10 Ways to Lead and Invest in Your Team

IMG_4996Over the last six months I have journeyed with a group of children and youth pastors through a mentoring/leadership coaching program called Infuse. Jim Wideman leads this group with a desire to see leaders grow in their abilities. I have learned so much from Brother Jim and this awesome group of people!

Recently on our Infuse retreat we all shared five things we do to Lead and Invest in our Team. For some of us in the Infuse group, team means 10 volunteers, for others it means 5 paid staff and 200 volunteers. What I love about the list below is that the you can lead and invest in your team no matter the size.

This is what I have learned from my Infuse group on how to lead and invest in teams. I tagged each of the people who shared their idea. Go follow them. They are great leaders!

10 Ways to Lead and Invest in Your Team

1 – Spiritual Care of your team is important. When a volunteer says, “Will you pray for me?” Stop and do it right then! (Spencer Click)

2 – Resource your team using DropBox: When coming across great articles or video resources, put them in your dropbox and share the link with your leaders. It is a digital resource cabinet to aid in developing your team. (JC Thompson)

3 – When evaluating situations or process ask these questions:

What’s right? – Then amplify it

What’s wrong? – Then fix it

What’s missing? – Then add it

What’s confusing? – Then make it clear  (Jim Wickenkamp)

4 – When meeting with you teams try to give them 3 things:

Something for their heads  – This can be leadership principles or teaching a new skill

Something for their hearts – This can be encouragement, refocusing on Jesus, something to uplift their hearts.

Something for their hands – Give them a tool to use, some type of resource that will help them in their position. (Lisa Walker)

5 – Praise them publicly for a job well done on their Facebook or Twitter account! Who doesn’t enjoy getting a little social media love? (Helen Fuller)

6 – Bless your volunteers more by blessing their kids. Show up at games, treat them to ice cream, genuinely show care for the kids of your team. (Helen Fuller)

7 – Get your team before your Pastor. We are all here to serve our Pastor. Find a time for them to spend time together. (Adrienne Blauvelt)

8 – Shift our language from Volunteer to Ministry Partner. We truly are co-laboring together. (Greg Ferguson)

9 – Know the difference between being a bird dog or a bull dog for your team. A bird dog gets on the point and sticks with it until it is done. A bull dog holds on to what is important and won’t let go. Be decisive and focused like a bird dog and be tenacious as a bull dog for your team. (Jim Wickenkamp)

10 – Invest Money in who you believe they will be. Let’s help our team grow by believing that they can too grow. (Joshua Simpson)

Which one of these do you like? Do you have any to add to this list? I would love to hear how you lead and invest in your team.

Shower Wall Dreaming

The New Year fosters a wide range of emotions for me. The excitement for a new beginning, blank pages, endless possibilities …

It also provokes moments of panic (what if I don’t measure up), overwhelming dreams (that is too big, someone might laugh at that one) . . .

I joined Jon Acuff’s #DoOverBook Challenge. It is a ten-day hustle and work your dream type of program. Part of the challenge is joining a Facebook group. It has been awesome to read through the thousands of post from people starting the year with purpose, accountability, and dreaming. I love it. It excites me. It helps me dream.

So my first day of this challenge was to choose a dream I would like to chase. I was struggling to come up with my hustle (the focus of my ten days).

I was in the shower and I started to dream and pray {don’t you do your best work in the shower?} I took one the boy’s soap crayons and wrote my vision for the year using words, putting them on the shower wall.

I didn’t wipe them off when I got out. Later in the day the boys showered and noticed my writing. When I helped them get out of the shower I noticed they had taken the initiative to dream a little on their own. Now, I’m not sure they really were dreaming or just wanted to participate in the writing on the wall. It didn’t matter to me!

I was blown away by some of their thoughts. With no prompting of mine they were able to write down things they thought were important. I love seeing into the minds of my kids. I must say, I was very proud of their dream wall. This is what their wall said …


So this year I start my #DoOverBook challenge inspired by three little boys who can dream without any fear of being told they can’t. I am praying you can dream too! Want to dream with me?

Here’s to 2015!

How Sticky is Your Family?


Picture with me a drive-through dry cleaner. Can you picture one? Maybe you have one in your area. What a convenient way to get those special clothes cleaned, huh? You drive up. You tell the clerk how much starch you want on your shirts. You hand them the clothes. You drive away. You don’t have to think about it all day. On the way home from work, you drive by and pick up those beautifully clean, pressed clothes. Waa-la! What a fantastic concept!

