Church Involvement

Creating a Culture of Involvement in Every Church

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4 Solid Reasons to Discover Your Spiritual Gift

I have found that 70 to 80% of my brethren want to know what their (dominate) spiritual gift is. However, some brethren seem to have no interest. Their reasoning appears to be: “Well, I know I have a gift and I’m probably using it, so I don’t really need to know what it is.” Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?  Not really.
Your heart is going to be where you treasure is. In spite of all the busyness in our lives, your core values and priorities are going to show in many ways including in this manner.  Christians that have a heart to serve will seek every advantage to serving well.   In a matter of 10 minutes or less you can know about our predominant spiritual gift(s). If you are a highly spiritual person, you will also want to develop and fully use that gift.
Here are 4 Solid Reasons You Need to (take the time and make the effort) Discover Your Spiritual Gift. These are also good reasons for you to do a Spiritual Gifts Inventory every 5 years because things may change.
Reason #1 – You should want to know how God has created you for His purpose. You are His workmanship created in Christ for good works. Knowing your spiritual gift is part of that design. You will know why God put you on this earth: you will discover your real purpose for living.
Reason #2 – You will begin to serve out of gratitude instead of duty. You will actually look for opportunities to serve and enjoy them. Your service will become “want to” versus “have to.”
Reason #3 – Oddly enough, knowing what God wants you to do will help you in knowing what He has not called you to do. Many Christians are doing ministry in the wrong areas and they are miserable or doing a less than ideal job. When you know what God has designed you for, you will do it well and do it with joy and passion.  I am not advocating that you can never do anything else (e.g. like giving, being merciful, telling others about Jesus, etc.). However, you will definitely feel most comfortable and be most effective in using your God-given gift.
Reason #4 – Knowing what your spiritual gift is and using that gift will contribute heavily to the unity of the local church. When every member of your congregation is busy using his/her gifts, the church hums with excitement and disharmony just isn’t allowed.    This is the “body principle” that Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 12.
Do you need to discover if your gift has changed? Do you know what your gift is?
If you answer “Yes” to the first question or “No” to the second question, it’s time to do a spiritual gifts inventory.
Spiritual Gift Inventories are all over the internet and your church leadership or office may have one that is used often in your church. One free inventory is found at   It is a good one and you get the results immediately.  My inventory is I Serve U Inventories.
Travis Irwin, IM
Athens, TN

Evangelistic Ministry

How Ministry Becomes Evangelistic

When it comes to ministry in the church, some brethren like to hear the at least two words “discipleship” and “evangelistic.” They want to hear “discipleship” because ministry is part of being a disciple of Christ. Disciples serve. And, then some like to hear the word “evangelistic” in connection with ministry because ministry that is not evangelistic is not full ministry.
Should all of our ministries in our congregations be evangelistic? In other words, should the ultimate purpose of any ministry be to win souls? In short, the answer is “No.” Many of our ministries are designed to accommodate the brethren in worship, in public Bible study, in encouragement, etc. Of course, such ministries are designed to assist brethren in remaining faithful.
However, when we are serving non-Christians, I personally believe that our goal is to see folks come to a saving knowledge of Christ. Some may disagree with me.
Examples of Ministries that Could be Evangelistic:
Grief Share
Financial Peace
Divorce Recovery
Church Education
Small Groups
Celebrate Recovery
Meals on Wheels
In some very real sense, just about any ministry in the church could be evangelistic
How to Make a Ministry Evangelistic:
It starts with intent. Each ministry needs its own mission statement; a mission statement states the ministry’s intentions. If the ministry is to be evangelistic, its intent (to be so) should be mentioned explicitly in the mission statement of that ministry. Let me illustrate this with a very well-known ministry in the Lord’s church:
The Church Education Ministry (the Bible School). A suggested Mission Statement could be:  Bible classes on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings are offered to provide in-depth study of God’s Word for those who are searching for what the Bible teaches about their salvation, the classes also exist for those who wish to grow in Christ and enjoy the fellowship of like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ, and for those Christians who wish to bring their non-Christians friends and relatives so they can hear the truth and hopefully obey the gospel.
Yes, this is a bit wordy, but it illustrates the intent. This statement, though lengthy, states several intentions (goals or missions) of the Bible study ministry of the local church including the salvation of lost souls. Most of our ministries in the church are ‘internally’ focused (for church members) versus being “externally” focused (for the lost).   In most cases, with which I am familiar, our Bible class ministry is church-centered (for church members and their children).
Most of us know that Bible study (Sunday School and Mid-Week Bible study) is intended for the saved and for children. Yet how many congregations actually ‘gear’ their Bible studies for the lost as well as the saved? You may be asking, “Does our Bible study have to be evangelistic?” I think Bible study is only half of what it could be otherwise. Read Matthew 28:19 which I believe is saying “Teach the lost and teach them again when they are saved.”   My paraphrase.
The same could be said for your other ministries. They could be evangelistic as well as be designed to edify or accommodate the brethren. It all goes back to intent, and the proper or appropriate action will follow the intent, especially if the brethren leading and working in that ministry are serious about their mission statement.
It was the late Clayton Pepper who said that every ministry in the church should be designed to reach the lost. I believe he was right. The church is the means by which the world will come to know the wisdom of God (see Ephesians 3:9-11).  This can be accomplished through the ministries of the church.
When we fail to be evangelistic in all we do in the church, our growth is minimized or non-existent. Possibly this is one explanation of the lack of numerical growth in the Lord’s church over the past several years.
Ministry simply put is living out the gospel; it is the way that we are most like our Lord, who emptied himself and took on the form of a servant.

