I find that many families carry significant burdens in their lives. Often we are ignorant of these as they appear OK when we see them among the church on Sundays. But dig a bit and you will find major issues. My wife and I faced this 23 years ago. One day I received a phone call in my office telling me that our son had been involved in a serious road accident. In that moment I thought ‘I think that life has just totally changed and we had no warning’. That proved to be true.
Andrew and Rachel Wilson carry a particular life-changing situation in their home with two young children who have regressive autism. Andrew, an elder of Kings Church, Eastbourne, is well known across the Newfrontiers family for his teaching and theological acumen. He is also an author of several books, the latest, written with his wife, Rachel, being The life you never expected. This is a courageous book as it exposes the reality of their day-to-day lives without giving all the answers. Although written to help others who have children with special needs it has application to others who face major issues.
The hard questions
In The life you never expected Andrew and Rachel address many of the questions which we all ask – ‘Why did this happen?’ ‘Is God answering our prayers?’ ‘What about healing?’ etc. In doing so they have the refreshing courage to say on occasion ‘we don’t know’, important when they face the daily challenges of two very demanding children. At such times it is not helpful to receive a somewhat super-spiritual answer but better to acknowledge our limited understanding – though I am not implying that they don’t focus on God! They do so in a very impressive and tenacious way.
Interestingly written in five cycles, each with five chapters – Weeping, Worshipping, Waiting, Witnessing, And Breathe – they openly admit this is a work in progress and that they do not pretend to have all the answers. For them there are many challenging years ahead and they realise their views may change with time and experience. But this book is earthed in reality including, for instance, guidance for friends and family on how to interact with a family immersed in demanding situations.
This book is not a ‘good read’ in terms of being enjoyable light reading – but it is certainly captivating. I commend it to you whether you face life-changing issues yourself or you have friends who do. It will give you insights which are not theoretical. Let it shape your love for and care of those who live in a highly demanding 24/7 environment of challenge and unpredictability.
How we became involved with India
I first visited India with the International Leprosy Mission in January 1981. Terry Virgo had just begun to gather a team of men who, in due course, became the leaders of Newfrontiers, a family of churches around the world. When the team first met in September 1980 we had contact with a few churches in south east England – and one in Bombay in India! Little did I know on what first visit that God had in mind. He used the visit to put a hook in my heart and since then I have visited India on many occasions.
Initially there were some issues that needed resolving in the church in Bombay (now Mumbai) and Henry and Dorothy Tyler lived there for four months helping bring clarity. Subsequently other churches became part of the Indian ‘family’ and friendships were formed and churches planted in other cities. I used to visit wearing my ‘admin’ hat where specific projects were being initiated, such as the building of a training centre in Goa and a Management Centre in Bangalore, both of which provided accommodation for the local church.
In due course centres developed in the state of Maharashtra (including Mumbai and Nassik), Goa, Bangalore, Kerala and even into north east India in Meghalaya. (Orissa is also mentioned in the video below).
In 2002 some further issues arose among the churches and Guy Miller and a team he was leading focussed significant attention on helping these issues to be resolved. Personally I found myself visiting every 3-6 months, building on the friendships I had developed over the decades and helping bring clarity to the ministries with the poor, my heart’s passion.
In 2011 it became necessary to redefine the family of Newfrontiers worldwide in order to accommodate growth and also acknowledge the handing over of the leadership by Terry to others with apostolic ministry. Newfrontiers thus changed from being a family of churches to becoming a family of apostolic spheres each of which included its own family of churches. At that point the churches in India became part of two spheres. Most looked to Guy Miller who was leading the emerging Commission sphere while others reached out to Steve Oliver, leader of Regions Beyond.
Personally I have not visited India since 2011 so I welcomed the opportunity to meet up recently with some of these old friends when they came to Guy’s Bible Weekend. Join me as I talk with Vinu Paul who is now leading the ‘Commission’ team in India. It is an exciting update!
