So, this is my scenario: I’m fifteen minutes into my ministry workday, I’m sitting in my office, and I am just getting into the groove of a project that has been hanging over me for a couple weeks, when…

Ding! Buzz! Ding! 

Simultaneously, I hear an email notification from my laptop, my phone buzzes in my pocket, and my iPad dings from my bag on the floor. Not only are my hearing senses alerted, but an email notification shows up on my laptop from the sender, and I can already read the subject… It looks urgent… I need to read it… I must read it now!

It’s like the notifications are crying out to me, “Read me, read me, read me!”

What do I do? What do you do? 

If you are like me, the typical routine is to click on the notification and get right to it! I’ll admit it, I have no will power. I’m like a toddler at a candy store! Show me the candy, and I’ll grab it. (Although email can hardly be described as candy… There are other words I could use).

Fascinating Results! 

According to a recent article in The Harvard Business Review, French IT company Atos Origin created filters and limits on email use and saw incredible results:

  • Reduced email use by 60%
  • Increased overall productivity of staff
  • Operating margin increased by 1%. (This is actually very significant in their space)
  • Earnings per share rose by 50%. (Gigantic result)
  • Administration costs are down by 3%

Now the article is quick to point out that while not all the improvements can be attributed to less email use, the correlation is definitely strong.

What can this mean for leaders in ministry? 

  • If you are like me, (and I hope you might have more self-control when you get an email notification), but what would it look like if we turned off all notifications on all our devices?
  • What if we chose to compartmentalize our email use to once or twice a day?
  • What would it look like to get up out of your seat and go to speak to someone? Or perhaps pick up the phone instead of sending that email?

In short, I believe that not only would the productivity improve, but the relational connections in ministry would be greatly impacted. I’m not saying we should do away with email, (as this French company is suggesting), but I wonder how ministry and could improve if we begin to drive our schedules, rather than the “ding” of an email alert?

Phil <><

SYMC 2016 – Real World Family Ministry

slide01

This weekend I have been at The Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Chicago, IL. It’s been a great weekend so far and I have been so encouraged by the conversations, new connections, and inspiring worship and teaching.

In addition, I have had the privilege to invest in and encourage youth and family ministry workers as they seek to partner with the family to reach the next generation.

As promised, here are two links to .pdf documents I covered in my two sessions as part of the Real World Youth Ministry Half Track. 

They are available only until October 15th 2016. Contact Phil Bell if you are attempting to download after this date.

 

Phil <><

 

D6: Family First – It Starts with You!

Fathers day composition - photo album with a black and white photos. Studio shot on wooden background.

This week I have been hanging out with some great people at the D6 Conference in Louisville, KY. It’s an incredible event and is packed full of great general sessions, workshops, and an brilliant community of people. It’s been great to be here.

One of the breakouts I led was titled Family First – It Starts with You! As someone who leads a family ministry team, I know how easy it is to allow ministry to consume and dictate my own family life.

Over the years, sadly I have watched many good friends in ministry burn out or make poor choices. None of them set out with that plan, but over time, unhealthy patterns dictated their paths… A number of years ago I came to a crunch point in my life where I recognized things needed to change. Thankfully by God’s grace and through some incredible mentors in my life, I am learning and applying what I shared in the workshop here at D6.

To get a copy of the outline, please contact Phil Bell by clicking here.

If you were at D6, I hope you had an incredible conference! I did!

Phil <><

7 Keys to Influencing Church Leadership to Partner with Parents

You’ve likely heard it said that our time with kids and students is getting shorter in an increasingly busy extra curricular culture. Parents however, still have the greatest influence with their kids, While what we do on a Sunday or midweek program is vital, it’s imperative that we make a shift in our time and resources to help parents to succeed at home. But, it’s not entirely up to us, is it?

Influencing church leadership to embrace a vision of reaching the whole family is critical. After all, your leaders set the direction of the church. And if the church employs you, it’s likely you will have to get them to buy into partnering with parents. But that’s not always easy to do! Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents.

