Posted in Church Staff

Parade-Waving in Church Ministry–Effective Use of Time?

You know the parade wave? The beauty queen or grand marshal waves to the cheering crowd, and then the crowd waves back. It’s the bystanders’ way to say “I’m here. I support you!”

I’m not a good parade waver. It probably has something to do with me waving at our homecoming queen in high school and her giving me a dirty look. But, I digress. It’s okay that I’m not the best parade-waver though, because I was told I don’t have to be…at least not all the time.

When I was in the interview process at the church I now serve, the Executive Pastor said to me, “In this role, you don’t have to wave at every parade.” I’d never heard that expression, and asked in confusion, “I know the church is big, but it has its own parades?”

Most church ministers are pretty good at waving at the (church) parades. It’s the signal to ministry groups and constituencies in your church that says, “I’m here. I notice you. I support you.” So for the purpose of this post, let’s use “parade” to mean programs, events, and experiences not related to you or in your charge, that people might want you present at to add your parade-wave.

Unlike me, many of you are quite adept at parade waving, and many times it’s a necessary skill to survive in church ministry. Why do we feel the need to show up and wave at these parades? At times, you do it simply out of responsibility. Maybe it’s political in nature — you expect something in return for your support of their parade. And sometimes, you show up and wave because someone reminds you that you’ve “never been to their parade.”

While parade waving may sometimes only be an obligatory or an insincere effort on your part, it can also be meaningful to both you and those you show up to support.

2 Drawbacks of waving at every parade

  1. The encore problem. Showing up once can give the sense you’ll repeat this or do it for every group’s parade. This leads to a tired minister who’s giving valuable time for a fly-by wave, when their time could be used for things more meaningful to their ministry work.
  2. Communicating everything of value needs a staff presence. Not everything of importance needs staff support. In fact, we probably mess things up. But if you consistently show up and wave, you may unintentionally communicate that a ministry’s parade is only valuable when a staff person shows.

2 Wins for waving at some parades

  1. You get to experience ministry you’re not directing. If you don’t have to be there, then that means when you do show up you can experience ministry without responsibility. You have the freedom to talk, encourage, and ask questions of those involved.
  2. Your presence can be fresh air. Especially when you choose to wave at parades a lot of people don’t know exist, such as those doing the thankless work of church ministry. The ones that get little to no “ad space” in the bulletin. A well-timed parade wave can provide encouragement for people to keep serving well.

Choosing when to wave and waving well when you do:

Manage expectations (truthfully)

Not showing up at someone’s parade is one thing. But not showing up after you’ve led them to believe you would… well, that’s no good. Yet it happens a lot among church leaders. It’s the insincere “Yes, I’ll probably be there.” If you’re not going to be there, tell them. If you need to consider the invitation, consider it, and then follow-up with them. If they’re expecting you to be there and you don’t show up, you’ve just rained on their parade. (See what I did there?)

Understand your purpose at the parade

When you’re not sure whether the parade is a worthy investment, ask what they expect. Many times these questions will give you clarity about attendance, and sometimes it’ll make the parade organizer realize it really isn’t important you be there.

Recently, I was asked to wave at a parade taking place on my scheduled day off from the office. I asked the parade-inviter a few questions: “Do you need me to do anything while I’m there?” “What would you hope I’d experience and understand because of my attendance?” This person had thoughtful answers, and as a result, I showed up.

But asking these questions often will help you and them realize your presence sometimes doesn’t matter. Other times, it shows that there may be a better-suited waver, and you can help arrange that.

Wave at their parade (from a distance)

There are times you can provide a similar parade presence encouragement without being there. A well-timed email prior to their parade encouraging them and letting them know you’ve prayed for their work, or that you’ve heard a buzz about their parade, can go a long way. Or post-parade, follow-up to see how it went –  or even better, provide a third party encouragement about what you heard took place (third party encouragement is the best and I’ve blogged on it previously).

Show up and wave well

Maybe it’s obligatory, or something you get paid to do. Or maybe you actually want to encourage and support. Regardless, when you choose to show up, show up fully. Take interest in the parade. Engage with other participants. Make sure your body language communicates you’re happy to support. If you’re going to give your time and presence, take advantage of the opportunity, and wave well.

Waving at every parade is too much for you (and them). Never waving at a parade is ministry-malpractice. But well-timed and sincere parade waving is meaningful ministry.

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4 Simple Rules for Working with and Hiring Creatives

I’m privileged to have Darrel Girardier guest blog for me today. Darrel serves Brentwood Baptist Church as the Digital Strategy Director. If you’re like me, you’re not crazy creative, but you work with those who are. And Darrel gets how to bridge the gap. I think today’s post will help you as you consider finding, hiring, and working well with your creatives.


I’ve had the privilege for the last 15 years to work with creative teams in both the corporate and church setting. While each setting is slightly different, there are some rules that I think can be applied to each situation.

If you work with, or are in the process of hiring creative people for church, I’ve outlined four simple rules that help you along in the process. Here they are…

1. Hire creatives who can take the abstract and make it concrete.

I’ve worked with some very talented people. However, what separated the good ones from the great ones was the ability to take what was either technical or abstract, and explain it in a way that anyone could understand what they’re saying.

Now why is this important? If you’re going to manage, evaluate, or coach someone for whose skill-sets you don’t have, you need to have some sense of the scope of their work and what it entails. Often this leads to conversations where you want to be informed, but you don’t need to know all the details.

If you hire the right creative person for your team, they can make the process easier for you. By making the abstract become concrete, they can provide the information you need to make better decisions.

