Tom Petty, Rush, and Kids Ministry

tom_petty_and_the_heartbreakers_damn_the_torpedoesMoving+PicturesI love me some Netflix! As a matter of fact, I’m hooked on the Classic Albums Series which documents the recording process of some of the best albums. I recently watched the making of “Damn the Torpedoes” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Rush’s recording of the albums “2112” and “Moving Pictures”.

I love learning about band dynamics. How were songs written? Did someone from the band rise up as the leader or was it a complete democracy? How were tensions dealt with on tour and in the studio? My interest comes from a long history of being in bands myself . . . actually starting when I was 9 and lasting until I was a young adult. Few things are more difficult than being in a serious band . . . it’s tough! All the different ideas and personalities coming together can either make for a great band or a disastrous mess . . . much like the teams we build in Kids Ministry.

I always watch the documentaries of healthy bands with a careful ear to maybe learn what made them click so well, so I can then apply their strategies to the ministry I lead at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, TN.

At the very end of both documentaries Tom Petty and Geddy Lee make profound statements that really causes a leader to think . . .

“One of the things I really love about being in Rush . . . that we’re not afraid to do anything on a record, and even if it’s sometimes a terrible mistake . . . there’s still the willingness to experiment. And I think that’s why the three of us have stayed together, because we feel in the confines of Rush we can try almost anything.” Geddy Lee from Rush

Stop and read that again! Geddy says two very important statements here, “ . . . there’s still the willingness to experiment . . . ” and “ . . . in the confines of Rush we can try almost anything.

1. As a leader of Kids Ministry, are you going out of your way to create a culture that expresses a willingness to experiment? When’s the last time you tried something new? If your answer is anything over a year than you are not creating this culture. Are you surrounding yourself with key leadership that loves to experiment? If not, change that right away and get the right people on board.

2. In the confines of your Kids Ministry, do you and your team feel like you can try almost anything? These types of environments backed with the guidance and glory of Jesus Christ can lead to something out of this world.

“It was within our grasp and we knew it . . . we just had to do it.” Tom Petty

Tom Petty is talking about what it felt like right before he and his band started recording the album “Damn the Torpedoes”. They had a dream, a concept, so real to them that even before recording had started it was as if the album was already in their hands.

1. Do you have a vision of where you want your Kids Min to be in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years? Here’s our Vision: To facilitate the most dynamic kids ministry through a true church/home partnership that engages families and volunteers, nurturing everyone toward a growing relationship with Jesus.

2. Is that vision clear to the rest of your team? Randomly select a few volunteers this Sundays and pull them to the side . . . ask them what the vision is in your Kids Min. If you get a lot of confused looks then you know that creating a strategy that will allow you to cast vision is a priority.

3. Is the passion amongst your staff and volunteers so intense that collectively you all look at the vision and pursue it with such passion that you all know, with God’s blessing, that the vision Jesus has placed on your heart is within your grasp . . . you just have to keep doing it!

So there you go. Biggest walk-a-away for Kids Min peeps is to know that being in Kids Ministry is as cool as being in a famous rock band! Haha!

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How to Effectively Execute Year-End Evaluations


If you are a leader in ministry, then it’s that time . . . time to evaluate your staff and volunteers during their annual performance reviews. In order for me to ensure that my time with staff and key volunteers is as efficient and thorough as possible I will be doing the following this December:

Actually blocking out time on my schedule to think it through . . .

I know this sounds so simple, but the truth is most leaders put forth little effort planning out year-end evaluation sessions. Taking out the time to think through evaluations and documenting your thoughts takes . . . time and lots of it. It’s hard work! The worst thing a leader can do is show up for an annual performance review unprepared. Sometimes we think we can “wing it” because we’ve worked with the individual for the past year and expect that strengths and weaknesses will just roll off the tongue in the moment. Truth is, few things are more disrespectful to those you lead than to show up unprepared for a review . . . believe me, they will know whether you took the time to think through and plan out what you wanted to say.

Giving each person a heads up . . .

Before your scheduled review, email everything you plan on talking about to each of your staff and volunteers. The earlier you email this out the better. For most folks, this action will be much appreciated. No one likes going into a meeting not knowing what to expect . . . especially an annual performance review. Your staff will have the chance to process your thoughts and will be prepared to respond, thus ensuring a more productive session.

Playing by the same rules . . .

Ask your staff and volunteers to evaluate you. Ask about your strengths, your weaknesses, and how you can better support them in 2013. You need to improve as well . . . and allowing yourself to be evaluated shows respect to those you lead, letting them know that you care about being the best leader you can possibly be.