Here’s the question I get asked a whole lot! How can I get buy in from my pastor or church leaders to reallocate my time and resources to partner with parents? 

Climbing Leadership

While it can often feel like climbing a mountain alone, there are some practical and tactical steps you can take to gain buy in from those who lead us: 

  1. Focus on your Job Description First. It doesn’t matter if you are a volunteer or full-time, the leaders in your church see your primary responsibility to invest in children or students (or both). We have to remember that the idea of partnering with parents, and the titles of “Next Generation” or “Family Life Pastors” is foreign to many leaders in the church. We also have to consider that there is a certain way children’s and youth ministry has been done over the years. Therefore, it is essential that we gain influence first by doing a great job in the role that we were called to. It can take two or more years to establish a healthy ministry before partnering with parents can truly become a focus. While this might be frustrating, it doesn’t mean you can’t infuse partnering with parents into your role, it just might take a little longer to arrive…
  2. Pursue Healthy Conversations. Part of our role is to constantly find ways to passionately talk up the need and vision to partner with parents. However, in my experience it is crucial to pursue conversations that are positive and filled with great reasons why, as opposed to criticizing what the church is missing out on. In pursuing healthy conversations with the decision makers in your church, keep in mind that they are usually managing multiple people, plans, and ideas. Therefore, ensure that you come prepared.
  3. Own the Vision. Can you articulate why it’s essential to partner with parents in a sentence or two? Can you provide a biblical basis along with specific examples of how partnering with parents is more effective? Chapter 4 in my book provides a clear vision for you to articulate. If you need help in this area, consider picking up a copy.
  4. Have a Strategy. One of the greatest shortcomings in my early days was not having a good strategy that other leaders could support. Having a strategy that includes a timeline and specific steps showing a progression of implementation is crucial.
  5. Share Stories. A story of life change is always going to be the most effective way to cast vision with leaders in the local church. We all want to know one thing. Does it work? Providing stories of how partnering with parents is making your ministry more effective and how it is helping parents to be more effective is so crucial. It ultimate serves as a crucial way to cast vision for leaders.
  6. Request “Stage Time”. I am very fortunate in my church when it comes to my senior leaders supporting the vision to partner with parents. It’s not difficult to ask for opportunities to cast the vision in the overall church. However, this has not always been case. Even though there are always so many events to be promoted and given stage time, it shouldn’t mean that we do not ask. As long as we don’t come across as whiney kids, you and I might be surprised by the opportunities that come our way.
  7. Commit to the Long Haul. One of the greatest ways you and I can influence leadership to capture a vision for partnering with parents is longevity. When you have been around for a while and you have a track record of “getting your job done” as well as having gained trust with key leaders, longevity brings influence.

What would you add to this list? How much “buy in” do you have with your church leadership to truly partner with parents? Is it just an add on, or is it something that is weaved into your role? Who are the leaders and influencers you need to connect with this week to discuss your vision to reach the whole family?

Phil <><

photo credit: Aiguille du Midi, Mont-Blanc via photopin (license)

4 Healthy Defaults for Balancing Family and Ministry – Part 3

Phil Bell RunningIn my first post in this series I talked about the importance of seeking out a vision for our own family while we journey through ministry together. So often we are quick to craft vision statements and values for our churches, yet we neglect to have a God-given vision for our own family. If you are like me, when things are way out of balance, we begin to lose joy in what we do, while our families struggle with our workload… Know the feeling?

In my last two posts I have looked at two healthy defaults for balancing family and ministry. While balancing family and ministry is like trying to hit a moving target, it does not mean we should not seek to place some healthy defaults in place. These healthy defaults, along with a clear family vision can make all the difference. It’s imperative we create healthy spiritual and relational defaults, and today I want to focus on the third default of physical health. 

I have a confession… Up until about 3 months ago, I used to run 3-4 miles at least 3 times a week, play indoor soccer once a week, and mountain bike about once a month… My diet was mostly healthy with a few treats added in… Then we moved to North Carolina!