Travis Irwin, Athens, TN

When They Start Calling You

There are several levels of ministry. Level 1 is exclusive internal ministry. This is where all the ministries of a congregation are focused internally towards meeting the needs of its members. There is a definite need for this level of service.

Level 2 is where a congregation graduates to external ministries. These ministries are focused towards needs in the community (external/outside of the church). Level 2 ministries aren’t necessarily large ministries and yet they are meeting some need in the community.
Level 3 ministries are sometimes called parachurch ministries wherein a church pairs up with a community non-profit and both organizations work together for a common good. In our present congregation, we have several members who have graduated to this level. Our annual “Love Athens” event puts members in contact with local non-profits for assistance, support and ministry. Level 3 is the level to which every Christian and congregation should strive. This is where we really shine as lights in the community.
With this in mind, when folks from your community start calling the local church for help, I believe you have ‘finally arrived.’ You have reached the level, I believe, the Lord wants us all to reach. Yes, we are to serve the brethren first (cf. Gal.6:10) and yet however, we should be ready for every good work (Titus 3:1).
More recently, we have people from our community calling us about Grief Share and Financial Peace University. They are calling us. This simply means that we have met needs, and needs continue to be evident, and we are the ones who can meet them. This is a great thing!   This should also encourage us to carefully choose our outreach ministries.   They should meet real needs.
A good number of folks in your community do not know you exist. We (Athens church of Christ) are known for the church behind Taco Bell. But we are known for more than that. We are also known as the church that helps pay rent and utilities. We are the church that provides help for those who grieve and those in financial binds. We are the church that is involved in the local jail ministry. We are the church that provides ‘bears’ for children in the local ER. And, community folks call us. This is Level 4 of ministry. It is when your congregation is offering something that is really needed and the community responds to it.
At what level is your congregation? Are you striving to grow to the next level?

Hesitation’s Root

When it comes to change, church leadership moves slowly. Sometimes this is good; no one wishes to move quickly and make a huge mistake. However, there are times when change is obvious. And, even then, change comes either slowly or not at all. In many cases where change is obvious, we see indecision.
There are two choices: (1) we either keep things the way they are because of FEAR, or (2) we move ahead in FAITH and make the necessary changes. There is little middle ground. The bottom line is this: Is this God’s Will and will we obey Him out of faith?
Consider some of the fears we have:
FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN – this is a natural tendency. We prefer to stay in our comfort zone and not try anything new or different. Not changing is safe (or at least we think so). But then again, the unfamiliar and the unknown create excitement and more importantly, express faith. We walk by faith and not by sight.
FEAR OF CRITICISM AND REJECTION– this is the “BIGGIE” among church leaders. We are afraid of what the brethren will think or do. We are afraid that we will be criticized and we are afraid that “our idea” will be rejected. We are even more afraid that members will ‘vote’ with their feet and money. Why not be more concerned about pleasing the Lord versus pleasing the brethren. A faithful steward does not seek to please men.
FEAR OF FAILURE– we are afraid that we will fail. What does failure look like? More importantly, what is failure? Sometimes failure is not doing what the Lord wants us to do. We fail to act in faith. We fail to do His will. We fail to try. We fail to ask His blessings. Fear of failure is not a good excuse or reason to not do the right things.
FEAR OF THE RISKS & THE COSTS– many leaders fear the risks and the costs (money, time, effort, etc.) will be too high. I would simply ask, “Is this God’s Will?” If it is God’s Will, He will supply what we need. And, if it is God’s Will, it is worth all the money, effort, time and energy. Somewhere along the way, we have lost the principle of sacrifice for the cause of Christ. We want a comfortable Christianity. Such is not found in the Bible.
God did NOT give us a spirit of fear (cf. 2 Tim.1:7); I submit that ungodly fear is from Satan. Our fear paralyzes us and displeases the Lord. He DID, however give us a spirit of power, love and discipline. We simply need to allow such a spirit to drive us in making decisions and executing God’s Will in our congregations.

