My Journey through the Valley

Life’s a trek – this is a place to leave notes along the way.

Moving right along…

Posted by spencerclick on October 3, 2011

Hey all – I just wanted to let you know this blog is moving.

You can find new posts at:

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Guest Blogger Funny Man Dan: Performance Skills 102

Posted by spencerclick on February 1, 2010

Today we have a guest blogger: FunnyManDan from Australia and author of TheThursdayBlog Enjoy!!

Performance Skills 102 – Specific training to increase your on-stage professionalism.

Catchy Title huh?

For some it could be intriguing and they are instantly hooked in, but for the most part I would predict that the title is confusing as the topic of on-stage professionalism is not usually talked about in the world of Children’s Ministry. In our preaching we focus a lot on content, our MC-ing being energetic and making our kids scream, and our performances either being funny or very heavy with the topic we want to teach on. It is not often you will get someone stand up and say “let’s get more professional”.

Now we are not talking about sub-contracting writers, hiring actors and a catering truck. Instead we are talking about working with what you have and taking what you do in your ministry, and sharpening your skills to make it more professional.

Today we are going to talk about something that affects the communicator – the preacher, the MC and the performer (especially on film). There is a phenomenon out there that can plague these people’s performances and most of the time they have no idea it is there. This is not something that makes the difference between a good or bad performance but it is the difference between a great and professional one. This phenomenon I have taken the liberty to call “The Glorified Um”.

When we were children and trying to communicate, a lot of the time we didn’t know what to say. So as we were talking there would be a lot of pauses and because we didn’t want to lose the attention of our audience we filled that pause with an “Um”.

“Mum… um…. can I ….. um…… can I….. um…… because i’m hungry…….. um…………… can I …… um…………have… um…a um…cookie……. um?”

As a child we believe that pauses are not good so we foolishly fill the spaces with that wonderful word “Um”. The word “Um” communicates that we are unsure of what to say next and/or we are not confident in what we just said. This habit is tolerated as a young child but as we grow it is often corrected by parents and teachers because they know that you will disadvantaged in areas of life, especially when it come to job interviews.

“Um…..I ….think… that …I….um….. I…..would ….um….be very good as um……….ummmmm…..a…um… salesman…um”.

Fast-forward to now and you are in Children’s Ministry and you are happy to report that your days of umming are now behind you. Or are they? Over my years of performing and being in ministry I have realised that the ‘um’ is not behind us but in fact it has evolved and it plagues our preaching, performing and MC-ing. The Glorified Um is in full force.

So what is the Glorified um?

The Glorified Um is a word or a phrase that you the presenter (the word presenter covers all aspects of preaching, performing and MC-ing) will use over and over again whilst presenting. This usually will not be in your script or notes but will come out when you are adlibbing or slightly deviating from what was rehearsed. This phrase or word will not just be in the presentation but stem out from the performers life and be heard in their everyday conversations. For example I once worked for a youth pastor who used to say at the end of many sentences “do you know what I mean?”

This is a classic example of The Glorified Um. Like an um it communicates that he does not know quite what to say next, he is not confident in what he just said and he is cheapening what he is saying by filling his presentation with a habitual saying. I can guarantee on his notes he did not write that phrase once, yet he said it over 10 times.

Now that must not be confused with The Confirming Phrase that is a specific phrase designed to give the audience a chance to confirm what they just heard. An extremely experienced preacher I know always says “Are you getting this?” The difference is that the second presenter deliberately chose to say this, whereas  with the first it just came out without thinking. You can also tell because the first also slightly slurred the phrase and didn’t deliberately pronounce each word.

The Glorified Um is not just phrases at the end, it can be words at the start. Phrases such as: ‘It’s like’ or the word “but” are common examples of this. This can also be found in duel presenters when they start their sentence by acknowledging the other person with the same “it’s true” or “that’s right”. Finally it can even make our way into our writing and you can have a whole play or video with the whole cast using the same Glorified Ums as you do and you won’t even notice.

