3 Conversation tips to keep them talking

It’s the start of a new year so I am guessing your church is experiencing lots of new visitors and first time guests to sign up for your small groups or weekly activities.  If you are a new girls minister or girls ministry volunteer, you may be overwhelmed with those first time impressions.  I get it!  It’s crazy scary for most people to initiate a conversation with a complete stranger, let alone a complete stranger that’s a teenager.  My first weeks on the job, there was a hallway that I nicknamed the gauntlet because groups of girls lined the hallway leading to the main teaching room I needed to get to.  It was petrifying because none of those girls naturally talked to the new girl.  If I could just get through it…I survived!  I learned some interesting conversational skills that I want to pass along.

1. Remember this truth:  Everyone wants to be known.  

I know that is true for myself, and true for you. It’s also true for that middle school girl that is hovering in the corner shooting the death glare at you.  She has up every line of defense possible and it may make you think she hates your guts, but most likely she is protecting her thin fragile shell of confidence with the outer shell that is oozing: “just try to start a conversation with me”.  So how do you approach her? How do you approach anyone?  It will look different for each student.  Begin to recognize that you have a bunch of SAFES that have shown up in your ministry.  You don’t know what the combination lock is, but each safe is full of treasure and mystery.  Your job is not to make that “safe” know you. Your job is to help that “safe” know they are safe. They are loved. and they belong.  So let’s keep going with this “safe” illustration.  There is a movie called The Italian Job that features people who have to steal something from a safe.  In order to pick the lock, they need to listen for certain clicks to know how to unlock the safe.  They don’t force the lock.  They don’t try the combination that works with them.  Each safe is different. So as you go into a conversation with a student…LISTEN.  Don’t try to be thinking how you can share YOUR story to keep the conversation going.  Just listen to them.  Don’t ask the same questions.  They are ready for those.  Initial questions like:  What is your name?  What school do you go to?  are fine.  But try to get to deeper questions if the environment lends itself.  Even some silly questions are ok. Some “safes” open up immediately. Other “safes” take time.  It’s okay.  Just keep listening.

 

2. Don’t overshare.  Don’t forget that you are still an adult. 

This is important to remember that you are the adult in the conversation. Sometimes we may want to exchange that role to get on the same level in order to gain some cool points.  This is a bad decision.  Once you try to be a peer, you are not able to flip the switch to leader.   So don’t make comments like…we’re not that much different in age.  You are not a student.  Remember that.  You can still have fun with them and be goofy. I’ve been known to be crazy with students, but not to the point where I exchanged my role as adult or leader in the situation.

 

3. Listen more than you talk.  Be a connector.

I know when I start rambling that it’s because I’m scared of the silence.  I will share more about myself and unintentionally shift the focus to me.  It’s a insecurity tactic and unfortunately it then puts the student in the role of listener.  You can share some about yourself to make them feel more comfortable, but it’s not a counseling session for you.  Ask yourself:

Why am I sharing this?  Is it because I want to be liked by this student or am I sharing this in order connect this student?

How can I share this in order for this to connect through to a deeper conversation?

Is there anyone else I can bring into the conversation to help connect them?

Remember, you are not trying to be the most popular leader in the student ministry. Not everyone will like you.  Your job is to get students connected to Christ and to one another as well as having an adult other than their parent who can walk alongside them and echo the biblical truths they should be hearing at their home.  So think of yourself as a “pipeline” instead of a “straw”.  A straw goes from the container to the person on the other end.  A pipeline, connects pipes to other places and other pipes.

 

Are you living for a seat at the table? Get a different seat assignment!

“We want you to have a seat at the table”. Have you heard this talked about in ministry? It’s really being used in business jargon alot these days and I’ve seen countless books that address this for the underdogs or marginalized workers.  I have heard this phrase recently. It has baffled me really. Of course there are questions that naturally arise. Where is this “table”? And then naturally I’m inclined to ask: Is there food? Who else is at the table? How do I get invited? Why would I want a seat at this table?

In some research I found, the term refers to access to a power structure, a voice of influence, or equal treatment. How is this any different than trying to sit with the cool kids? Here is what I have learned in my 13+ years of church ministry.

1. There’s always another table at another level from where you are sitting.

2. I’ve found that often times, people who have made it to “the table” forget to get up and get work done.

So for my friends who are serving in ministry and you think you have no seat at the table, take a seat for a second—I’ve got great news for you.
There’s a better table!
There are over 76 verses in the bible regarding the word table. It should come of no surprise that the disciples themselves had an argument about the power table. Jesus has something to say to them and this spoke to me as well:

LUKE 22:24-26 (MSG) Within minutes they were bickering over who of them would end up the greatest. But Jesus intervened: “Kings like to throw their weight around and people in authority like to give themselves fancy titles. It’s not going to be that way with you. Let the senior among you become like the junior; let the leader act the part of the servant.