But my team has to play by the same rules as me and answer these questions ahead of time. Failure to do so means that I will not allow them the chance to evaluate me during our session.

Main points of discussion in my annual performance reviews:

1. How have you improved in 2012? What strengths stand out?

2. Celebrate accomplishments . . .

3. Identify weaknesses and allow the staff member or volunteer to participate in the process of constructing a clear improvement plan . . .

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What Are Warehouse Rally Sundays?


Kids Ministry Volunteers,

We have recently launched a new plan to help support Wonder Warehouse, Grace’s preschool ministry, on Sundays where we are expecting many volunteers to be away due to holidays and what not . . . we are calling it Warehouse Rally Sundays . . .
Here’s the plan: Cross Street and Revolve will join together for a full-on large group experience so we will need less volunteers for K thru 5th while at the same time giving our kids a different Sunday morning experience. This means that more of our K thru 5th volunteers can help out in Wonder Warehouse for the day . . .

Here’s the reason: We can always make changes to our other Kids Min environments where we will need less volunteers . . . it’s not ideal but it’s easy to work out. In our preschool environment it is not that easy. We can’t go full-on large group when dealing with babies thru 4 year olds . . .

Bottom line: Warehouse Rally days are Sundays in which we feel Kids Min as a whole needs to rally around our preschool ministry and support Wonder Warehouse . . . 

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Thoughts on Collaboration . . .

A friend in ministry recently asked me to share some thoughts about collaboration in ministry for an article she is writing . . .

Thought I’d share my response to her with you guys:

Where do you see various fields in the marketplace reaping the benefits of collaboration?

The arena in today’s marketplace that seems to have the edge in collaboration is one of the church’s greatest competitors, the entertainment industry. Two companies I love, Pixar, with their intentional creative climates, and Disney, with their out of this world Imagineers, can base a large portion of their success on bringing the right people to the table in order to not just come up with great ideas, but to also see those ideas come to life on screen and in wonderful parks.

Random thoughts about collaboration:
1. When I make the choice as a leader to not invite others in on a project I choose a final product that is destined for mediocrity . . . it’s a path that will never lead to what could have been . . .

2. When we as leaders choose not to collaborate, we are exposing bad stewardship on our part by not utilizing one of God’s greatest blessings toward our ministries . . . the time, gifts, and ideas that come from the wonderful people in our churches and in our community.

3. Choosing not to collaborate is like choosing to not use a single dollar of your budget . . . people and money are both wonderful resources that help us in ministry, but the difference is that people are more valuable . . .

4. The path of going “solo” comes with a heavy load that eventually transforms into a burden that caps growth and robs us of joy . . .


How have you worked to collaborate with others in ministry?  (within your church and beyond)

In every event I try and think through a win/win not just for Kids Min but for other ministries in the church . . . and then I bring those leaders in and we all dream together. For example: When we landed on trying out Trunk or Treat for the first time we decided to do it on one of our scheduled Worship Nights for adults . . . which would benefit the Worship team by bringing in even more numbers and it would be a treat for our families as well . . .

I’m working on uniting other Kids Pastors in our area so that we can collaborate more . . . we could learn from each other, plan events together, and even share equipment as needed . . .

I always try and bring in business leaders from our community (who mainly attend Grace) to help make events and our Sunday morning experiences even better . . .  military leaders know how to lead adults well, restaurant owners can lead adults and help with planning for food, building contractors can sit down with me and think through costs for building supplies for sets . . .

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Hear From Parents At GCC About Our Kids Ministry . . .

To all of our current volunteers . . . read these comments from kids, volunteers, and parents and be encouraged. For those of you who are on the fence about whether or not you would like to check out our Kids Min at Grace . . . I hope this blog gets you off the fence and ready to sign up for a Test Drive today . . .

A Wonder Warehouse Dad at GCC . . .

“Since my son is only 13 months old he did not respond much when asked how he liked Wonder Warehouse, so I will speak for him. The volunteers always do a great job and my boy seems to really enjoy his time with others his age. I love that people are already investing in him even while he still doesn’t really understand. A few weeks ago my son came home with a craft with scripture on it that he had scribbled on. It is still hanging proudly on the refrigerator. I can only speak for the baby and 1 year old area, but the volunteers and set up is awesome and I always feel comfortable leaving my child in that environment. The volunteers do a great job asking for your number at pick-up and I really appreciate that level of responsibility.”


Revolve Parent at GCC . . .

“My son and I are relatively new to Grace. We have been going about 2 months now and I finally feel that we have found a new church home.”

