Leading Your Team for the Long Haul

Notes from Orange Conference 2017 #OC17


**These are the notes from my breakout session at the Orange Conference 2017. Power Point or PDF’s Found HERE**

When I say team, I mean a cohesive group of people working together to achieve a mutual goal.

Team doesn’t mean you don’t have personal goals; you just work towards a large common goal.
To get a good foundation for leading people over time we need to start with a foundation. Going back to my academic days, I had to start out with some leadership theory.

Why leadership theory? Sometimes we need a mental hook to organize our thoughts. We need a large scale framework to help us anchor our situation.


Transformational Leader

Transformational Leadership – In essence, is a process of building commitment to organizational objectives and then empowering followers to accomplish those objectives (Yukl, 1998). The result, at least in theory, is enhanced follower performance (Burns, 1998; Yukl, 1998).

The team feels trust, admiration, loyalty, and respect toward the leader, and they are motivated to do more than they originally expected to do.

Transformational Leaders – inspire others with vision; create excitement through their enthusiasm

4 Behaviors that Establish Transformational Leadership


  1. Idealized influence – Or charismatic influence – You must be an influencer
    1. Charismatic element of transformational leadership – leader becomes role models who are admired, respected, and emulated by followers
    2. Team trust these leaders
    3. Integrity in form of ethical moral conduct
    4. Development of a shared vision is an integral component
    5. Share and take risk

So 1st Behavior : INFLUENCER

SLIDE 6 ::

  1. Inspirational motivation
    1. Transformational leaders inspire and motivate others by “providing meaning and challenge to their followers work (it’s not just putting together crafts – it is kids having a craft to retell the bible story which is all about repetition)
    2. Build relationships with followers through interactive communication, which forms a cultural bond between the 2 participants.

So 2nd Behavior: Motivator


  1. Intellectual stimulation
    1. Leaders behavior that encourages followers creativity and stimulates innovative thinking
    2. Tolerant of peoples mistakes
    3. Involves others in problem solving and are open to new ideas
    4. No transactional relationship – you do this because I asked you.

So 3rd Behavior: Intellectual Stimulator


  1. Individualized consideration
    Role leader plays in developing followers potential and paying attention to their individual needs for achievement and growth

    1. Strives to create new learning opportunities for followers and tend to act as a coach or mentor
    2. STORY: My dad was coach – Bowling – Showed me how to hold the ball, take three steps, etc. Still to this day think through those steps. He coached me on doing it the right way – Same with our team – Coach them on what to say to parents, how to dress, How do they need to grow as a leader? Pay close attention to coaching them on their individual needs.

So 4th Behavior: Coach (for the individual)

SLIDE 9 :: So Be . . .



Intellectual stimulators


SLIDE 10::

Slide:   1 – Know your team

Personalities/Temperaments – Know each member on your team. My favorite way to do this is with a Personality Test. There are many out there:

  • Disc, Pep, Strengths, Real Colors – Because a student of your team
  • Real colors – My favorite

SLIDE 11::

GOLD: How many of you have people on your team that love to-do list? Most likely they are your gold’s.

  • Plans ahead; Likes checking off items on the “to do” list
  • Pushes to have things decided and settled
  • Sets deadlines and expect them to be met
  • Gives and likes to receive precise directions and instructions
  • Punctual
  • Organized
  • Values Rules

SLIDE 12::

GREEN: How many of you have people on your team that love to push you to deeper thinking? They may be kind of loaner and don’t show much emotion.

  • Tries to convince others by logic and objective arguments; uses words like principle, logical, standards, analysis
  • Appear most comfortable with topics not related to feelings or relationships
  • Has a small number of deep friendships
  • Pauses before answering or giving information
  • Values independence and time alone
  • Needs information and questions answered
  • Logical
  • Research Oriented

SLIDE 13::

BLUE: How many of you have people on your team that avoid conflict?

  • Talks about possibilities more than what exists
  • Likes to do things in new ways; dislikes routine
  • Is upset by conflict or disharmony
  • Shows concern for the feelings of others
  • Chooses a tactful comment over a directly truthful one
  • Values family – who is your family?