98 Ways to Say “Thank You” to Volunteers


98 Ways to Say “Thank You!” to Your Volunteers
Gracias! Dankeschon! Merci! In any language, these ideas will help you say thank you and express your gratitude to volunteers’ hearts.
“Thanks” is such a simple word, and it comes in many forms—some quick and easy, others more time-consuming and crazy. You’ll never run out of thank yous with almost 100 ways to say it.
1. Send a postcard made of foam with a special Scripture verse of encouragement.
2. Provide a place and time for prayer with volunteers before the hectic morning begins.
3. Plan a team retreat for encouragement and spiritual renewal.
4. Give small copies of encouraging stories or phrases from such authors as Max Lucado, Florence Littauer, or Oswald Chambers.
5. Have your pastor and governing board commission new volunteers with prayer.
6. Create a laminated Bible bookmark with a Scripture verse.
7. Find a prayer partner for each volunteer. Send this card: “Pray-er’s name is praying just for you and Jesus’ kids!”
8. On parchment paper, personalize a “Letter from Jesus.”
9. Create a personalized Scripture card for each person with a positive verse that reminds you of him or her.
10. Pray for a different volunteer each day. Send a card telling the volunteer you prayed for him or her that day.
11. Print a poem, cartoon, or encouraging quote on colorful paper for each volunteer.
Words of Affirmation
12. Write three to five quick thank you notes each week.
13. Send volunteers an “E-mail Greeting Card!”
14. Make random phone calls just to say thanks.
15. Write a note in bright colors on a blank puzzle, break it apart, and send the pieces.
16. Use paint pens to write on heart key chains: “We Love YOU!”
17. Have children complete “You’re special to me because…” slips. Then present the slips to teachers.
18. Hang vinyl banners that say, “Thanks, children’s ministry volunteers!”
19. In a children’s ministry celebration service, invite the congregation to show appreciation for volunteers.
20. Include children’s positive comments about volunteers in your church newsletter.
21. Send a thank you letter to volunteers’ spouses.
22. Give your teachers the summer off with a big “Thanks, see you next fall!”
23. Make a “Certificate of Appreciation” for each volunteer.
Personalized Gifts
24. Personalize Christmas tree ornaments with names and a meaningful Scripture reference.
25. Use paint pens to inscribe each volunteer’s name on a tea cup.
26. Take class pictures. Frame them and have kids sign each frame.
27. Have each child decorate a quilt square. Then have the squares sewn together for the children’s teacher.
Ministry-Related Gifts
28. Make button pins for all your volunteers: “KIDS LOVE ME!”
29. Copy your children’s ministry mission statement on computer mouse pads.
30. Place classroom supplies such as stickers, stamps, and stamp pads inside a basket and wrap it in colorful cellophane.
31. Print your children’s ministry’s logo on coffee mugs. To each one, attach this note: “You add an extra measure of flavor!”
32. Give T-shirts with your ministry logo.
33. Have an advertising agency put your logo and theme verse on water bottles. Attach this note: “Thanks for running with our kids’ programs.”
34. Give canvas tote bags imprinted with your logo, church name, and a special Bible verse.
Gifts Everyone Will Enjoy
35. Give inexpensive salt shakers with Matthew 5:13a printed on them.
36. Give a small bouquet of flowers.
37. Volunteer to take leftover “gift with purchase merchandise” off a department store’s hands to use as thank you gifts.
38. Design a perpetual calendar with 365 of your favorite verses and phrases.
39. Give a video rental coupon and a bag of microwave popcorn.
40. Surprise a volunteer with a balloon bouquet.
41. Plant a spring bulb in a clay pot. Use raffia to tie on this card: “Praise God that you’re blooming where He planted you!”
42. Give a bottle of blowing bubbles with this: “Jesus’ love bubbles over in you!”
43. Give “World’s Greatest Sunday School Teacher” pens or pencils-to everyone.
44. On a paddle ball racket, write: “Have fun after a great class.”
45. Give holiday pens or pencils on a Sunday morning near a holiday.
46. Place a pretty bow on a pack of recipe cards, including one of your favorite recipes. Attach this note: “You have the ingredients of a great teacher!”
47. Give a four-pack of light bulbs with this note: “You’re the light of the world!”
48. Decorate a plastic light switch plate with Micah 7:9.
49. Give a gift certificate for dinner out.
50. Use the Internet to send a bouquet of flowers.
51. Give a small rubber ball with this note: “Our kids are having a ball with you!”
52. Have a “Root Beer Float Party” with kids as the hosts.