“My son attends Revolve on Sunday mornings, he is in the 4th grade. What gets me excited about this is I always ask him if would like to come sit with me and his sister, but he always replies with ‘No mom, I want to go to my church.’ This makes me very happy that in this short time he feels this is ‘his’ church. Revolve has been such a blessing because we attended a different church before my father died, and since then I couldn’t get my son to go back there. He said there were too many bad memories (the funeral). Revolve is great for my son!”

Cross Street/Revolve Parent at GCC . . .

“My kids (ages 5, 7, 9, and 11) love Grace’s kids ministry. In the past (at other churches), the kids complained about going to church, but at Grace they feel safe and loved. They remember what was taught to them, too. I’m thankful for the simplicity of this church and the truth taught there.”


Wonder Warehouse Parent at GCC . . .

“My daughter loves coming to kids’ church. She gets excited as soon as she sees the school building, and some weeks even while we are driving to Grace. She’s only 2.5 but already knows a memory verse or two, and she can usually repeat the bottom line for each week. It helps that 3 kids she knows from our community group are in her small group on Sundays, but we are encouraging her to get to know the other kids as well. No complaints here!”


Cross Street Parent at GCC . . .

“After searching for a church home, my 8 year old son gave Grace’s Cross Street the highest rating and we keep coming back! We even brought his best friend with us last week.”


Wonder Warehouse Parent at GCC . . .

“My 3 year old looks forward to Wonder Warehouse every week.”


A Preteen in Revolve at GCC . . .

“I miss Cross Street but I like Revolve. I like that the teaching is not just the Bible stories that I’ve heard so many times. It’s more like they are teaching us things about life that are important and I can understand.”

A Key Leader in Cross Street and Mother of the Preteen Above at GCC . . .

“So I am smiling because I am loving when kids say they miss Cross Street . . . It means Cross Street is doing good things in their lives and we are excited about that! And I love that my 4th and 5th graders still see me in the hall and wave, run up and hug me or talk to me even after all these weeks. It warms my heart and I miss them too!”


A Middle School Volunteer in Cross Street . . .

“I like Tech in Cross Street and I like the free food.”


Wonder Warehouse Parent at GCC . . .

“While visiting a church in another town, they didn’t have anything for small kids that day, so my daughter had to sit with us. As the pastor was talking, my daughter said loudly to me (she thought she was whispering…ha) ‘Momma, when can we go back to my church…today?’ She is 3 years old.”

“My daughter is quoting bible verses and sings the little Wonder Warehouse songs….and knows some bible stories…in part due to the intentional time the volunteer teachers have with her. She knows that church doesn’t consist of being still and quite…but being active while learning…and feeling safe. Every time we pass by church she points out that that is her church! To her church is fun, and she loves coming. She feels loved and treasured.”


What a 3rd Grader thinks about Cross Street at GCC . . .



One of our Cross Street Kids, with a side note from Mom . . .

“I like the dancing and the music. I like the food at Cross Street Live. I also like the funny things like Karate Joe when they are acting. I like Naomi, Justin, and another girl. I like everything. But I don’t like to dance (but he says he likes the dancing even though he doesn’t like to dance).”


Wonder Warehouse Parent at GCC . . .

“From a parent standpoint, I’m incredibly grateful for the the kids program we have. I realize how important and instrumental Grace has been in my daughter’s life….because she is engaged. She doesn’t have to come to church and be forced to sit still and quite (unnatural for a 3 year old). Instead she thrives and grows…and has learned how to put Truth in her heart.”

“I love how the teachers know her by name. I love how the material is on a level for their little minds to comprehend AND apply. I love that parents get a take home sheet so that we can further the conversation throughout the week.”

“Our family has been attending Grace for a little more than a year now. My daughter loves the twos group! Leaders are awesome, activities and lessons are great! Can’t give enough praise to the two’s class.”


Twin Preteens in Revolve at GCC . . .

“I like it when we go upstairs to Cross Street because we get to see the little kids sing and dance. It’s a lot of fun. And I like it when we read out of the Bible because then I know more about what the Bible says. I also like it after small groups because we get to hang out with our friends.”

His Mom: “When I asked him what he does when hanging out, he replied, ‘We talk, play Wii, and just have a good time.'”

Brother: “I love the video games.”  When asked to speak more specifically about what makes Grace church different from just playing video games at home, he replied, “Of course, the music and games at Cross Street are also a lot of fun.  I also learn about Jesus.  That’s the point of church, right?  I do like learning about God.  And that’s pretty much it.”

His Mom:  “My son has high-functioning autism so he just tells it like it is.  No filter!  LOL!”