Changing ministry, moving 4 times in 4 months, (long story) has a way of not only tiring me out, it’s also killed many of my healthy habits! In the past 3 months I ran twice, I have not kicked a soccer ball once, and my mountain bike just arrived on the moving truck last week, (the tires are flat and my compressor is broken – It feels like a representation of my exercise life right now). As for food, it seems like tiredness has encouraged me to give-in to comfort food more often than I should…

Why is this a problem? It’s not hard to know the obvious problems of health and wellness. Little exercise and poor diet will obviously catch up with me in some way, but I wonder if we often miss out on a greater reason for staying healthy?

What are the emotional, mental, and spiritual benefits to being healthy?

What is the impact on our efficiency when we have healthy defaults?

When I have healthy defaults that are part of my rhythm, I just get more done! Have you ever experienced that? If not, let me tell you, it is a brilliant feeling! Right now, I feel like I am missing out a little… How about you?

So, what is next? While this post would get more traction around the new year,  I can’t wait for a resolution to get me back to my healthy defaults. Below, are some quick bullets that I hope will allow me to reestablish some healthy defaults in my life. While I don’t want to become legalistic, I need to set some goals in place to help me to get back on track… How about you?

Add in: 

  •  Running 2x a week. Start at 2 miles. Work up to 3 miles.
  •  Join an indoor soccer league locally, (by the end of the year).
  • Mountain bike once a month
  • Drink 6-8 cups of water a day

Change: 

  • Stop eating after 7pm. (I often snack in the evenings… Chips and salsa can’t be good for me every night before bed)!
  • No snacks / candy during the day.
  • 2 cups of coffee a day. (Currently, I drink 3-4 cups a day).

What about you? What do you need to add into your schedule? What needs to change? How could some healthy defaults impact your emotional, mental, and spiritual life? How would it help you to be more effective in your family and ministry? What simple steps can you take to establish some healthy defaults in your life?

Phil <><

 

Team Up! How to Become an Expert in Partnering with Parents!

Expert Lightbulb
 photo credit: Light bulb on desk via photopin (license)

Partnering with parents to reach the next generation for Christ should be an essential component for every children’s and youth ministry. While we get to partner with them through our weekly programs, it’s imperative that we understand that God has called parents to be the primary equippers of their child’s faith journey. It’s essential that we comprehend the greater influence of time that parents have with their children.

 “I get it, but what next? I’m not an expert on parenting!”

That was a statement I made many years ago as I grappled with how best to reach parents with a vision to invest in their child’s faith journey. I had quickly found that parents were looking for practical ways to invest in their children, but many times, they were lost for ways to help faith come alive at home.  And while I was not always the one to help them with every question, it was imperative that I develop a network of people who had the answers.

“Be an expert at helping parents find answers rather than one who’s expected to have the answers.” Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents. 

Consider the following experts and support you can provide parents: 

  1. “Been There” Parents: Who are the parents who are a few steps ahead of the parents in your ministry? While there are no perfect parents, it’s essential to connect your parents with those who have gleaned valuable lessons in raising their own children in the faith. Who are the “been there” parents in your ministry?
  2. Trained Christian Counselors: Every community has a number of counselors, but they do not all come from a Christ-centered perspective. Talk to your senior pastor and other church leaders to build a list of recommended trained christian counselors.
  3. Community Agencies: While many community agencies will not have the same mission as the church, they can often provide great practical help to the families in your church.
  4. Books: Ask parents if there are books that have helped them in their parenting journey. Create a list and even be prepared to ask a parent to write a review of the book for other parents to read.
  5. Websites: What websites and blogs can help parents in their faith journey. Recently at Kidmin2015 we created a list of websites, blogs, and apps that can help parents. Click here for the list. 
  6. Apps: Some of your parents are already using apps and loving the ideas and encouragement they bring. Ask parents if they have a “go to” app they use as they invest in their child’s faith journey. Once you have found that app on the app store, consider searching for similar apps to recommend them.

Parents see you as the expert whether you like it or not. It does NOT mean you have to know all the answers, but it DOES mean that you should be an expert in finding the answers!