53. Hand out mixed bags of Hershey’s Hugs® and Kisses®.
54. Give a 100 Grand® candy bar with this note: “You’re worth 100 Grand to us!”
55. Give a banana with this message: “Thanks bunches! We go bananas for your help!”
56. At Christmas, give a festive mug with a candy cane and a packet of cocoa inside.
57. Give a long-stemmed chocolate rose.
58. Send a “cookie gram”-a giant cookie with “thanks” iced on it.
59. Leave a plate of homemade cookies in each classroom.
60. Fill plastic red apple containers with jelly bellies or sugarless candies. Give with this note: “You’re the apple of God’s eye!”
61. Leave gold-wrapped chocolate coins or Hershey’s Kisses® with this note: “Your work with children is more precious than gold. Thanks!”
62. Give each volunteer a gift certificate for a treat from Baskin-Robbins or TCBY.
63. Give a package of M&M’s® with this note: “Thanks for sharing God’s Majesty & Might with our children!”
64. Hold a “Cookie Exchange” where each parent bakes two dozen goodies. Gift wrap plates of varied goodies and have parents deliver the treats to volunteers’ homes.
65. Give a pack of gum with this note: “Thanks for sticking with us!”
Appreciation Parties
66. Thank all volunteers with an children-hosted “After-Holidays Open House.” Serve appetizers and festive punch or hot apple cider.
67. Allow children to plan a party for volunteers on a Sunday morning.
68. Celebrate with a royal “Ambassador’s Dinner” since volunteers are ambassadors for Christ.
69. Host a volunteers’ barbecue with special music and great steaks.
70. Have a Volunteers’ Hallelujah Hop with kids singing Christian versions of ’50s music, Hula Hoop contests, and great desserts.
71. Have a Volunteer Hallelujah Luau with an island-themed video of kids celebrating volunteers.
Training and Meetings
72. Put a birthday hat, party blower, and streamer at each chair for a meeting. Serve birthday cake and celebrate everyone’s un-birthday.
73. At your next meeting, surprise volunteers with party decorations. Then celebrate!
74. Pay for volunteers to attend workshops that benefit their ministry.
75. Include your volunteers’ top interests for speakers, meetings, or educational needs in training meetings.
76. Get a massage therapist or nurse to give back rubs at a meeting.
77. Use gold fabric puff paint to put each person’s name on a funny hat. Have volunteers wear their hats during an entire training meeting.
78. Give great door prizes at meetings and celebrations.
Classroom Help
79. Check each classroom for basics such as crayons, felt markers, paper, Bibles, stapler, and scissors.
80. Have parents decorate classroom doors.
81. Enlist support teams to help teachers with baking, crafts, or music.
82. Surprise each volunteer with a gift subscription to Children’s Ministry Magazine.
83. Give a new book of holiday crafts, inspirational stories, picture books, or activity books.
84. Develop a “Homeroom Parent” program to help teachers with tasks such as attendance, follow-up, encouragement, and snack preparation.
85. Create a shadow box area in a visible area. Put up a volunteer’s picture and a short write-up. Tie a Mylar balloon of “Thanks” beside the box.
86. Have all your volunteers stand in a church service as someone sings a special song such as “Thank You!” by Ray Boltz or “Who Is Gonna Tell The Child?” by Acapella.
87. Feature a teacher each month in your church bulletin, newsletter, or worship folder.
88. Take slide pictures and/or make videos during the year for a Volunteer Appreciation Sunday.
89. Reserve a special parking spot for the “Teacher of the Week.”
90. Feature a different children’s ministry program on a bulletin board in the adult education area.
91. Send out a “Volunteer Gram” each week with news and announcements. Include a big thank you to individual volunteers in each issue.
Other Ways to Say Thanks
92. Set up a Sunday Siesta Section in a quiet room, stocked with flavored coffees and teas, bagels or muffins, and inspirational music.
93. Design “coupon books” for volunteers, personalized with things you’ll do for them, such as “two hours of child care.”
94. Make “Warm Fuzzies”-small, colorful pom-pom balls with wiggle eyes and paper feet. Place a “Warm Fuzzy” on each attendance folder.
95. Use bright colored paper and tablet adhesive to make a computer-generated notepad for each volunteer.
96. Give lapel pins that say thanks-a cross, a “Jesus” fish, an angel, or a “#1 Teacher” pin.
97. Organize a car wash for volunteers’ cars. Have kids do all the work for free.
98. Make a mural with candid shots of teachers and children.
Mary Van Aalsburg is a children’s minister in Fresno, California.
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Expediting the “I Serve U” Inventories (It’s Not as Difficult as It May Seem)