SLIDE 14::

ORANGE: How many of you have members of your staff that are the life of the party?

  • Uses words like flexible, adapt, evolving, and spontaneous
  • Does work in a way that makes the process enjoyable
  • Shows physical energy in body language, facial expressions, and voice
  • Acts or speaks quickly, sometimes without thinking
  • Works easily with several other things going on
  • Values fun, independence, challenges,
  • Rules are guidelines – can be broken

Your job – to communicate in their color. Not your preferred color

Speak in the language of the listener

Example – The Colors and their Roles they play in a meeting

  • Gold – on task needs agenda
  • Greens – may come just right on time to miss the chitchat, will either be very quiet thinking or will ask probing questions
  • Blue – wants to know how everyone is doing/feeling
  • Orange – keeps things fun, pushes the boundaries

**If you are interested in having a fun team training around Real Colors, contact me at ab@amberbaker.me **

SLIDE 15::

Define Roles – “recent studies show that individuals who are more aware of team roles and behavior required for each role perform better than individuals that do not.”

Getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than getting the right idea.

SLIDE 16::

2 – Boundaries

Professionals and business leaders who carry mobile devices, like smart phones, tend to work more than 70 hours a week.

Phones – Put them away when doing family time or in a meeting

Email – turn the notification off on your phones. Spend a set time in the morning and afternoon for email. Don’t let it control you.

Social Media – what are you posting? Why? How often?

Day’s off – TAKE ONE! Do something fun, rest, DON’T WORK!

Time with the Lord – Every day

Family Time

Schedule – Block times

SLIDE 18::

3 – Spend 80% of your time with people who produce 80% of the work

It is said that 20% of your people do 80% of the work

If this adage is true than you need to spend 80% of your time with the 20%

To get maximum effect over the long haul you want to pour into your coordinators, you team leads, your staff. Not the once a month nursery worker.

SLIDE 19::

Jason – This is one of our awesome team members who are spending most of our time with and he is blossoming!

SLIDE 20::

4 – Lead Change Well

  • Change – Either evokes excitement or fear
  • People don’t like to be pushed to change – lead from the front
  • Takes time
  • Must change thinking for lasting change – go right back to the “old ways of dong things”
  • Three types of change agents

SLIDE 21:: 1 – you can try and please everyone

STORY – Cruise Ship director – No change happened.

SLIDE 22:: 2 – you can run over everyone and make demands

SLIDE 23:: 3 – guide through a process getting people there over time

You put those 4 behaviors into action as you lead 1) Influence 2) Motivate 3) Stimulate their brains 4) Coach

SLIDE 24: arc

            Growth Mode vs Maintenance Mode

SLIDE 25::

5 – Have Fun – Be in community

Positivity is important

  • Celebrate success
  • Have a positive attitude

Wait !?! What !?! TWINS!

The day we doubled

Happy Birthday Josiah and Daniel!  Let me tell you how the story began. . .

The day I found out I was pregnant:

We were in the middle of renovating our house. We had no flooring or furniture downstairs. I hadn’t been feeling well and assumed it was from all the fumes of construction. One evening we had prepared our dinner and created a little picnic on the concrete floor in the living room. I don’t remember what prompted me to take a pregnancy test, but I did. Sitting on the floor with Josh, Ashley, and Sam (who was a little over 1) I announced we would be adding one more to our family. I think Josh and I were in shock. No, I know Josh and I were in shock! This was not planned. To be honest, I wasn’t super excited about being pregnant. This didn’t “fit” in our “plan”. I spent the next couple months trying to come to terms that life would change. We went in to our 9 week ultrasound and saw a big baby and a heart beating strong. Life was there. My thoughts, “Ok Lord, I trust you.”

The day that made us freak out:

The life growing inside of me showed on my body quickly. People noticed right away. If I had wanted to hide this pregnancy, there was no way I could have. Josh and I showed up to the 20 week ultrasound excited to see how this baby would break the tie: would it be a girl or boy? As I looked around at all the other ladies in the waiting room they didn’t even look pregnant! Here I was looking huge. The mantra I kept saying was that it was just my third pregnancy.