The problem with our current drive through conveniences is that we have come to expect those same conveniences in every area of our life; our food, coffee, and even the . . . church!

Unfortunately, that drive through dry cleaner mentality is what often can happen in our children and youth departments. I will swing by the kids or youth department and drop off my “dirty” child and I will come back and pick them up “clean”.

Sorry guys, but I can’t “clean” up your kids. On average, as a children’s pastor, I only have 40 hours a year of influence in your kid’s life. But parents, guess what? You have over 3000 hours of influence in the life of your child every year! You have a greater influence on the life of your child than I ever will!

Fuller Youth Institute has done some fantastic research on today’s youth and the critical years after high school. They noticed the alarming trend of high school graduates walking away from their faith and began to ask why. From their research they have written books, blogs, and provided workshops on how the church and families can help kids’ faith stick in those critical years.

In their book, “Sticky Faith, Youth Workers Edition,Dr. Kara Powell, Brad Giffin, and Dr. Cheryl Crawford, discuss the importance of Sticky Family Relationships.

So, let me give you some of their ideas on how you can become a Sticky Family – a family that is intentional about helping kids’ faith stick!

1 – Conversations are important! – Have them! Listen to them! Talk to your kids. Ask open-ended questions. Pay attention to those moments. Make space for them. For me, often those perfect moments for conversations are in the car or while making dinner. When you travel through town doing errands, drop off, pick-ups, pay attention to the conversations going in the seats behind you. Ask open-ended questions that get your kids talking. “Never explain something to your kid if you can ask a question instead.” (pg. 125)

2 – Share your past and present spiritual journey – “The best discussions about faith happen when parents don’t just ask questions, but also share their own experiences.” (pg. 118) Have you ever shared your testimony with your kids? Have you told them how you met Jesus? Have you told them about the day you got baptized? Have you talked to them about the people in your life that greatly impacted your spiritual formation? Kids need to hear your authentic story. Now, I’m not going to share all the details of my life with my 8 year olds, there are filters and timelines. But, by the time your child is an older teenager they need to know. It builds in them a context to their spiritual journey. I believe telling kids about your past prepares them for their future.

 3 – Create family rituals – What are your family rituals? Family dinners? Family Meetings? Vacations spots? Those rituals help kids belong to what Reggie Joiner calls a tribe. It creates a sense of belonging in the life of your children. Some friends of mine do a weekly family meeting on Sunday nights at 6. Their kids are 8 and 5. In their family meeting they tell each other what they appreciate about one of the other people. “Mom, I appreciate how you make my lunch” They then communicate the plan for the week, play a game, and pray. You can read about my family ritual here.

4 – Serve together as a family– Find something to do together. Mow the neighbors yard. Help someone move. Volunteering and serving others allows us to see beyond ourselves. The focus is no longer inward. Start the new motto of, “this is who we are as a family.”

Let’s be intentional about our 3000 hours we have with our kids this year and work to be create sticky family relationships.

Are you being intentional? Let’s give our kids the sticking power to remain connected to their faith as they move into adulthood.

The First Week Of October


This first week in October is always a week mixed with great emotions. October 5th is my mom’s birthday. She would have been 64 this year. October 8th will be 19 years since my dad died.

It is so hard.

My Dad died at 46 and my mom 5 ½ years later at the age of 50. Dad’s death was sudden. No goodbyes. No closure. Here one minute, gone the next.

My mom fought inflammatory breast cancer for over 2 years. Each day the cancer consumed more of her body. It was a slow, sometimes invisible death.

Both types of death are painful. Both deaths left me, in my early twenties, without parent. It is interesting when you lose both your parents, you lose them physically and their daily impact in your life, you also lose a part of your past and history. I have no idea if my kids show similar characteristics of me as a child. I have no one to ask.