It can be a little overwhelming when churches learn of I Serve U. When church leaders learn all that is involved (no pun intended), they are a little overwhelmed and do not know where to start.
I want to alleviate any such concerns and simplify the process.
Determine How You Wish to Proceed
Different churches use different methods of getting members to do the inventories. One church has a Wednesday evening class that runs for four weeks and covers each issue (e.g. gifts, personality, passions, etc.) one week at a time. A supper is prepared for them so they can come directly to the church after work and start the process. This is a rotating class where folks can come in the middle of the process and not fall behind or wait for another class. This church has 5000 members and each new member is required to be in this class. This particular class has two leaders.
I am not familiar with how they originally did the class when everyone in the church had to take it. I would suggest doing so alphabetically or by sign up with a limited number in each class. This may take several months, but the end result is worth all the effort and organizing.
Another congregation uses small groups. Small groups are ideal for getting to know new members and allow the time needed to do the inventories well. Small groups would allow the entire church to be inventoried quickly. However, each small group will need a leader (or leaders) to make it work well.   If you are a smaller church and you need twelve leaders for twelve groups, you may have an issue—at least temporarily.
Here in Athens we tried several approaches and all of them working together brought about great results. We had “Discovery Place” where folks could go anytime they wished and fill out the inventories on line and instantly get a print out. They would then come to my office where I would ‘coach’ them for about 30 minutes. We provided childcare one evening a month for young couples with children. We also provided a special day for retirees. The youth minister used a week of time and the youth to do a thorough cleaning of the church building. While there, each young person would do the inventories and receive some coaching.
Each church must do what works best for all involved. With creativity, church leadership will come up with a practical means of getting all their members to do the inventories and get them involved in ministry.
Data Basing the Information
As people do the inventories, this (new) invaluable information is given to the church secretary (or an assigned person) to be put into a database. One of these good data bases is “Servant Keeper.”
Having done so, a copy of the information is given to the appropriate deacon or ministry leader so he/she can put the person who has just filled out the inventories to work.
Deacons and ministry leaders MUST NOT become bottle necks in this process.
They must take the information given to them and immediately put these new volunteers to work. Otherwise, the volunteers become discouraged and are never used. Wise and organized deacons and ministry leaders will have prepared well and have serving opportunities. Deacons and ministry leaders will do well to delegate the work assigned them and they best do so by giving assignments to people who have volunteered.
Don’t allow this term to scare you. Coaching is simply spending some time with an individual (who has filled out the inventories) and asking questions that lead the volunteer in discovering his or her place in the body of Christ. Yes, the coach needs to define and illustrate how gifts, personalities and passions determine how a volunteer is designed to serve, but ultimately the coach leads the volunteer in discovering how wonderfully they are created for good works.
You may have several coaches, especially as you start inventorying every member and then you would only need a few once this is accomplished.
Campaigns & Congregational Focuses
A campaign is a special event that lasts up to one year. It is a time of special emphasis in preaching, teaching and ministry where members are encouraged to use their gifts in some special way. We’ve had two major campaigns: “Getting Connected” and “Down on the Farm” (an emphasis upon bearing fruit for Jesus).
We also recently had a congregation focus that we called “Be a River.” We have also added “Love Athens” wherein we do special projects around town to bless people and non-profits.    We also have “Ministry Fairs” and “Missions Fairs.”
Such things require time and creativity but they pay big benefits in teaching the brethren to serve. Smaller children also learn service in their young age.
Changing Your Congregation’s DNA
What you are doing is changing the DNA of your church. You are transforming, in some cases, many pew warmers into servants. Some change is good and, in this case, is necessary. Once your church’s DNA has changed, it becomes a part of the church that will never change back to the old way. The church will progress to be more like Christ.
If this material still doesn’t help, please let me know. I’ll be glad to guide through the process.
If you would like to host an I Serve U event, please contact me. Trav
Travis Irwin, IM
Athens Church of Christ
Athens, TN
423 920 3060