As we settled into our ultrasound room, we were given a  student technician, she was focused on her job and not very chatty. She kept moving that wand around my large belly taking pictures of the important parts; cervice, placenta, etc. Josh, my fun loving husband, kept asking me what I had eaten that morning since I had lumps in my stomach. We laughed, told horror stories of parents finding out they were having twins, and just waited to find out if we were having a girl or boy.

The official technician poked her head in our room and asked the student if she noticed anything abnormal about the ultrasound? Instantly, Josh looked at me with BIG eyes! He asks, “are there two babies in there?” The student said she was trying to stay focused on the things she was supposed to look at and didn’t want to get distracted by all the feet and hands. WAIT?!? ALL THE FEET AND HANDS? The technician says, “YOU’RE HAVING TWINS!!!”

I’m not sure I heard much more after that. I do remember being cold in a extremely warm room. Tears kept running down my face. The official technician took over and told me she knew I didn’t know because they had only scheduled me for a 45 minute appointment. Twin ultrasounds are normally 90 minutes. I was in shock! Literal shock! What about the 9 week ultrasound? Turns out, one of the babies thought it would be fun to hide.

Lord, how are we going to do this? How are we going to afford this? Wait, what? Twins? Are you sure? Over the next couple days I would have waves of anxiety as I thought about what the future would hold for the Baker family.

As my physical body transformed to so did my walk with Jesus. The Lord kept telling me, “I’ve got this. Trust me. I am sending you into new places. I am doing something new.” Those little boys growing inside of me have truly changed our life. God was so gracious to me during my pregnancy, physically and spiritually. I finally surrendered and many times a day would say, “Lord, I trust you.”

That day in January, rocked our world. Little did I know what an amazing blessing I was carrying. Two little identical twin boys that would complete our family, cause us to depend more on the Lord than ever before, and ultimately changed the trajectory of our family.

Little did I know on that day I would only spend 13 more weeks caring them in my womb. But that is for another post. . .



No more VBS T-shirt Line!

Our Way of Being Intentional

Have you ever had a lightbulb moment? One of those moments where you thought, “This is awesome!”

8 months ago I was sitting in a VBS planning meeting. Our goal for this meeting was to brainstorm ways to make VBS more intentional.

We started talking about the Monday experience: What families feel and see when they walk onto our campus for the fist day of VBS. Was there anything about that day we could change? What was the worst part of Monday morning VBS?


Oh, that dreaded T-shirt line. I have done VBS for over 15 years and I still can’t seem to find a system that doesn’t create mile long lines and irritated parents.

As we began to think outside the “normal” and “usual” we started playing around with the questions, “How do we shorten the t-shirt line on Monday? How can we be intentional? What can we do to make sure the kids feel loved? This year’s theme was a boot camp theme, called Basic Training. (We adapted a Sunday morning curriculum from High Voltage and turned it into our VBS) We began brainstorming on fun terms to fit our theme. What military components fit our theme?

Then it struck us – LIGHTBULB MOMENT – Why don’t we deliver all of the VBS t-shirts the Sunday before VBS starts? If we can deliver turkey meals to families in need at Thanksgiving, why can’t we deliver VBS t-shirts? We decided to call them MREs – Merchandise Ready To Experience.

Sound crazy? Yep! And perfect for us!

So the Sunday before VBS, our church family delivered 346 packages across Southern California! (Some people drove over 30 miles to deliver their package! That is far in Southern California traffic.) Our pastor’s sermon was on being intentional and he gave our family a practical way to live that out: deliver a MRE! Our congregation picked up their deliveries as part of the service, during the offering.

Here is what was delivered to each family registered for VBS:

MRE Delivery

Top Secret package – This was addressed to the parents/guardians of the kids attending. It contained a VBS music CD, a campus map and instructions for the first day of VBS, a flyer for our upcoming Fall Wednesday kids program, and a flyer for our upcoming It’s Just A Phase parenting conference.

One MRE for each child in the family registered for VBS – This envelope was stamped MRE – Merchandise Ready to Experience. It also had each child’s name on the package. Inside of the package was the t-shirt in the size they requested during pre-registration and a note from me instructing them to wear their uniform when they report to Basic Training VBS.