Click on photo:
We live in an age where sustained reading is becoming less common, where people expect sound bites and a high level of graphics. Reaching people with the Bible in written form is becoming more and more challenging. With this in mind I was excited to learn of a project being carried out by a member of the City Church in Bristol (pen name Simon Amadeus Pillario) who is taking significant portions of the Bible and reproducing them word for word with comic illustrations of the highest quality.
Comics are one of the most rapidly rising areas of popular communication, not, as might be expected, only among children, but among those in the 15-40 age groups. So this initiative is very timely, providing a resource to reach out to a section of the community which has a high percentage of unchurched people.
Attention to accuracy
Simon is paying great attention to detail. ‘The material is Historically accurate, unabridged and an untamed graphic novel of the Bible with a high view of scripture. The word-for-word comic presentation of the Bible is like a commentary or an illustrated encyclopaedia; its commitment to present the scriptures as authentically as possible determines its dedication to the historical and geographical accuracy and the importance of every word of the Holy Scripture’.
The first instalment is the Book of Judges; here is an extract from the story of Samson (nb poor graphic quality is due to my blog not the original material).
The following video gives some insight into the project, which also includes an opportunity for people to become involved through crowd funding.
A recent press release reads: “His passion is to get God’s Word, in full, into the hands of believers and comic lovers aged 15-40, in the hope they will come to really know God.
With so many young people leaving the church in their late teens this work aims to bridge the gulf between kids’ Bible stories and the actual text of the Bible. In addition, it will be in-depth enough to act as a visual Study Bible for mature Christians and exciting enough to reach comic readers who would never enter a church.”
I encourage you to support this project, as does Terry Virgo:
“The Word for Word Bible Comic is immediately arresting and I cannot help being impressed by the thorough going commitment to research and the Biblical text in order to make it as accurate as possible”.
In 1979 the first Downs Bible Week was launched at Plumpton Racecourse in Sussex, UK. There were 2900 who camped there on that occasion. Over the next ten years this grew to 8,500 until, in 1988, God told us to close the Bible Week and ‘take the Downs to the nation’. This resulted in the Enjoying God’s Grace tour (fondly called the EGG tour!) with a weekend conference in 16 cities. Meanwhile, for two years a youth event was held at Plumpton, More than Conquerors, the forerunner of Newday.
In 1991 the Stoneleigh Bible Week was launched in the heart of the UK, near Coventry. Starting with 8,500 this grew to 28,000 over eleven years. Then God told us to ‘Go!’, a commission that has taken us from 250 churches in about 40 nations to nearly 1000 churches in at least 70 nations.
Last weekend I visited Westpoint, the Bible Weekend organised by Guy Miller and his team from the Newfrontiers sphere known as Commission. Just over 3000 attended. As I walked around the site seeing people enjoying fellowship outside their tents and joined the enthusiastic worship in the main venue, followed by outstanding preaching, I reflected on what God had done in the past 3+ decades. Much was similar to Downs – a field of campers, marquees for the children to meet in, straw bails as seats in front of a second stage on which bands performed – and the inevitable sign warning people of boggy conditions underfoot! And yet this was a gathering of people from only one of fifteen similar spheres around the world. Indeed, two other Bible Weekends were taking place at the same time in other parts of the UK, and others had happened earlier in the year. Meanwhile I was hearing good reports of the huge blessings from Newday attended by 7000 people, of the Together on a Mission leaders conference that had just been held in Kenya with Peter Brooks from Australia as one of the speakers, and I had spoken recently with Terry Virgo who had just returned from speaking at Celebration North East in the USA, one region of John Lanferman’s sphere. Just a few examples of multiplied occasions for people to gather to worship, receive teaching, and be refreshed and reminded of the worldwide vision we have been given to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
My main reason for visiting Westpoint was to renew fellowship with leaders from India whom I have come to know and love over many years. They were an example of what God has been doing worldwide and continues to do through Newfrontiers churches, talking about significant church growth (several churches now hold multiple meetings to accommodate the numbers attending), church planting, ministry with the poor and so on. God is on the move and the kingdom is advancing.