“Resolved to Involve” (RtI) Events

Positive & Negative Responses to

Resolved to Involve” Retreats & Seminars

RtI has only been around about three years. It was during the second year that I was treated for nasal cancer so I was unable to do much.
Following are some (not all) of individual evaluations of RtI. RtI is designed to assist church leadership in creating a means to get all of their church members involved in ministry. RtI is usually done on a weekend and it has been done in a shorter version. Of course, I recommend a full-blown retreat because it allows more time for sharing materials, for those present to discuss their findings and for leadership to evaluate. I also strongly suggest having all the elders, deacons and ministry leaders AND their spouses. The ladies add much good to the events.
There are 7 questions that I asked participants to answer in my evaluation. I was pleasantly surprised by the answers. The most negative thing that was shared was time related. Some participants would have liked to have had the Power Point materials. I am still thinking about that one. A lot of material is made available for their use before, during and after the presentations.
Following are the 7 questions and some of the answers that came from dozens of participants:
(1) Was this weekend what you expected? If not, what did you expect?   Here are some of the answers:
It was great. It was better. Yes, better. The inter-active workshop was very good. Many simply answered, “Yes.”  Another answered:No, it was so much better than what I expected…It was very insightful. I was pleasantly surprised by the presentation style…The handouts are great and allow/develop great insight.
(2) Was there material or information that you would have found helpful that was not presented? If so, what information would you have included?
I did a three-hour presentation which really limited me and also limited much needed discussion; following are some of the responses from that event: Needed break out sessions, role playing. I can’t think of anything. Need more information about implementation.
My weekend retreats received completely different responses: many said, “No,” there wasn’t anything else you could have presented. One added that time constraints would not have allowed any other materials. One person answered “Yes” but did not suggest anything to be added.
(3) Were the presentations too brief or too long?
For the three-hour event, 9 of the participants felt that the timing was just right. One person thought things went too fast (and so did I). Other answers ranged from “Perfect” to “Good” to “Just right.” Several felt we had enough breaks and that the break-out sessions were helpful and very engaging. One wanted more time and one said that the sessions showed great time management.
(4) Were the presentations too deep or too shallow?
The most used answer was “Just right.” Two folks said, “neither.” And, it is not surprising that one said, “Things went too fast.” Some other responses were, “well balanced,” “good depth,” “fine,” “good,” “very good,” and “perfect.” One participant felt the material was a little shallow for those present, but it would work for a congregational presentation.
(5) If you could list two ways to improve this retreat, what would they be?
Many left this question blank; I assumed that they didn’t have any suggestions to improve the event. Several felt the need for more time. One said, “Not sure” how to improve it.  One added, “Great job!” One said, “it was a great approach….” Some felt they needed more time for discussion. There were also some who felt the seating wasn’t adequate and one thought the lighting for the projector wasn’t good. And, then one, stated that more of the church leaders needed to be present.
(6) What did you like most about the presentations?
Very well presented. Concise, clear, good interaction. It was both fun and informative. Made me think. Seeing how personalities interact. Practical, applicable, materials ready to use and informative. Many liked talking about personality traits. The material was presented in such a way that made it interesting. Everything! Personal accounts and humor. It put it on the front of my mind as to a person’s gifts and passions. I enjoyed the group discussions. It was done in a way that all can understand. The spiritual gift test, personality, greatest passions test. The focus on understanding our differences and the strength that can be developed because of it.
Realizing your personalities, passions and interests and using them to edify the church, coming up with creative ways to utilize these. It was relatable. Your fun spirit and the practicality of the subject. Breakdown of the personalities of different people. Was challenging and visionary. Great introduction practice “unknown facts.” “Kept moving.” It helps to understand why as well as how. Thought provoking and simplistic. What it showed about myself. Practical, easy to understand and good visuals. Survey to determine your spiritual gifts.
(7) What do you think you, as a church leadership, should do having spent this time and learned what was presented this weekend?
I will not list every answer here. However, I will say that almost 100% of the respondents thought they should move forward with assisting members in discovering how God had created them for good works and get all members involved in ministry. To this day, I have not had one negative response under this question.

It may be appear that I am bragging here.  I assure you that I am not.  However, I want every church leadership to be challenged to assist those under their care to discover how God has designed them for ministry and to involve every member in your congregation.   I have been blessed to compile very helpful materials and I would love the opportunity to share them with you at your convenience.