Each volunteer delivering a package also picked up a FAQ sheet that gave them instructions on what to do and say when they delivered the packages.

It was a hit! It took about 40 hours to organize and make sure that all 560 kids had the correct color of t-shirt and were grouped with the right families. But it was well worth the hours.

The T-shirt line on Monday morning was nonexistent. The excitement level of the kids ready for Basic Training was off the charts! The social media buzz was awesome. Our church family LOVED delivering the packages. Kids were so excited to receive a MRE. Here is a testimony of a little boy who received his package:

I love being intentional in ministry. This one was a game changer for us. I can’t wait to deliver t-shirts next year!!

If you have any questions or want more specifics, let me know!

Here is what our week looked like:


Growing Pains

Photo by Volkan Olmez on unsplash.com

When I was a kid, often times in the middle of the night I would awake to deep pain in my legs. This pain would often come right before a growth spurt. They were growing pains. Did you ever get growing pains?  Many nights my parents would take turns coming in and rubbing my legs. The rubbing would help alleviate the pain. They gave up their nights to make sure that I wasn’t in pain.

This week I experienced a new type of growing pain. An adult one. One that has been God driven, orchestrated, and scripted. The problem is that I was caught off guard. Just like those nights of pain as a kid, hurting but not able to fix it without help.

The Lord has given me a great opportunity next week to speak at a national conference. I’m so excited, honored, and nervous! I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity the Lord has given me. But it has caused me pain. Two types of pain. One is just your simple growing pains. Learning to write, re-write, and re-write again my breakout session. Learning to add enough stories to keep it fun and lively. Leaning to improve my skill set. I kind of expected this type of growing pain.

The other pain, I wasn’t expecting. You see, I started to listen to lie of the enemy. Have you ever heard that voice? The one that accuses you or tells you aren’t good enough? It started out quiet, like little whispers of doubt. But by last night it was like a blaring fog horn in my head. And here’s the real problem, I began to believe it!

Listening to the lies of the enemy put me in a place where my emotions where unbalanced, where I couldn’t see my gifts, where I only heard negative comments.

Today I recognized I needed someone to help me with my pain. I need someone to pray with me, remind me of God’s truth, and to give me the tools to silence the enemy. Just like my parents did in the middle of the night, today people helped with my pain. Uplifting words from co-workers, a pastoral staff that reminded me of the gifts that God has given me and encouraged me to lean into them, a friend who walked me through a unique prayer time, all of these “rubs” helped me to see the lies the enemy was telling me and more importantly the lies I was believing.

I’m not sure where you are in life. I don’t know if you are experiencing pain but I want to encourage you, you are not alone. Reach out to people around you. Don’t sit in your pain. Don’t listen to lies of the enemy. Remember that God is there to “rub” your pains, comfort your heart, and provide true relief from pain. I’m praying for you today!

An Open Letter to My Mom, 14 Years Later

Dear Mom,

Today marks 14 years since you stepped into eternity. Some days it feels like a million years since I have seen your smile. Some days the pain of your absence feels like it started yesterday.

I still scratch my head and wonder why you had to go so soon. I no longer am angry that you were taken too early. I can now see how your death forced me to learn new things, grow in my faith, and allow other people to become my family. I just wish things could have been different. I try to encourage people around me to be thankful that their parents are around. They can’t truly comprehend what I am saying, but they are gracious in listening to me remind them what a blessing it is to have parents that are alive.

You would be so proud of your grandkids. It breaks my heart when I talk about you that the boys don’t have any idea of who you are. I have to remind them every time that they have never met you. Ashley is a knockout. She is also strong willed, intuitive, and in many areas of life, wise beyond her years. Samuel is kind hearted and musical. That kid can play the drums! When he puts on his glasses and flashes me a smile, I see you. Josiah is a kick! He makes us laugh all the time. He has silly facial expressions and comes up with one liners that have us rolling. He is also fiercely competitive yet a snuggler. Daniel is a thinker and very artistic. He can draw, paint, and sculpt. He has your artistic side.