What are your “go to” resources for parents? What are your favorite websites, apps, and books to recommend parents? 

Phil <><

 

Kidmin 2015 Deep Learning Track Notes

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 10.02.26 PM

Thanks to everyone who came to the deep learning track called Parent Pain Points. A great deal of the content came from my recently published book, Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents.

As promised, below is a link to shortened outline with the main points and quotes from the 4 sessions I led. (Please note, there is an expiration on the link – The notes will be available until October 15th).

Click here for notes!

Feel free to give me feedback and please use the contact form if you have any questions?

It was such a pleasure to meet so many incredible children’s, youth, and family ministry workers!

Phil <><

Leading By Example… When Our Words Are Not Enough

IMG_1758

It’s natural for followers to begin to take on the personality, habits, theology, and core values of the leader. Just walk into any organization and you can quickly see what the leadership stands for by seeing the employees at work. If you were to walk into a church, what would the people and culture tell you about their leader(s)?

If you are the example, what are your followers following?

If you are like me, it’s a challenging question to ask since it requires me to be gut wrenchingly honest. It scares me to ask this question since it means I might have to look to make changes in what I say and do on a regular basis.

It concerns me to think that what I stand for is not being communicated to the leaders I oversee. However, as hard as it is to ask this question, it is this question that can become a doorway to health…

You see, we can’t get away from the fact that our followers will likely take on the DNA of what we communicate and stand for. Therefore, for the sake of the people we are leading, it is imperative that we look long and hard in the mirror at who we are and what our leadership communicates. When we see areas of weakness or lack of clarity, it is important that we embrace the reality and invite God to change us. But most importantly, above all else, are we reflecting Christ to our followers?

So the question I ask again is this:

If you are the example, what are your followers following?

Phil <><

5 Social Media Ministry Boundaries for Leaders

Social Media BoundariesI wrote this article a while back, but recently I have heard about friends in ministry who have been burned by some poor decisions when using social media. I’m reposting this today in the hope it will be helpful to those of us who are in ministry and use social media…

Using social media can be your friend when doing ministry, but it can quickly become your enemy too…  I have heard stories of youth workers who are getting into trouble because of the way they are using social media. I have also heard quite a few stories of people not getting a new position because of the social media ‘past.

5 Social Media Ministry Boundaries

1) Accept that leaders live in ‘glass house.’ This is hard to accept, but when you are in ministry and you are using social media, it automatically means that you are under the spotlight. Leaders, parents, students, and children are looking up to you and will often follow you for inspiration, guidance, and hope. On the other hand, others will follow you to get an inside track to see whether you fit their mold of someone in ministry…

Like it or not, the reality is that a leader is always watched closely. What are others seeing?

2) Wait to be Friended or Followed: If you don’t know a student well, wait for them to friend or follow you. I know this might seem a little extreme, but unless I know a person quite well, I will wait for them to friend me. If there is a person in your ministry who is new and getting plugged in, it might be worth waiting for them to friend you. Waiting for someone to ‘friend’ you simply avoids any weirdness and ensures they are happy for you to get an inside track to their life.

3) Avoid Private Conversations: When working with students, try to keep messages public and for all to see. If a students wants to talk to you about an issue or a problem, try to do it face to face in full site of others. It’s also essential to communicate with parents that you are talking to their student. I know this might seem a little over the top, but here are two good reasons why contacting parents is a good idea:

  • It opens the door for a relationship to partner with parents.
  • It avoids parents wondering what your intentions are. In this day and age, parents are protective when other adults contact their kids, and rightly so. Honor parents by touching base and letting them know who you are.

4) Consider carefully what you post: Here are three things that can get you in trouble.

  • Questionable pictures: In certain social media platforms such as Facebook, you can create a setting that gives you the option to ‘allow’ pictures you are tagged in. Ensure that the pictures of you will always allow others to see you in a positive light.
  • Complaints: Complaining about others simply does not look good. It shows weakness that we can’t talk to the person directly as well as modeling a poor method of dealing with conflict.
  • Controversial Issues: For me I don’t post  anything that could divide people in my church. Political statements, local controversies, and attacks on political leaders should be avoided.