If God can take the family of Newfrontiers churches from one to fifteen spheres in about 35 years, influencing hundreds of thousands of people in more than one third of the world’s nations, just think what can happen over the next 35 years! We serve an awesome God. Let’s acknowledge and thank him for what he is doing and what he has allowed us to be part of in our generation.
One of Mark Altrogge’s worship songs comes to mind: ‘I want to serve the purpose of God in my generation’. Let’s keep running!
Finally, listen and be blessed!
At the recent Newday God gave Stef Liston a remarkable poem giving a sweep of scripture. I have listened twice and will do so again. It touched me deeply and drew me out in worship of our wonderful Saviour. I urge you to download it and bask in the truth contained. Jesus – who was, and is, and is to come
News from apostolic spheres in the Newfrontiers family of churches
In recent days I have, from time to time, given news updates from around the apostolic spheres of Newfrontiers as I have become aware of them. Here are some extracts from a recent newsletter from the Pacific Rim.
In UK summer holidays are upon us so this will be my last post for a few weeks.
A Word from Peter Brooks…
I recently had the privilege of hearing John Maxwell speak on Leadership. Having enjoyed his book over the years, I can only say I loved him even more in the flesh. I think for me, his focus and passion on making Christ known was profound.
The thundering message that rattled through the arena in Sydney as he spoke was ‘People aren’t coming to church, so you must go to them!’ I know it is obvious but building bridges is key and engaging people where they are and bringing value to them as Jesus did must be a massive focus for all of us in these days.
I thank God for what has been built in the Pacific Rim so far but we have a long way to go and many nations to be reached and churches planted.
I was encouraged when a recognised prophetic minister, who I personally had never met picked me out of a crowd recently and basically ‘read my mail’ and encouraged me that God was going to see humble beginnings, multiply and multiply and multiply to the point where articles would be written concerning what had happened.
To be honest I cannot express to you how completely out of the blue and encouraging this word came. When the prophet asked, ‘does any of this mean anything to you’, I was almost speechless because of its accuracy.
God is good and I want you to believe like me that the best is yet to come for Newfrontiers Pacific Rim.
Spotlight on Phally Yeun in Cambodia
Phally is one of the very gifted leaders on the leadership team in Phnom Penh Cambodia.
1. How did God call you into leadership?
He called me by putting a desire to see changes/transformation in Cambodia for the current generation and the generations to come. I believe the best way to see such change is through the local church.
2. Are there any authors or preachers that have particularly influenced you?
Authors: John Maxwell (Books on leadership and people)
Preachers: Simon Brown, Terry Virgo
3. You have a whole day to yourself, what would you do with it?
I would play soccer for 24 hours and a half!
4. How is your church serving the community around you?
We have started to run a number of English classes which draws people into church and gives them a valuable skill which opens up job opportunities. We also run boats trips which are fun socials and pray for our community.
New Elders appointed in New Zealand and Philippines
Mike Irving writes:
It has been a real privilege to be a part of appointing elders in Christchurch, NZ and Manila, Philippines in the last few months. Travelling to both these churches with Pete Brooks and laying hands on 4 guys in each church has been very exciting, especially as I consider the quality of the guys we have appointed.
In Christchurch we laid hands on 3 Matt’s and a Paul – four very different guys, all with excellent wives, that will bring a great diversity of ministry to the church alongside the existing elders, Ken & Bob.
From left to right Paul & Janet Williams, Matt & Lesley Parker, Matt and Lucy Pratt, Matt and Louisa Walters
In Manila it was a joy to appoint 4 great Filipinos as elders – Eden, Ramon (Boy), Rodney & Armand. These guys have been developing as a team over recent years with their wonderful wives alongside them. Eldership teams are far from the norm in Filipino churches and so it has been particularly exciting to see this worked out in House of Grace. With the church building almost complete and incredible ministries happening in Taguig City and Santa Rosa, the church is poised to see real growth.