As I reflect on this week many thoughts, emotions, and memories flood my mind. Here are some:

  1. Loss sucks! My daughter will never have the opportunity for my mom to take her on girl trips, sleepovers, and do fun grandma things. My boys will never be able to learn how to pitch like my dad did when he played in the minor leagues for the Dodgers. They won’t learn embarrassing stories about their mom. There are gaping holes in our family history. Our story is missing the beginning. Loss hurts. I don’t have parents to call and ask them to watch kids for the date night. I don’t have a mom who will help with my family when I am sick. I don’t have a dad to talk leadership studies with. Loss hurts.
  2. Foundation is important. I am so incredibly thankful that I had two amazing parents. They loved each other. They had fun together. They worked through tough things together. They trusted God with all that they had, were, and believed. They modeled a healthy marriage. Because of their hard work and dedication to our family, I have a solid foundation to stand on. My kids are who they are today in part because of the foundation my parents laid.
  3. Trust in God is what has kept me going. At a young age I surrendered my life to Jesus. I committed to live for him all the days of my life. I believe that he loves me, cares about me, and has my best interest in mind. I believe that, though I don’t understand why this happened, I can trust the one who created the world. He has proven over and over again that he cares about every detail of my life. His past faithfulness demands my present trust.

This week, rather than dwelling on what I don’t have, I am choosing to celebrate the life and legacy that was given to me. I stand on that strong foundation they toiled over. I continue to trust the creator of the universe with my life and the life of my family.

Thanks Dad and Mom for being you. Thank you for being awesome parents.

I miss you!

Creating a Family Sabbath


We are a busy family. Between soccer practice, choir practice, drum lessons, school, work, household chores, board meetings, and teaching classes, our lives are in a constant state of busy. There are weeks the calendar is so packed with important “things” that we rarely spend uninterrupted intentional time together as a family.

After a season of busyness, earlier this year, I was desperate for some space to just “be”. I was exhausted and struggling to find healthy rhythms for our family life. I was at a meeting when I heard Jen Galley speak of her family’s way of taking a Sabbath. Immediately, I knew the Holy Spirit was prompting me . . . ‘this is what you need as a family, Amber. This will help you create the healthy rhythms you desired. It will also provide you with much needed rest.’

From that prompting we created the Baker Family Sabbath. Since we were in the Lenten season at the time, we decided to give up our normal Sunday evening routines for Family Sabbath. For 6 Sundays we set aside our evenings for rest. Each week was slightly different but the basic structure was the same. At 5 pm we turned off all electronics, phones, TV, iPad, game systems. . .everything. . .really everything. We lit candles around our house. We ate dinner together. The rest of the night we read, played games, colored, did a family devotion. Each week was slightly different. As the sun began to set the light switches never turned on. We kept the candles glowing and finished our evening by candlelight. The kids had never experienced this. Even after the kids went to bed Josh and I sat and relaxed, watching the shadows from the candles dance on the wall.


I was amazed the first week how much fun we had as a family! We laughed while playing a silly game of made up charades. Have you ever seen a 7 year old try and act out a lamp? We laughed so hard we cried. It was the type of laughter that imprints a memory in your brain that will last forever. Even our teenager fessed up to the fact that the night turned out better than she expected. As the kids went to bed I remember sitting in the candle lit room and sensing that my actual nerve endings were sighing in relief and relaxation.

Our Sabbath gave us space to rest, to share life, and be with one another. It got our teenager to interact with the family (Which isn’t always easy!). These nights provided space for conversations about school, life, and God. It helped us disconnect from the crazy world around us and gave us permission to take a deep breath. These nights gave us permission to slow down.

I love that God knows just what we need. No wonder his Word says to take a Sabbath!

Anytime life seems out of control, unmanageable, or disconnected, I instantly know what we need. We need a Sabbath!

Do you rest? How can you create a Sabbath for you and your family?

Remember the Underwear!

I am a wife, mom, sister, friend, children’s pastor, dishwasher, dinner maker, taxi driver, laundry folder, confidant, and more. The list could go on and on. Some days I can do some of those things simultaneously, like a beautifully orchestrated symphony.  Other days, my life sounds like a bad elementary school violin concert.

The other morning I headed to the gym with the plan of my husband getting the kids up and ready for their fourth day of school. As I got in the car to come home, fifteen minutes before the family needed to head off to school, I read a text message from my husband that said, “I have a massive headache and can’t get out of bed.” Oh no!

I raced home to find many of the “normal” morning tasks incomplete. We rushed . . . I prodded . . . I may have even raised my voice just a bit. Finally, we all piled in the car and began the couple-minute drive to school.

We were a block from school and my daughter mentioned that when she woke up the twins, one of them wasn’t wearing underwear. I nonchalantly looked over my shoulder at the twin who slept in the buff and said, “Well, you put underwear on when you got dressed, right?” DEAD SILENCE. I guess it never crossed this 8 year old’s mind to put underwear on TO GO TO SCHOOL!