27–30 “Who would you rather be: the one who eats the dinner or the one who serves the dinner? You’d rather eat and be served, right? But I’ve taken my place among you as the one who serves. And you’ve stuck with me through thick and thin. Now I confer on you the royal authority my Father conferred on me so you can eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and be strengthened as you take up responsibilities among the congregations of God’s people.

Friends, no matter where you are in leadership, as a Christ follower our “table” already has been set with our name place. We don’t have to strive to get there. In fact, we don’t deserve a seat at this table, but Christ made a way for us to come to the table—not as a guest with no voice—but with royal authority to eat and drink at the table of God.  But notice—it’s not to sit there for power, but to be strengthened in order to go and serve God’s people.

And as Christ is talking to His disciples, He reminds them of the posture and seat He has taken—it is that of the servant.  He literally turned the table over and dropped the mic on this power struggle.  So what does this mean for us today?

Fight the urge for advancement or working your way up the ladder.  That’s for a corporate setting—that’s not for the church.  SERVE THE CHURCH!  I find the most joy and blessing when I give my life away in ministry and not in trying to appease people in order to get a seat at someone’s earthly table.

Know that you have been given a seat at the table and it is from Christ Himself.  Do not get caught up in intertwining your gifts, calling, and passions in pursuing the next level.  Simply keep pursuing that which you were designed to do for Him.  When I begin to loose steam and think I’m supposed to quit, I begin to hear more clearly the things that drain me and the things that fuel me.  It’s when I am with teen girls and young adult women and those who are passionate about leading and loving them that I hear a “Holy Yes” and know I’m supposed to keep moving in that direction.  Don’t let those things get lost in ministry.  If you do, you’ll find yourself at someone’s table serving someone other that Christ.

 

The Best Girls Ministry Retreat Budget Template Ever!

I truly detest creating budgets! That was until I created this awesome template.  This little template has made budgeting super easy on all the events I lead.  I can quickly determine how our current registration impacts things we want to do.  I can determine if a speaker charges the max amount, how that impacts the rest of my budget.  I can quickly determine incidentals like unforeseen plane tickets charges or extra meals charges and see how that impacts the budget.  I LOVE this template and so I am sharing it with you today.  I hope it is helpful.  You will need a google account to utilize this. See below the screenshot for instructions.

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HERE IS HOW TO GET SET UP WITH THE BEST GIRLS MINISTRY BUDGET TEMPLATE EVER!:

Set up is easy, following the instructions below should take just a few minutes.

Log into your Google Account
Head to the tool here, and then to ‘File’ > ‘Make a Copy’

Then you should be able to use and input your own information.

VOILA!

You’re welcome!

 

Leading bible study in a TLDR world

I have been doing some much needed catch up research on Generation Z. Generation z turns 20 this year! So much focus has been on the Gen Y/ millennials that I truly missed some much needed focus on Gen Z. There is a lot of difference between Gen Y and Gen Z. The one I want to highlight today is that Gen Z is image focused. They are the emoji and photo generation. They COMMUNICATE in pictures. They look at a chunk of text and say TLDR. (Too long, didn’t read). They are highly literate but choosing not to read. So what does this mean for bible study?

I don’t think it means we need to give them an emoji bible as seen here. Although creative, I don’t think this is our next step.  Although it is interesting to note that there is an actual emoji translation of Moby Dick now.

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I do think that we need to remember that Gen Z does not know where to start with The Bible from day to day.  We have found that when we give them chunks of scripture and then have them do basic scripture discussion questions that are used in international countries, our students are learning how to look at God’s word for more than just “words” but allowing time to meditate and chew on the WORD.  There has to be time to let His Word work on our heart and when we just “read it”, we miss it.  This is what students are missing.   One of the ways I think we can use images to help our students in studying God’s word is to begin to have them draw doodles of what they see as they read.  I’m calling it divine doodling.  As they wrestle with a passage over and over again, I ask them to draw a doodle that represents what they just read.  I believe that it helps them process what they read through their image based literacy.  I’m truly just dabbling in this, but it is very intriquing to me.  I don’t want a generation to not know how to open the bible and meditate on His word.  Our students want to know how to study His Word…but it’s just dealing with the TLDR blockade.

Anyone else coming up against this?