From left to right Ramon, Mike, Rodney, Armand, Peter, Eden
Hew Nunn writes:
Encounter180 was the theme for Newday Philippines 2015 (hosted by our church in Manila). From the very start the atmosphere was electric. The 60 young people aged between 12-18 were so excited to gather and be in the presence of God.
35 came from the church in Taguig (an area within Manila), the rest from Santa Rosa which is a new outreach project. Many of those from Santa Rosa have only been saved a very short period of time so it was great to see more and more young people stepping out, bringing bible verses, prayers or words they felt God had placed on their hearts.
The morning and evening meetings looked at the theme of encountering God. These were followed up with ministry times, many being powerfully touched and some receiving the gift of tongues for the first time.
In the afternoon, it was too hot to be anywhere other than in the pool where we played all manner of games. The young people were determined to make everything lots of fun to be involved with.
What was very encouraging was the strength of the future leaders we saw coming through. Lots of the youth leaders and worship team demonstrated massive potential which is really exciting for what is to come. It was also good to see the joy in the church, the generosity of the people and their selfless approach to God.
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We have been looking at ways of creating a fulfilling and positive experience for volunteers serving in the church.
As well as team activities there are things that can be done with only a little effort that will make a person feel appreciated. For instance, birthdays provide an annual opportunity to make someone feel special. A card gives the opportunity to express how much that person is appreciated not only for what they do but, even more important, for who they are. It is good to tell people that their lives have a positive effect on others; often people do not realise how others see them and they need commending. You can also add a box of chocolates or flowers to the card.
Another way of showing appreciation is to offer to send a person on some sort of training programme. Training within the church is essential and non-negotiable – all volunteers should be equipped within the areas of service they function in. But it is also of great value for people to go to another context. This provides stimulation, networking opportunities and so on. For example, those who work with people who are poor or in need find great value in attending the annual Jubilee+ conference in the UK. People working in an area of ministry with the poor are often very passionate and somewhat tunnel visioned, so to go to an event where there are other like-minded people can be of great benefit.
There are also various training programmes available through other organisations for training volunteers, whether in the Christian or secular sphere. These could be in the areas of children’s ministry, helping those caught up in the sex industry, worship, event management etc. A little exploration on the internet will reveal many opportunities. It takes some effort but the investment of time will be more than repaid by the benefits resulting form such training opportunities.
In this short series I have sought to show the importance of mobilising volunteers in the life of the church. We have looked at what we mean by ‘volunteers’ and saw how we are in fact all part of God’s army to advance the Kingdom. I have then tried to give some tips on how to motivate and affirm people so that they enjoy the maximum fulfilment and satisfaction from their serving.
Jesus’ final command, the great Commission, was to go into all the world and make disciples (Matt 28:19). Serving in and through the church provides an invaluable vehicle for discipling people by developing their potential, training them in particular skills and strengthening their characters by building such characteristics as loyalty and reliability. May your church achieve great things as you promote a serving environment.
Often people are invited to serve as part of a team. The individuals may well be more diverse than would be the case in an employed environment as the reasons for volunteering are not entirely based on skills and ambition. I remember, for instance, visiting one church overseas and finding that the Deputy High Commissioner for the UK and his family were members of the church. I then observed how he and his wife served faithfully among the children on a Sunday, not too proud to be scrabbling around on the ground with young children getting covered in paint and glue! They knew what it was to serve humbly without seeking any acclaim from man. I am sure the Lord was pleased.
For such a couple to be led by local nationals would have been a big cultural statement and I am sure that effort must have been made by the church leaders to build a team in which this was possible.
A team acknowledges the strengths (and weaknesses) of other team members and seeks to complement the various giftings to the benefit of all. Where this is successful there is a bonding between members that is far stronger than merely working together.