Josh and I are doing great. I know when you passed you were worried. I am here to tell you, no need to worry. Josh is a wonderful husband and father. He is my biggest cheerleader, sounding board, helpmate, and comic relief on call. Over the last 14 years we have been through 2 pregnancies, 3 babies, 2 moves, 3 career changes, 4 deaths, a tumor scare, heath issues, calling struggles, and financial trials. Through it all it has caused our love for one another to deepen.

Mom, I miss you. I miss talking to you. I miss your wisdom. I miss your expertise. I miss your hugs. I wish we could sit and talk about life. I wish I could call you to come help me clean my kitchen.

Thanks for being my mom for 25 years. Thanks for showing me how to trust Jesus with every aspect of my life.

I love you.


Struggles of a Pastor-Mom!

Baker_CalledSo, it is the day after Easter and I feel like a mom failure.

Holidays and life in ministry can be difficult. Holidays and being a woman in ministry can really be difficult. This year is no different.

Things I wanted to do before Easter:

:Buy my kids cute outfits in fun colors

:Purchase much needed new shirts for my husband 

:Find a cute spring type outfit for me to wear to church

:Create beautiful easter baskets that show my kids (and the online world) that I love my kids and shower them with gifts

:Have a great family time of decorating eggs

:Cut and prep all the food for Easter lunch

:Take a memorable family picture

:Have a clean house and beautifully set table for family and friends

Holy Week is a crazy busy week in the life of the church. This year I had Wednesday night practice. Thursday was full of prepping, planning,and preparing our classrooms and teachers for the families that would attend. Friday was our Tenebrae service. Saturday was more prep and an important family birthday.

Easter Sunday arrived and the alarm went off at 4:30 am. I arrived at church for sunrise service with 5 dozen donuts in my hand and a Venti Latte.

As a kids Pastor the day was great. Meeting new families, watching little ones worship, connecting with parents, thanking volunteers. It was a beautiful, long day. (Note to self – Don’t wear heals when you stand and walk from 5:30am -1pm) The day was great! I wish every Sunday was this electric with energy and fun.

As a mom it felt like a disaster. Remember my dream list before Easter, the things I wanted to do before Easter rolled around?

:Buy my kids cute outfits in fun colors – I did buy the kids one piece of new clothing each. The problem is that I never saw them all together in them. The twins ran to class before I could see them and by the time I got home, they had already changed.

:Purchase much needed new shirts for my husband – Never happened.

:Find a cute spring type outfit for me to wear to church – Ha Ha! Nope. I wore the same outfit I wore to Good Friday service with a different tank top . . .one that was 5 years old.

:Create beautiful easter baskets that show my kids (and the online world)  that I love my kids and shower them with gifts – I never made it to the store to get baskets. I did manage to purchase a pez for each kid, but while writing this I realized they are still sitting in a bag somewhere in the house. Oops!

:Have a great family time of decorating eggs – Decorate eggs? What is that? At 8:00 pm when the boys where heading to bed one of them looked up at me and said  – hey Mom, we never did eggs. Ugh!

:Cut and prep all the food for Easter lunch – I walked into the house with my company in the kitchen cutting the veggies and making guacamole.

:Take a memorable family picture – We never were all together in our outfits. In fact, the boys were in the pool three different times during the day. I think they each wore at totally of 4 outfits. (Let’s see 4 x 3 = 12 different outfits, plus 9 swim trunks, and 6 towels – – Do you see why I hate doing laundry?)

:Have a clean house and beautifully set table for family and friends – I walked into the bathroom after our company left and there was no hand towel to dry hands. The floor had food all over it, good thing people wore shoes! If our company had walked down the back hallway they would have seen two piles of laundry that cover the entire walkway.

So, as I laid on the couch as the evening was coming to a close I had a choice. Be frustrated by all the things I couldn’t do or didn’t do, or I could choose to be thankful for the ministry call that is on my life. My kids understand that Easter is about Jesus and not eggs, they don’t expect new outfits or baskets. We serve as a family and that ultimately is much more important than a fancy set table. The people that enter my home know that I am normal with messy floors and piles of laundry. They also know that we love them and are thankful we can break bread together.

When God calls you, you just do it. Sometimes it means you have to give something up. This Easter it was my to-do list.