How to get girls connected in 3 easy steps


Blog confession: This is an updated and repurposed post from 3 years ago.  However, I feel like this is a question that needs to be answered for those who work with girls on a regular basis. How do I get my girls connected to healthy friendships in the girls ministry? Keep reading for the 3 easy steps.-Amy-Jo

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a Connection Algorithm like Sheldon’s that would help you connect a girl to the student ministry or a girls lifegroup?
I remember the first day on the job as a girlsminister. Such an algorithm would have been very handy. It was our fall retreat! I was surrounded by cliques of girls and I couldn’t figure out how to get inside of one of those circles. They all seemed to be looking at me—the new girl—and sizing me up. Didn’t they realize I was an adult and the girls minister?! I think I thought there would be instant connection like there was when I worked summers at the large Christian camps. Just because I was camp staffer, I often had students come up and start talking with me about some pretty heavy things. But, this was not how it was on my first day on the job. There were some sweet people that tried to come over and introduce themselves but mostly it was cliques. My go to entry line was, “Hey do you guys know where I could get a soda?” and then when the conversation tanked, I’d say, “wow better go look for that soda.” Then on Sundays and Wednesdays there was the hallway that I renamed “The Gauntlet”. It was a horrible hallway because you had to walk down it to get into the sunday school room and lining every square inch of wallspace were groups of girls that weren’t talking to me but to each other. Very intimidating! I’m very thankful for the gauntlet and for that first fall retreat because it reminds me of what it feels like to be new in our student ministry. It’s scary!
That’s why I worked with some leaders and girls over the years to have a algorithm of sorts or a strategy to receive new girls into our student ministry. The idea is the 1-2-3 CLICK! method. Now understand that we don’t just go around saying “hey new girl…this is how we’re going to get you connected in three clicks.” This is just something that I have used to explain to students or leaders to help them understand how to continue reaching out to new people that have been introduced to our student ministry.

Here’s the basic premise:
1. Meet a girl who is unconnected and introduce her to her peer group.
2. Take her to coffee or introduce her to a peer or leader which will take her to coffee to get to know her.
3. Get her connected to a lifegroup of girls who have hung out with her or introduce her to a relationship building catalyst like our Snowball Girls Retreat. AND CLICK! She’s in.

I have observed that typically after 3 intentional relationship connections from you the leader—to a healthy peer group—and then to a bonding event or small group with that healthy peer group, the student will click into a place they feel welcomed and known within your student ministry.

As we have grown through the years, it has become imperative to utilize volunteers like our Chris and Debbie who are not only lifegroup leaders on Wednesdays, but also are moms that have journeyed through our student ministry alongside their students. They are the faces on Sunday AM when we have girls walk up to the check-in table to get connected. On Wednesdays we use our amazing ministry assistants Carol and Julia to connect girls to lifegroups and introduce them to a peer that will “show them the way” for the evening.
In addition to that, we have had a SOUP N STUDY at my home on Tuesday evenings or a WAFFLES N THE WORD group that meets in homes on Sundays. Surprisingly many girls that would not walk into the big student group have shown up at my home to meet girls in a smaller context. That may be something you could add to your connection plan as well.
How do you get girls connected and help them feel safe, loved and known in your student ministry?

 

This slide presentation tool is poetic. Haiku Deck

Sometimes you need to create a killer presentation really quick. Sometimes you want to put your slides on pinterest or slideshare. Well I am loving this new to me slide presentation software. You can utilize the app or you can use the web based tool. It’s sweet looking. https://www.haikudeck.com/

Here are some early glimpses:

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Weekly Resource Links for the Week of 2.9.15

girlsminister weekly links

This week’s links have to do a lot with sexuality. There just seems to be a lot of that talk in the air with the release of 50 shades of grey and with Valentine’s day coming up.  Hopefully these links are timely for you and your ministry.

Basically a Virgin
Addressing the topic of sexual purity with the girls in your ministry through a gospel lens

Sticky note encouragement activity with girls

This past sunday a group of girls and I looked at 1 Samuel 16: 7 :But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  

To start it out, I had the girls write out encouraging statements on sticky notes and post them on each other.  The girls handled this activity very maturely in making sure that they actually encouraged each other or “posted” a prayer over them.  They also had to make sure that each girl had a sticky note before other girls received another note.  It was a sweet activity.  We used it to discuss how we “tag” each other with compliments or words that stick.  We discussed that God sees us completely different than we see each other.  He sees our hearts!

It was a great introduction to the lesson.

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The girls had fun posting sticky notes on each other. They truly enjoyed posting them on their faces, as you can see.

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More sticky note fun!

A Helpful List for Moms That Want to Serve in the Girls Ministry

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Yesterday, my almost three year old heard someone call me by my “real” name.  I didn’t even realize what was happening in his little brain, but as I walked away with him, he looked at me with hesitation and said..”EH-ME-JOOO”?   I laughed at the way he sounded it out and then he said, “That you mommy? Amy-Jo is you mommy?”  It cracked me up and I quickly told him that he calls me mommy still but that yes, Amy-Jo is my name.  It was like he had discovered my secret identity or something.

It got me to thinking about the topic of moms involved in girls ministry. Sometimes we do have the tendency to hide behind the mask of mom and forget that while being a mom is a noble calling…it’s not to be our identity, significance, and purpose.  So I have been personally and prayerfully considering this question:

How can the role of mom cause our ministry to girls to flourish or sometimes shrivel from the presence of “MOMS ON BOARD”?