This bonding can be intentionally strengthened in various ways. First, and I feel most important, is honouring one another. It is so good to commend others publicly; it both builds up the individual and is also an example of community flowing together in a way that observers notice. I was reading recently in Is 60 how the nations would flow to the light of Israel. What was it they saw that could be described as ‘light’? Predominantly it was the Lord in their midst, but how was His presence manifest? There would have been many ways but, for this context, the love they had for one another would have been conspicuous and attractive. Seeing a team working together also helps mobilise others to serve as they desire to be part of such a company, as stated in part 1 of this series.
It is important for honouring also to happen in front of the whole church. Thank and commend those who successfully and sacrificially served a particular event, for example, perhaps staying until midnight to clear up the venue after everyone had returned home. Present flowers to someone who has served faithfully in a ministry for many years. These easy and apparently small gestures are so helpful in making people feel appreciated and energised to continue to serve.
Volunteers give their time and energy without demanding anything in response. But let’s be good at thoughtfully and intentionally giving some ‘perks’. For instance, we used to take all our trustees for a meal around Christmas as a way of saying ‘thank you’ for the many hours of faithful and diligent service they contributed to the healthy life of the church. Sometimes we would arrange a summer outing for both staff and key volunteers to enjoy a day out together. When the Together on a Mission leadership conferences ended in 2011 after about 20 years I had the joy of taking the team leaders out for the day to The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum (highly recommended!) which included a meal and some presentations. A little intentionality and thoughtful planning is always greatly appreciated and is a good investment into the future.
Next time we will look at other ways of encouraging people, including training.
Last time we saw the importance of having clear definition of a role or task with agreed expectations. How do we ensure that these expectations are being met?
A vital part of managing staff, whether paid or unpaid, is communication and support. There can be a tendency to ‘cast off’ a volunteer and let them ‘get on with it’, particularly in the midst of a busy schedule. But accountability is very important both for checking that progress is being made and to assure the individual of your commitment and interest. It also encourages reliability if someone knows that they are being monitored in a constructive way.
I once led a Stewarding Team in our church, many years before I served on the welcome team mentioned in part 3. I personally invited each member of the team to join me and assured them that I had asked them because I saw in them the gifting I felt was needed, typically in the areas of encouragement and hospitality. I had some pre-printed cards on which were written the particulars of the specific task for the day – maybe related to welcoming at the front door or stewarding in the meeting hall.
On occasion someone did not arrive for the appointed duty. What should I do? Ignore it and assume they had been busy? What if they had forgotten? Or perhaps they were ill? Seeing serving as an opportunity for someone to develop in their discipleship I felt that to take no action would be wrong. Here was an opportunity to enquire about their welfare – was stewarding putting a strain on family life etc? If, as was sometimes the case, they had forgotten or chosen to do something else it gave me the opportunity to point out that reliability is an important aspect of serving; failure to show up merely puts more pressure on other people. I did not see this as being ‘heavy’ but as an opportunity to help the individual to become a better person.
An important part of accountability is being able to listen. When helping to develop an individual it is not only important to bring encouragement (more about this later) and direction but also to get feedback and hear how things are going from their perspective.
When I appointed a member of staff I used to make sure that within 2-4 weeks I would have a review talk with them, being careful to listen. I would ask them how they were getting on and see if there were problems that could be resolved. I would also invite them to comment freely on any aspect of the ministry or working environment that they were in; often new people see things that we can grow blind to due to familiarity. So this gives an opportunity for making improvements by seeing a situation through fresh eyes.
I once appointed two members of staff at the same time and put them in a shared office. As I talked to them after a few weeks it was clear that something was not working well. It was only then that I realised that one was an external processor the other internal. While one wanted to talk out his ideas to help him think them through the other was, in effect, saying please be quiet so that I can think! The solution was to give them separate work areas and for me to be the foil for the external processor – I always believed in having my door open so that I was available to staff.