So what do we do to fix it? The cure is very simple but involves a lot of work and some help.

1. Recognise that a Glorified Um is a problem that is not a part of a professional presentation. I said before you can still be a great presenter with one but you will not reach that level of professionalism with it.

2. Find out if you have a Glorified Um. Look out for it, listen and watch old presentations you have done and look at the people you are leading because if you have it most likely they will have the same one. The best way is to ask a close and truthful friend to find out.

3. Fix your general conversation. A glorified Um is your normal speech creeping into your presentation. Get those close friends to pull you up on it constantly until you realise how often you are using it. This is where it gets frustrating but the effort is worth it.

If you have a platform to present to children on behalf of God then you have a privileged opportunity and I believe you are expected to work on your talents to increase them. If you do the hard yards you will put yourself a cut above and I look forward to seeing where it takes you.

Have Fun


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The art of being mentored…

Posted by spencerclick on January 29, 2010

I was thinking this morning about how much I enjoy Infuse…I am also noticing several other individuals are starting coaching/mentoring programs.  It got me to thinking about the process of being mentored.

It’s no secret (for anyone who has talked to me about Children’s Ministry for more than 5 minutes) that I learn a lot from Bro. Jim.  Even before Infuse I had been learning from him for years via conferences, books, and The Club; but mentoring is different than just information download.  Bro. Jim isn’t the only mentor I have in life – I have a few others.  I learned several years ago the real benefit to having a mentor so I started finding folks who would be good mentors.  So here are some good keys to finding a mentor and being mentored:

  1. Realize you need a mentor: I don’t care how long you’ve been doing something – there’s an area in your life where you need to grow.  There’s somebody out there who can help you.  Start looking.
  2. A Mentor is not just a Teacher: Lots of people can give you information, but mentoring is as much about the relationship as it is about the information received. If all you’re looking for is info, go to a conference or read a book.
  3. Pursue a Mentor: The mentors worth having are folks you’re going to have to pursue. Find someone who is a person you can learn from and ask if they’ll mentor you.
  4. Shut Up: If you learn to shut your pie hole and listen you might have a better opportunity to learn something.
  5. Be Transparent: Mentoring is about a relationship – so when your mentor asks you a question answer it completely and honestly.  It doesn’t help you in your journey to hold back…how is someone going to help you grow if you aren’t honest?
  6. Ask questions: Don’t just wait for someone to tell you something.  Ask questions.  If you don’t have any questions, think harder; because you should have questions.
  7. Build a relationship: If you’re transparent, ask questions, and pursue the right individual you should build a relationship with them.  If you’re investing time and money to learn then you should put an effort into relationship.  The two main mentors in my life have gone from mentors to friends and to me that’s a successful relationship.
  8. Continue to press in: It easy once things get comfortable to slide into a routine, but as with anything you get out what you put in…put more in effort and you get more out.  Continue to pursue information, relationship and learning and you’ll get more out of the efforts you put in…

This is by no means a definitive list of things to consider – but if you take some of this into mind you can really benefit from being mentored.

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Is it still an honor?

Posted by spencerclick on January 5, 2010

“I am so happy to be here!!”  That was the statement I made to my Pastor today after we talked about renting the local coliseum for Easter – it’s so cool to me when I think about it.  We’re renting a 7,000 seat auditorium and doing Easter for the community…

The rest of the team in the room chuckled at me…

In December our church saw a 62% increase in attendance over the previous year.  We did a Christmas Eve Production that saw over 8,000 people come to 3 services.  Sitting in the 3rd production of our Christmas Eve service – I sent my Pastor a text: “I have been a part of several churches – all of them good churches in their own right – but I have never been more proud to be a part of a church than I am right now.”  And it was true – I have never been more proud to be on staff at a church than I am right now…

Some folks scratched their head at my enthusiasm

Over the holidays I did a wedding for 2 of my workers – I was honored to be given the opportunity.