2. Hire creatives who understand the difference between design and art.

It’s easy to become enamored with people who create visually stunning work. Whether it’s videos, logos, or stage design, visual creative work is something that everyone wants to show off. However, the best creatives understand the difference between stunning visuals and stunning visuals that solve a problem.

In other words, you should hire creative people who understand that their challenge when creating a video or design is not to wow you, but instead, solve your problem. These types of creative people will help you move beyond questions like, “What colors or fonts do you like?” to more important questions like, “Who is your primary audience?” and “How do we measure success?”

If you can hire a creative person who instinctively knows to answer those questions first, then you’ve found someone who will be more results driven, which will have a greater impact for your church.

3. When you talk to a creative staff member, talk about your design problem and not the solution.

One of the things you can easily do to frustrate a creative person is to bring them a problem, and then bring them what you think the solution should be. It’s the equivalent of describing a canyon to an engineer and then telling them how to build the bridge.

The more effectively you can describe what you’re trying to accomplish along with the challenges your facing, the higher chance you have of engaging your creative staff. The problem is that most of us come to the creative person with a problem and what we have our idea of what the solution should be (but we can’t do ourselves). This solution-based approach eventually frustrates the creative person and creates a feeling that they’re simply a widget maker.
4. Be wary of confusing roles.

A lot of church leadership staff try to find some mental model so they can categorize how creative people will work with the rest of the (non-creative) staff. Often this leads to using the “client/service” model.

In this model, the ministry is the “client” and the creative person (designer, video producer, etc…) is the service department. You can find this model in most large corporations that have in-house creative departments.

While this model has its advantages, it can lead to de-emphasizing the partnership ministries and creative teams should have, and instead, focuses on simply making the client happy. And yes, creative people do want make ministries happy, but they don’t want to do at the cost of violating basic creative and design principles (Comic sans font anyone?).

To remedy this situation, you need to clarify roles. Not in the sense of who’s in charge, but rather what each party is responsible for. In other words, find a way to let the creative people do what they do best (design, produce, etc.) and still meet the needs of the ministry. This can be a bit of balancing act, however, if you clarify these roles on the front end, the creation process will go much smoother.

As I stated in the beginning, every situation is a bit different. However, most creative people I know want to be respected, trusted and encouraged. If you follow the four rules above, you’ll be one step closer to getting attracting, keeping, and allowing them to feel respected, trusted, and encouraged.

Darrel is effectively collaborating and coaching other church leaders, particularly in the church communications space. Check out his blog and his “Ask Darrel” podcast on iTunes

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The Minister Who Can’t Manage (or is reluctant to)

A seminary degree is not an MBA.

There are no accounting classes in seminary. Most ministers don’t dream about the process of hiring people or look forward to the annual performance reviews. Policies and procedures elicit a gag reflex, and the budgeting process is loathsome. In fact, many ministers on church staffs view all these management duties as interferences to what they really want to do…make disciples through the local church.

Yet, in many churches, ministers end up becoming managers. They don’t view or describe themselves this way, and often won’t even admit to being one (if anything they prefer “leaders” but I’m talking about a different role than leader). But in churches with multiple ministers on staff, usually their managers are also card-carrying Ministers of the Gospel.

So how does a church effectively manage itself when the majority of its managers aren’t trained for or are even averse to managing?

Let’s deal with that issue from two perspectives:

  1. How do you help reluctant minister-managers embrace their management roles?
  2. How do reluctant minister-managers push through the management work so they can effectively do the ministry work?

To the church counting on ministers indisposed to management:

Remember: in many cases, these ministers never expected or desired a managerial role. It’s not what they went to school for, it’s not what fuels them, and they’re not using their spare time to think how they can be better managers. God doesn’t always lay out a career path when He calls people, so we need to cut them some slack. Church leadership should find ways to ease their transition into management by…

Incrementalizing their work. Don’t expect them to fully embrace all the managerial duties at once. Determine what their most important management tasks are, and work on those first.

Care about their development in both management and ministry. Don’t make all your development opportunities about improving their management skills. Make sure you’re improving them in their ministerial roles too. Yes, teach them about policies and procedures, but also teach them how to effectively minister to people in crisis.

Lead with their passion and then connect the dots. Talk to them in their love language. Ministering is their first priority, and management trails behind that. Talk first about what fuels them. They’re savvy, they know management is part of the gig, but make sure they know you understand their priorities. It’s up to you to find compelling ways to connect management work to ministry work.

To the management-averse minister:

Understand management is a means to end. Even more than that, understand the means are pretty important. If you manage people and resources well, you provide yourself and your church greater ministry influence. Solid management will allow you to effectively minister through others.

Missteps in management can cripple the church’s ministry. I understand – managing HR processes and protocols can be mind-numbing. But without them, you can undo years of meaningful ministry. You could have stewarded the church’s funds well for years, but one fiscal misstep could cripple current and future church ministry.

Be grateful they’re using your ministry experience, training, and expertise to also influence the management arm of the church. Even in management activity, you can heavily influence your church’s ministry mindset. What can you do as a minister to make sure your church sees management through the lens of biblical ministry? As a minister-manager, you can impact those decisions.

Have management boundaries. Make sure you keep enough ministry in your work that you don’t shrink under the demands of management. If you have a week full of administrative duties, schedule time that fuels your ministry mindedness. Schedule a lunch conversation that will allow you to operate as a minister. I’ve written previously about managing the admin and ministry tension.


Just as not everyone has all the spiritual gifts, not everyone will be equally capable in both ministry and management. But in many cases, ministers will be expected to do both. So, if you’re the one in charge of these individuals, give their underdeveloped strengths some grace and time to develop. And if you’re one of these reluctant minister-managers, understand that serving your church well might require you to develop your weaker areas. Effective ministry often requires effective management. It’s all part of the same important calling.

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