A similar principle applies to volunteers. They too can experience pressures of various sorts so it is important to give time and space to help them express these and to look for solutions together.
Next time we will look at team building.
So far in this series we have seen how fulfilment, satisfaction and motivation are key aspects of serving, particularly in a ‘volunteer’ (unpaid) capacity. But, just as in a paid job, management and accountability are essential for achieving satisfactory outcomes these are also true for the ‘volunteer’. So what are some of the key management or leadership features that will produce good results and a happy team?
Although a job description sounds a bit formal for a volunteer position its purpose is the same as for a paid role – a clarity of expectation. As leaders it can be very frustrating if we delegate a job and then find that it has not been completed to a satisfactory standard or in the way we had intended. Whose fault is that? Ours! There will be a direct correlation between the detail with which we spell out what we are expecting, be it an individual task or a total job role, and fulfilment of our expectations. It is frustrating for both parties if, when, say, a task has been completed the ‘manager’ is clearly not satisfied, even if the one doing the task thinks he or she has done a really good job.
When appointing staff I liked to define a job profile and then ask the new staff member to write their suggested detailed job description. If I prescribed too tightly what was wanted in the way of practice I would have been imposing my thoughts too strongly on someone whom I had appointed as they had the gifting that I did not have – that was why I had employed them! Because they are gifted they will think of things I would never have thought of. It also helps bring ‘ownership’ to the role.
It is then important to discuss and agree this job description in order to be sure that the mutual expectations are the same. This also applies to the ‘volunteer’ role. There is little benefit in my creating a team of children’s workers and then telling them how to do it. They are the experts; I am not. But the broad goals and expectations must be agreed.
For how long?
When a staff member is appointed a contract will state the length of the contract and the ways in which it can be terminated by either party. Clearly a ‘volunteer’ post differs, but the general principles are the same. Some suggested time frame can be very helpful. Include a trial period when both parties can see if things are progressing well. Make it clear that, after that, there will be at least an annual review when someone can walk away from the role without any sense of failure or having let anyone down. Remember, people are giving their time freely and this can impinge on other aspects of life eg family time. People should not feel that if they volunteer they have been handed a life sentence and will be expected to continue to serve in a particular role until the Lord comes again!
Next time we will look at accountability and feedback
Some key aspects to motivating people are
- Cause and Community
Last time we looked at the first two. Now let’s consider the others.
Affirmation is first cousin to encouragement; as we affirm people we are saying ‘I believe in you’. A little affirmation and encouragement goes a long way. By bringing affirmation you are demonstrating that the person’s effort has been noticed and appreciated, and appreciation is a key part of the motivation recipe. People rarely look for any other reward if appreciation has been expressed for who they are and what they have done.
How often do you reach the end of the day feeling ‘what was that all about?’ Or conversely, how often feeling ‘that was a really good day’? These polarised positions are the extremes of some sort of satisfaction-scale. Part of a ‘why do we exist?’ consideration is to do with how we spend our time. If we feel we have made a contribution to some cause, the betterment of society or the fulfilment of a dream we have the feeling of satisfaction. This is something that we want to repeat and drives us on to greater exploits. So satisfaction is an important part of feeling motivated.
A manager’s job is not just to delegate but to support those in his or her care in what they are doing. Getting alongside someone who is working for you and giving them the support they need is vital to getting the job done and reduces the feeling of being inadequate for the task. This includes giving them time to express how they feel and how they are getting on. Also for them to express any frustrations or need for help, whether physical, practical, emotional or in an area of training. Indeed, providing training, whether in-house or external, is a great motivator as it demonstrates your willingness to invest in the volunteer and up-skill him.
In any job it is vital to have the right tools and resources. Sometimes it is tempting to think that a volunteer does not need the same level of resources, particularly those that save time, as his time does not cost you money. However, idleness or inefficiency may carry a greater cost – the loss of the volunteer continuing to serve. Frustration is a great de-motivator.
Next time we will look at some more aspects of managing volunteers.