In ministry we have so many opportunities – but I think sometimes people lose sight of what great things we have been given.  I had an extensive conversation with an individual today about what a great church we have. And in that conversation I was reminded how sometimes folks forget what they’ve been given.  They lose sight of the forrest because of the trees…

I’ve been in ministry for 12 years.  My first church was 75 people, I was paid $100 a week, it was a 27 mile drive one way, I spent $60 dollars a week on gas, and I worked 40 hours a week…It was a good church.  I was thankful and honored at the opportunity.  My current ministry position is larger, I’m paid more, I drive less…and I am even more thankful and honored at the opportunity.

I think we need to always be reminded of the honor we are given in ministry.  Are things hard at times?  Do we feel like quitting at times?  Are we placed in a position by God?  Do people trust us with their spiritual lives?  Do people trust us with the Spiritual development of their children?  Yes is the answer to all of these questions – the last 3 are the most important ones…they are what we need to remember.  They are what keep us humbled.  They are what we remember when we get overwhelmed.  They are what we need to remember always.  They help us to keep in mind the honor we have been given.

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Rube Goldberg Ministry

Posted by spencerclick on December 17, 2009

A couple of months ago I wrote a blog post “Somethings you can do Somethings you can’t” It walks through a brief point of my discovery process of going from a smaller church to a large one.

This news story prompted some new thoughts for me.  I look at the story of our drones getting hacked and I see a group of people who underestimated another group.  Honestly the folks who designed the predators took for granted that, even though they may live in caves, the insurgents have the internet and aren’t stupid.

After the Cold War came to a close the Russian space program and the US space program started exchanging notes.  One of the most telling differences between the two agencies was how they approached problems.  While trying to figure out how to write notes in space (without gravity normal pens wouldn’t work) NASA spent millions of dollars developing a “space-age” pen.  This pen could write underwater – in zero-G’s-in the cold…whatever, where ever this pen could write there.  The russian space agency found the research fascinating – but ultimately concluded their solution to the same problem worked also – they used pencils.

Often times when money, time, or people aren’t an issue folks start to take them for granted.  When you have lots of resources it’s easy to use the unwisely.  I have been blessed in my current position.  It is the first time in many years that I have not had to spend most of my time thinking about fundraising.  I have a budget that is sufficient to do what I need to get done and a bit extra to dream a little.  As I’ve reviewed the budget from past years I have seen purchases and payments for some stuff I would have never dreamed of paying for when I was at a smaller church.  Not just because I didn’t have the money, but because we had figured out a way to do the same thing cheaper.  It was a great training ground for me.  It would be a fun experiment to take a children’s pastor who has been really successful at a church of 100 and move them to a church of 5,000 – there’d be an obvious learning curve; but I’d love to see how they managed their budget…I bet they’d do great.

Sometimes it’s like we try to build a Rube Goldberg Machine to get the most simple tasks completed. We can find ourselves asking the questions: “What’s the hottest way to do this?”  “What’s the newest techie way?”  “What’s everyone else doing?”  Without asking the question: “Is this the best way?”  “Is there a less expensive way to do this?”  Part of being a good steward with what we’ve been entrusted with is asking these questions. This post from NorthPoint is a great illustration of this point.

I think we have to stop and look at things and ask if we’re doing things for the right reason.  1 Corinthians 6:12 “Everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial”  – to me means:  just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should.

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A well oiled machine or a plateau?

Posted by spencerclick on December 8, 2009

I like the way a well oiled machine runs…there are no problems.  There is no proverbial squeaky wheel – it’s all smooth.  I think everyone prefers to be a part of things that run well.  Given a choice between a new 2010 Lexus fresh off the lot and a 1972 Nova – I’m picking the new Lexus.  I know it’s going to run smoother…

When I was in college I had an advisor who said he considered it a successful midweek service when he could sit in his office and enjoy a cup of coffee.  This sounded like a good thing to me – after all if your ministry could run on auto pilot then you must be doing something right – right?