Contact me at

Travis Irwin

423 920 3060

Handling Budget Headaches

Ministry Budgets

Our fiscal year is April 1 through March 31 each year. We are presently requesting deacons and ministry leaders to submit their new budgets for the new fiscal year.
This would include 38 ministries and the amounts are from $0 to $35,000.00. Missions and staff salaries are considered separately from ministry budgets.
You may asking, “But how do you get the leaders of these ministries to submit budgets every year?”   This question tells me that you are struggling to get the budget figures together for the church leadership so they can determine the new budget.   Here’s what I suggest:
You ask kindly. The folks that lead our church ministries are usually volunteers and are paid nothing for their time and efforts. They are busy working full-time jobs and raising children, travelling, doing personal lawn and house care, hobbies and spending time with family members both close and extended. They also get sick from time to time.   Their lives are full of preoccupations and distractions.
This does not mean that we enable them or allow them to be irresponsible. But it does mean that we treat them in a spirit of love and appreciation. The Golden Rule is a good rule of thumb to follow.
You ask firmly. This could include a kind reminder that ministries could suffer if not funded properly. However, some folks would take this as a threat. I have been a president of a United Way agency and if I didn’t ask for funding, I didn’t get funding. James also said, “you have not because you ask not.”
Start four to six weeks before the figures are due. Give brethren plenty of time to respond to your request and offer assistance in creating the new budget figures. You can experiment with incentives but these seldom do anything other than create a spirit of competition which is not healthy (in my estimation). A kind reminder weekly in the church bulletin, from a Power Point slide, an announcement or an email can help. Texting also is very effective.  Make it is as simple and easy as possible for folks to submit their budget amounts.   Also supply them with what they spent the previous year.
You ask again. Once again, I remind you that we work with volunteers; they are pre-occupied with dozens of important things. Sometimes, a phone call will work as a last resort. The best approach is always a personal face-to-face approach. This allows you to say “thank you for your involvement and leadership” before asking for a budget figure.    If you are co-dependent like me, you will probably do the paper work for them also.
Sometimes church leadership can suggest a figure and wait for a response. If worse comes to worse, the leadership can put in a figure and hope the ministry leader accepts.   Do this after you’ve educated the ministry leaders so they cannot come back and say you didn’t warn them.   It’s better if the church leadership makes this directive, not you.
We want to avoid a ‘control game’ approach. We want to emphasize both the importance of the ministry leader and the ministry he/she leads. If you are the only one asking for the budget amounts, you must display a Christ-like spirit in all circumstances. People always trump methods and approaches.

Travis Irwin, Athens, TN

Transition: A Third Choice


There are basically two kinds of churches: (1) the growing kind, and (2) the dying kind. Both present challenges. One is more exciting than the other, and one is more depressing than the other. I’ve worked with both kinds and presently, I am working with a growing church.

The reason a dying church is a dying church is because its leadership and members want everything to remain the same. What is ironic about this mindset is that things don’t remain the same for such a church: they deteriorate. Slowly and surely, guests stop visiting, members grow older, new souls aren’t added, people die and before too long, the church has ceased to exist (or at best is barely hanging on).

However, growing churches are constantly changing, growing and going through necessary transitions. Such transitions take place when staff changes, when membership numbers grow, when needs grow, when facility needs change, when individual members grow spiritually, etc. Growing churches are constantly adjusting to new things and new people. This change can also be called ‘transition.’  Transitioning can take place on many levels. The most obvious are in staffing, ministries, attendance and membership expansion. While some of us may be uncomfortable with such things, we need to look at such things as the blessings of church growth and transitioning.

Consider some things about this thing called transition that may help us look at it as a blessing and not as a curse.

Transition Is Normal; We Experience & See It Everyday.   We  have a certain amount of control over the type of transition it is and the speed of the transition.

Transition Is Helpful (when handled properly).   You cannot be timid about transition and you must be wise as it occurs.

Transition Is not an Enemy; Satan is the Enemy.    We’ve all heard the statement, “we shouldn’t change just for change sake.”   I think most of us would agree.   However, any change (and those advocating it) is considered evil by some.   The intent and the basis (is it biblical or not?) of change can be from the Lord or from the devil himself.    Remember that advocates of change are not necessarily the enemy; Satan is the enemy and he is behind any change that is evil.