In what you post, would others describe you as a  divisive and opinionated person, or an inspirational leader? 

5) Leverage social media to inspire and uplift:  This should be a given, but many of us have discounted the great value of regularly posting to inspire others. As I said at the beginning of this post. People are looking for hope and direction. Consider what influence you can have by using social media effectively?

What would you add to this list? In what ways has social media caused issues for you? What are the most widely used forms of social media by your students? Where are your students trending to? 

Phil <><

photo credit: mag3737 via photopin cc

The Missing Ingredient to Healthy Discipleship?

The way we are discipled will correlate into how we disciple others… Who’s discipling you?

That is one of the most pertinent things that has ever been said to me. It was at a time when I had hit a roadblock in my ministry and was struggling personally. I had been working so hard taking others on their faith journey that I had not taken the time to invest in my own journey. The fact is, if you and I want to make an eternal impact on our own family and the people God has called us to disciple, it is imperative that each of us has someone who can invest in our faith journey. Or to put it another way:

Everyone needs a Paul in their lives as they look to invest in the Timothy’s in our lives. 

Helping Hand

It does not matter how old or experienced we are, we all need to look up to a ‘Paul’ in our lives who has the time to invest in us. I already have a few great guys who have invested in me, but if I am honest, my life and schedule has taken over recently. It’s time to create space and time in my schedule to make more time to be discipled.

As you look for people to disciple you, what should this look like? Here’s what I am looking for: 

1. They are available and have the TIME: We live in a fast paced world. Some of the most Godly men and women are ineffective because of one foundational deficiency: They are simply too busy. For you and I, I would seek out those people who are good time managers or have more time on their hands. Some of the best people to disciple you are in their retirement years because they have more time and will MAKE time for you. I know it might be awkward asking an older guy or gal to meet with you at first, but you will be blessed if you do so… Who at your church or in your community is strong in their faith and has TIME?

2. They help me dig into God’s Word and prayer: Years ago when I lived in the UK,  I met regularly with a guy called Chris who studied the Bible with me. I will never forget his passion, his knowledge, and the basic bible study skills he gave me. The way I personally study the bible and the way in which I help others study is because of Chris. What are you learning and what are you passing on? Who can you dive into God’s Word with? Who is praying for your each week?

3. They can speak into my family life: In a previous church, I sought out a guy who taught a number of the family and marriage classes. After a few coffees with him, I asked him to look out for me and gave him permission to check in with me about my family. To this day, even though we have both moved, ‘Bob’ has sought me out and checked in to see how we are all doing. We have had dinner with him and his wife many times and they have been a huge support to our family. We are learning from them in so many ways and are incredibly thankful for the Godly wisdom they provide. Despite the distance, Bob is someone who I trust to know what is best for my family.

4. Ask them to look for areas of weakness: I have always made it a point to seek out Godly leaders around me as a way to grow and glean from them. On the odd occasion, leaders like this will offer to help in some way where they see a need in my life. Years ago, a guy named Dan could see I was struggling as a young leader and offered to meet with me regularly so he could help me become more assertive and confident as a leader. I’ll be honest, at first it stung to hear that he could see I was lacking in a tender area of my life. Yet, after I gathered myself up off the floor from my crying, I agreed to meet with him. Dan was right about what he saw and I needed his advice… Who are are you letting in to speak truth into your life?

Sometimes the hardest thing to do as a leader is ask someone to look for areas of weakness and allow them in to help you…

Remember this key: The way I am being discipled with impact the way I am discipling others. It does not matter how old or wise I think I am, I am always going to need to have a ‘Paul’ in my life to disciple me, as I look to disciple the ‘Timothy’s’ in my life.

Who in your life is the ‘Paul’ for you? Who is helping you to grow as you invest in others? 

Phil <><

photo credit: cristianbernal.com via photopin cc

Creative design from the South

Get in touch with us!