A 3 year old in Wonder Warehouse . . .

“Going to church . . . yay its fun!”


A Mother of Youth Volunteers in Kids Min at GCC . . .

“Even though my boys are older now and don’t actually attend Wonder Warehouse, Cross Street, and Revolve…they absolutely LOVE Volunteering in Kids Ministry. My middle schooler especially can’t get there fast enough on Sunday mornings to help. I think he would get there at 6:00 a.m. if I would let him out of the house. So good to see them involved. My high schooler, a small group leader, actually realized how much of an influence he is on a child over Fall Break. The child’s family was camping at Piney Campground and told his dad “My group leader is HERE!”. Our son is realizing what an impact he has on these kids.”


A Wonder Warehouse and Cross Street Parent at GCC . . .

“My son (14 months) goes to the baby room still and I LOVE how patient and loving the women and little girls are with my son, especially because he is kind of emotional and has a little separation anxiety!”
“Also my 8 year old’s small group leader is sweet and so good with the kids!! This is seriously the best church I’ve ever attended. Thanks so much for the hard work and love you put into the children here its what makes us keep coming back!”


A Preteen in Revolve at GCC . . .

“I think it’s fun.  I like how we get the younger kids to get their spirit up.  It’s what I Ioved the most when I was in Cross Street.  I also like having our own little service.  I am learning about sacrifice and the Lord.”


A Cross Street Dad at GCC

My daughter (age 6) LOVES Cross Street and is happy each week.  It is a positive in her life.”


Interested in serving in Grace’s Kids Min? Either email me at or go to . . .

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A Healthy Church Staff = A Chain of Command That Levels The Playing Field

At Grace Community Church we feel like a chain of command is important to have on staff just like most other churches and businesses feel . . . to have a structure that informs each person on the team who they report to and who they lead. What I love about GCC though is how “higher ups” on the chain lead . . . it’s not about focusing on and holding on to the authority of the position . . . but instead the focus is on the responsibility of dissecting our authority and then passing it on to the right team member and empowering him/her to own it. From there, “higher ups” focus on casting vision, following up with staff, partnering with staff to be a resource, and investing in the staff in order to help develop personal, spiritual, and professional growth.

Having a staff structure is not a bad thing . . . a structure in and of itself is nothing more than what we make of it. The key to allowing a staff structure become a blessing and not a curse is to CAREFULLY select the folks at the top based on more than simply being qualified . . . but to also process how secure they are as a leader to not allow their position of authority to become a crutch held onto for power’s sake instead of a responsibility to share among talented folks.

When the right people are selected at “the top” then what you’ll see with your staffing structure is a “leveling out” of the playing field where every player has a voice and is taken seriously. It will not matter if you are at the “bottom” of the chain of command . . . your voice will carry just as much weight and will deserve as much consideration as the executive. The only difference is that the executive has the right to make the final call after allowing his or her team to speak into the process.

There is nothing wrong with having supervisors in a structure . . . you need someone on the team not “in the trenches” so to speak who can examine a ministry from a 30,000 ft view . . . someone to monitor the health of a ministry . . . to follow up with team members . . . to cast the vision. But a structure that supports a few “leaders” who hold on to power, hold on to information, and do not strive to level the playing field . . . well, that’s a church or a business that may look successful on the outside, but within . . . a failure.

So how would you describe your staff structure? If positive . . . never forget how lucky you are. If negative, what could you do to maybe change things for the better? As for me . . . I thank God I’m at Grace! WOO-HOO!

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Kids Min Leaders and Your Spouses

The degree of health in my relationship with my wife, Marissa, will have a direct impact on my overall performance in ministry, how I grow as a leader in ministry, and whether or not people will follow me as a leader.

1 Timothy 5:8
“. . . Everyone should take care of his own family. If he doesn’t, he has left the faith. He is worse than someone who doesn’t believe.”

Here are some questions I recently asked my staff to process with their spouses, and I even posed the question to those on my team who are not married but are in a serious relationship:

1. On a scale from 1 to 10 . . . how well do you listen to your spouse or significant other? (This is a great question to ask your spouse from time to time)
2. When is the last time you did something special for your partner? On top of the awesome stuff we do on a regular basis . . . in what way have you gone above and beyond to show your partner how much they mean to you?
3. Where is your partner on your list of priorities in life?

The level of health in our marriages, second only to our relationship with Jesus, will spill over into our work whether we like it or not . . . a healthy marriage (or a healthy relationship with your significant other) coupled with a healthy relationship with Jesus will equal a healthy ministry.

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