As a relatively new mother, I have not taken this role lightly.  There has been an ongoing tension as I’ve learned to celebrate and deal with the stretching and tearing of my heart for my calling to minister to girls and my new calling to minister to my son.  I’ve invited trusted women who have gone before me, and those who are journeying with me in this role of mom and girls minister to help speak into some of my questions and concerns.  As I have taken on the title of mom personally, I have made some girls minister observations as well that I want to share with moms and girls ministers who are on this journey. Let’s carefully unmask some of these answers.

1. WE need women of all ages and stages to come alongside students. MOMS included.

It’s biblical!  Titus 2 gives great examples of how women passed along a living Godly example to the community of women they lived among.  They taught, not only with their words, but most importantly with their lives.  And in this day and age, it is becoming more and more difficult to get women of all ages and stages together to do things like this.  When our generations get separated, guess what doesn’t get passed down?  The stories of how God is and has been at work specifically in the lives of the generations.  When we stop getting the chance to share and listen…we miss out on the encouragement, the example, and the teaching of the generations before and after us.

2. We need to recognize that the first girls minister should be the mom AND determine to intentionally partner with them.

Now, some moms have not recognized their calling and their ordained role as girls minister to their daughter and/or son, but it is their role as mom to lead out in conversations noted in Titus 2 first in their own home.  Young girls ministers tend to forget this and in all the fun crazy events they are having with the girls at the church, they don’t know how to reach back to the mom in these girls lives.  I struggled with this personally, because it was natural for me to connect with the girls, but oftentimes I had to seek out the moms.  I regret early years when I didn’t know quite how to bring moms into the conversation better.  Prayerfully look for ways to partner with moms in everything you do.

3. Moms don’t allow deception or lies to distract you from the opportunity to speak HIS truth into the generations. 

We need you as small group leaders.  We need you as cabin chaperones.  We need you on the buses.  And we need you for more than “just being a mom.”  Don’t hide behind the title of mom.  BE YOU!  The role of Mom is a special blessing…but it should not define you.  When you step onto the bus as a leader for a student event—you are not THOSE students’ mom. You may be mom to a few…but You are a sister in Christ. You are a Godly role model.  You are a Godly mentor.  Do not miss out on the opportunities to share testimony of how God works…and call out ways you see Him at work in the lives of the students and younger leaders you are surrounded by.

4. Don’t hide behind the title of mom.

What does hiding behind the title of mom mean?  It means that you quickly label yourself as MOM when you do something for a student. It means you exchange opportunities to “hang out with them” and fall into a pattern of  “cleaning up after them” like you would for your own children.  It means you act for them in the role of mom and may jokingly chide them.  This may seem like a natural thing to do, but I have seen barriers come up between students and these self labeled women. Now there are amazing women who just naturally serve. This is not what I am talking about.  It’s when you feel too awkward sitting down with students that you simply take on the mask of mom and they only see you as that from that moment on.

5. Give yourself permission to participate at an event as yourself.

If you are a mom and your child is participating in an event that you are also participating in as a student ministry leader, please do not try to be their small group leader or cabin leader.  There are some special circumstances that negate this rule, but for the most part it is healthier to keep this rule intact. Use this opportunity to allow God to use you to pour into the lives of other students other than your child.  AND give your child space to flourish under the leadership and care of other adults.

Enjoy watching God work in and through your student from afar. Take notice of how they respond and react to friends and adults, but don’t hover. Don’t abandon other students that have been placed under your physical, spiritual, and emotional care to only focus on your own child. If you are unable to focus on the spiritual care of other students when your child is attending the same event, then this may be an indicator that you are finding your identity in the role of mom.

6. Your children need you AND they need to see that you find your identity in Christ…not in them.

I am so thankful to personally know mothers who have intentionally brought other women alongside of them to nurture their children as they are raising them.  Moms in our ministry have done a great job avoiding the territory trap as they were invited other women of all ages on this journey. They never appeared threatened by the presence of these special mentors but rather grateful that someone else was there to echo the biblical truths she was imparting to her child..maybe in a different way or sometimes the same way.

7. Invite other women to pray for you as you remove the mom mask to minister in a Titus 2 environment.

I need Godly women leaders in the lives of our girls.  I need them in the life of me.  I am watching women of all ages and stages and learning from them as well.  I am watching how they handle children and how they handle aging.  I am thankful for the women who have allowed themselves to be labeled FRIEND and not solely a MOM.  I am thankful to know the true identities of my fellow mothers, lifegroup leaders, sisters-in-christ.

Today I pray that all of our women—me included…will allow their hearts to be rooted in Him so that the roles we are given as moms, sisters, friends, life group leaders…will get their identity….significance…and purpose from Him and not from the name itself.