Transition is neither good nor evil in itself. What got us to the transition state and how it got us there is a moral issue. We cannot, we must not, we should not and we will not compromise the Word of God for any reason. Our numerical and spiritual growth should always be based upon God’s will—and God’s Will makes it plain that we should always be growing.

As we transition we need to do so gracefully and in a Christ like manner.


Recommended reading:  Transitions Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges (subtitled: Strategies for Coping with the Difficult, Painful and Confusing Times in Your Life).


Why Volunteers Quit & How to Prevent It

Why Volunteers Quit & How to Prevent It

Discover why volunteers quit–and what to do about it.

John just filled the last Sunday school teacher slot. He heaves a sigh of relief. Now he can sit back and relax. But not for long. The next week, one of the volunteers calls. She says she can’t teach the first- and second-graders anymore. “Here we go again,” John thinks.

Do you share John’s frustration? Just when you have all your volunteer slots filled, some volunteers quit. Why does this happen?

WHY VOLUNTEERS QUIT Quitters aren’t lazy or uncommitted; they often have valid reasons for quitting.

  1. Volunteers aren’t challenged. Volunteers need to feel they’re getting something in return for their work. For example, if you ask school teachers to teach the same grade at church as they do in school, they’re doing something they’ve always done. And they aren’t challenged by anything new.”If you try to make [volunteering]too easy, you just cut the legs out of it,” says Dr. Cynthia Thero, former president of The Source International, an educational development firm. Marlene Wilson, who conducts workshops and conferences on volunteerism and is the author of How to Mobilize Church Volunteers (Augsburg), agrees, “Sometimes we recruit people and we don’t give them anything really significant to do. So it’s a waste of their time. With dual-career marriages and single parenting, people want whatever time they give to make a difference.”
  2. Volunteers don’t have a job description. “People don’t dare say yes to something they don’t know what they’re committing to,” says Wilson. Even the secular sector considers job descriptions important to get volunteer support. A Maryland school puts a detailed list of “volunteer opportunities”-including tasks and dates for special events-right on the student information form that parents receive when enrolling their children.
  3. Volunteers aren’t sure of their performance. Volunteers want to know they make a difference. They want to know how the program is better or different because of their volunteering. “[Volunteers] leave the program because no one evaluates their impact,” says Thero.
  4. Volunteers aren’t trained. “Volunteers quit because they say yes to something and assume that somebody is going to train and support them,” says Wilson. “But they find they are thrown out there on their own.”Thero affirms, “How good the program is depends on the training.”

HOW TO KEEP VOLUNTEERS Even though volunteers often check out for good reasons, there’s good news. You can ensure long-term, satisfied volunteers in your ministry.

  1. Know what your volunteers want. Develop an interview process. Ask volunteers: What expertise do you bring to the program? What do you need out of this experience? What are your goals in working with children? “Help volunteers understand that they need the experience,” says Thero.
  2. Understand current trends. “Two-thirds of volunteers work outside the home,” says Wilson. “A lot are part of the sandwich generation and inheriting additional family responsibilities [from elderly parents].” Consider shared leadership or shorter time slots to lighten volunteers’ loads.
  3. Develop a clear job description. Give detailed descriptions of specific tasks, such as leading children’s singing for one-half hour each Sunday morning. State how much time the position requires, including training time. Specify a finite term of service.
  4. Train. Volunteers want good training to succeed in their job. But how do you know when you’ve had a good training session? Ask yourself: Do people give all kinds of excuses not to come? Do volunteers drop out? Ask volunteers: What do you wish you knew? What do you need to know to be effective in your job?
  5. Devote Time to Your Volunteers Pour into the hearts of your volunteers. Thank them for their faithful service, and inspire those who are just jumping into volunteering. By reaffirming their personal calling of investing in children, you’ll spark a renewed passion for what you are doing in your children’s ministry. It’s so easy with Children’s Ministry Local Training. When you train your volunteers, they experience greater satisfaction in their service. They’re happier. And a happy volunteer is a volunteer who stays around for years and years.
  6. What Is Children’s Ministry Local Training?

Children’s Ministry Local Training is a four-hour, power-packed local training event that’s hosted at different churches throughout America. You and your team will grow closer together while you draw nearer to the heart of Jesus and take in what it really means to give hope to our next generation. This isn’t a sit-and-listen kind of training. This experience is fun, interactive, and practical. It’s perfect to apply right away in your children’s ministry. You and your team will leave refreshed, inspired, and motivated.

Children’s Ministry Magazine is the most read magazine for people who minister to children from birth through sixth grade. We’re partnering with you to make Jesus irresistible to kids.



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