So, as I end the day after Easter, I am honored to be a kids pastor. I am honored to be a mom. I am going to spend the next 30 years figuring out how those two jobs work together. I am thankful for Jesus who whispers to me as I drift off to sleep, “You are NOT a failure, you are called.”

The Orange Conference 2015


I am so excited for The Orange Conference 2015!! #OC15 is a conference for Family Ministry Teams. It is right around the corner, April 29 -May 1. Last year was my first year attending and I am hooked!

The Orange Conference does a great job of holding the tension between deep thinking and creativity. I walked away challenged, inspired, energized, and full of vision for the passions in my heart.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from last year:

“Smart parents don’t want more to do, they want to do a few things better” Mike Clear

“Your awkward prayers as a parent are more impactful to your child than a perfectly constructed prayer from the pastor”

“Preschool – Embrace – Help them embrace God’s love

Elementary – Engage – help them trust God’s character and live out God’s story

Middle School – Shift – Help them own their own faith, never let them do faith alone.

High School – Mobilize – Help them deepen their discipleship and lean into their greater mission” Kristen Ivy

“Brave their [kids and teenagers] mess: diapers and drool to divorce//learning to making bad choices. Speak life into the messy places. Mess is not final or fatal” Heather Zempel  

“Church isn’t about you, it’s about what God can do through you, not for you” Jeff Henderson

“Unexpressed doubt is toxic in the life of a teenager. Silence is toxic” Kara Powell

“What to say to a teenager . . .’I don’t know but Jesus is bigger than our biggest question” Kara Powell

“It’s ok to not be ok, but it’s not ok to stay that way” Perry Nobel

“Say YES to finding your story in His-story”

These are just some of the nuggets I took away from The Orange Conference 2014. If you can join thousands of other in Georgia, it will be worth every penny. If you have not registered you can do so here.

Let me know if you are going! I would love to connect with you.

500 feet = Perspective


On a recent trip to Nashville, Tennessee I had the opportunity to tour Fontanel, the former home of Barbara Madrell. Depending on your age you are either thinking “Who is she?” or “Can I eat Crackers in my bed?”  She was a country singer, song writer, musician – a very talented lady! When I was a little girl, six or seven, I remember sitting with my mom watching Barbara Madrell and the Madrell sisters on TV. It was a variety type show. My mom loved it.

Fontanel, is a 27,000 square foot log cabin nestled in the beautiful rolling hills of Whites Creek Valley, just outside of Nashville! It has 20 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, an indoor pool, a large great room, an indoor shooting range, and much more.

While taking the tour we heard about how Barbara’s husband, who was also the builder of the cabin, found the land they called Fontanel while flying his helicopter. He viewed the land they fell in love with from the air. Now, I have only been in a helicopter once (another story for another time) and let me tell you, you can see for miles. Being up in the air in a helicopter is a different feeling than an airplane. It is slower, moves differently, and the view of the ground is fantastic. I can only imagine how beautiful the Fontanel property would have looked like from 500-1000 feet about the ground.

After the tour I was sitting around with other ministry leaders and we began to discuss what we noticed and learned on our tour. This point stuck out to me . . .what if we looked at our situations (in ministry and life) from an areal view, 500 feet in the air looking down? What would we see? I’m not sure if the Mandrell’s had walked up the hills on that property they would have seen all its possible.

In ministry and in family life we can be so busy, focused, or even overwhelmed that we often look at many situations from the ground level. Sunday to Sunday. One sports season to the next sports season. What would happen if we stepped back and looked at life, our calendar, our passions, different types of situations, from a more broad perspective? Would we make different decisions? Would it give us a new perspective?

The way I have best lived this out in my life is with the passing of my parents. As I walked through the pain of loss and grief, I often felt like I was walking through the forest. I was looking at everything from a ground level perspective. I was walking right by the refreshing waters or a place to rest, I was lost, I could not see those needed places through the trees. Once I could navigate life from a 500 foot perspective, I could see where I could rest, where the healing waters ran, and found a place to plant. It didn’t change my pain, it just changed how I processed it.

I would encourage you today to get above the trees. Find sometime to look at your ministry, family, and life from 500 feet. My prayer is that as you get above the situations in life, the Lord would show you his perspective and he would lead you to those perfect places.