I panicked. What if he “accidently” got pantsed at school? Do they still do that? What if he sat crisscross-applesauce on the floor and another kid could see something? Thankfully, a good friend of mine lives close and has a son near the same age as my boys. I called her with the odd request to bring an extra pair of underwear to school. They saved the day! They saved my son (and me) from potential embarrassment.

Every time I think of that drive to school, I just shake my head and smile. I learned a couple things that day:

1 – Always ask your kids if they are wearing underwear before leaving the house.

2 – I can’t do it all. My kids are going to do things that will embarrass them and me. You know what? I’m ok with that. It makes us normal.

3 – I can’t do life without friends!

So parents, as you drive to school, make sure your kids are wearing their underwear and cherish the stage you are in. Smile, laugh, cry, and remember that even an elementary school violin concert can be beautiful to a parent!

Have any funny stories you want to share? I would love to hear them.

Brushing Up On New Ideas


I recently went to the dentist and was informed that I have been brushing my teeth incorrectly all my life. What?!? Did you know there is a correct and incorrect way of brushing your teeth? I had no idea!

The dentist spent time showing me the new way to brush my teeth so I don’t damage more of my gums. No more side-to-side action. Nope! Now I start from top of the tooth and sweep down. Wow! What an unnatural feeling!

Every morning I stand at the bathroom sink and I have to think about how to brush properly. It takes much more effort and brainpower! If I am in a hurry or in daydream land, I automatically revert back to my old way of brushing. You’d think it would be easy to change.

The other morning, when I caught myself brushing incorrectly, I got upset at myself. Upset for not automatically brushing correctly. Then I had one of those “duh” moments . . .when we do things over and over we create patterns and habits, good or bad, that can be hard to break. I knew that, but at that moment it was so profound because it connected to a bigger lesson for me.

The Lord used a toothbrush to remind me of some specific areas he is asking me to change. Oh man! These things are going to take concentration and effort to accomplish because I will have to work hard to change the habits I have built over the years. Here are some of the things I am working on (besides brushing my teeth): Getting up at 5 am to go to the gym. Being diligent to write and read outside of work. Consistently being bold in the gifts that God has given me.

These things take work. They don’t come naturally . . . yet. They will, but it will take doing it over and over and over and over for it to become a new way of life.

Do you need to change the way you are brushing your teeth? (Ok maybe not literally.) What are the new patterns and habits you want to create?

Let’s learn to brush our teeth together!

The 3 Stages of Transition

Change happens all the time. People move, change jobs, have babies, we all have experienced change. But have you ever had a season of your life where you felt you were in transition? You knew that something deep inside of you was changing?

In Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, William Bridges discusses strategies for coping with those times in your life when it all seems uncertain due to a change.  Change can happen without a transition but Transition takes place when “you are moving from one chapter of your story to the next” (98)

Bridges says that there are three stages to all transitions 1) an ending 2) a neutral zone 3) a new beginning

First Stage: An Ending In an ending there is a death – a death to an ideal, a dream, a way of thinking, sometimes even a job.

Second Stage: A Neutral Zone In the neutral zone there is a waiting period. As difficult as this period is, it is an essential part of the transition process. Have you ever been in this spot where it is lonely? Maybe you have a dream that is springing up inside of you? You feel like its a waiting game. Maybe even a desert or wilderness experience? These times are the most critical of this transition stage. It is in this germinating space that God begins to shape in you the next chapter of your story. Don’t freak out in this stage. Embrace the pain, loneliness and confusion. Embrace the tension of the ending and the pending beginning.

Third Stage: The New Beginning  Here in this beautiful place you find hope, peace, a new job, or a renewed vision in your life. This new beginning would not be possible if you hadn’t spent time figuring life out in the neutral zone.

The ending you experience actually becomes the fertilizer that the neutral zone needs for the new growth that will take place in the new beginning.

It hit me the other day that I have been in this neutral zone for about a year. It has been a season where deep dreams and desires began to bubble up into my mind and heart. It has been this season of self-discovery mixed with pain, doubt, and fear. It has been a season where God has infused vision and a renewed sense of my calling into my everyday life.

So here is to my new beginning. This blog. This is what God has been stiring in me for a year. I felt the shift and have stepped out in my new beginning. Why am I writing? Ultimately, to be a good steward to what God has said for me to do. My hope is to share ideas, leadership insights, parenting tips, and children’s ministry resources to whoever wants to follow along.

Here is to my new beginning!

I would love to hear from you. Are you in a transition now? What stage are you in?