I think a lot of folks are striving for that perfect ministry that can run like a well oiled machine – they get tired of dealing with problems and want a relief…”When will this end?” They scream!  I’ve had a few moments like that myself…I actually spent time trying to setup a Children’s Ministry that would let me sit in my office and drink a cup of coffee (not that I drink coffee).

I do believe that we need to strive for a ministry that is running well – smoothly even – not constantly in crisis mode.  But in that striving to become a well oiled machine you have to be careful that you don’t hit a plateau.  It’s easy when you are looking for a place to “arrive” – to find a flat spot to rest.  And I’ve got news for you – if you’ve found that spot, you’ve found a plateau.

In ministry we can never stop looking for ways to improve – my Pastor shared a thought with us this week “The first draft is never good enough…” – and he’s right.  If we are doing the same things we were doing last year in the exact same way – we probably aren’t evaluating your program.  I had another advisor in college – he had a little different philosophy than the first.  In a class on ethics we were given an assignment to write a paper on how two books affected our personal ethics.  A girl in the last row of the class raised her hand and asked “What is nothing changed?”  His response is classic and true – “I have read these books 4 times – each time I’ve read them something in my personal ethics has changed.  If nothing changed for you – then you didn’t read them.”

If nothing’s changed in your ministry and it seems to be running well – there’s a good chance you’re sitting on a flat spot and often times of the other side of a plateau is a downhill slope…

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My Friend Jim Wideman

Posted by spencerclick on November 21, 2009

Ok, well this post started as a comparison between Jim Wideman and Apple (I’ll write that later) – there are a lot of similarities; but I decided to write a blog about why Jim Wideman is one of the greatest men I know and someone I am honored to call a friend. Bro. Jim’s pretty humble – of all the people out there who deserve not to be humble he’s one – but he’s really down to earth without the slightest hint of egotism.  So he’d probably just as soon have me not write this…but it’s been on my heart for a while so I’m going to do it.

I remember the first time I saw him.  It was a KOTM Children’s Ministry Regional Conference in 1995 at Grove City Nazarene in Grove City, Ohio – I was 19.  I went to all of his sessions – I loved how he taught – I loved what he taught.  It just resonated with me.  As a young man in Children’s Ministry he represented what I considered the pinnacle of a Children’s Pastor.  I ate up all the Bro. Jim stuff I could find – I listened to the club, when I went to a conference he taught at I went to his sessions, I read his books – I loved anything Bro. Jim.

For years I followed his teaching from a distance.  Then I got to go to DREAM…man I was as happy as a pig in slop.  I was in the house that Bro. Jim lived in…I know a lot of old school folks loved the Children’s Ministry because of Willie George’s influence, but for me it was all about Bro. Jim.  I got to DREAM a day early so I could have some extra time at the church.  I kept an eye out in the halls for Bro. Jim – so I could say hi and have a chance to speak to him.  I paid the extra money to have lunch with Bro. Jim – I asked him so many questions during that lunch and I sat with him so long that I was the last one left.

When Bro. Jim was anywhere near where I was I made every effort to go listen to him…(I’m starting to sound stalkerish here…) I think you get the point – I was a Bro. Jim disciple.  I wanted to be Bro. Jim – God healed me of that.

Then one day I got an email – “Here’s my cell number give me a call. -BJ”

WOW! I was floored!  Bro. Jim wanted to talk to me…

So I got ready for the call – I wrote down a list of questions I wanted to ask him…it was like 2 pages long.

From there it has just gotten better…I kept calling he kept answering.  Bro. Jim is an incredibly generous person – he gives without expecting things in return.  He gives his time and resources to those who need it and want it.

There was a blog I read today listing people they want to meet in 2010 – Jim was first on the list.  I emailed the writer and told him Bro. Jim’s easy to talk to – just call and setup an appointment.  Yep that’s all it takes – he’ll pretty much talk to anyone.  Why? Because that’s the kind of man he is…

New to CM?  Under 30?  Can you pray?  Then you can be a member of The Club for free…yep – if you’re under 30 and pray for Bro. Jim he’ll give you The Club free. Why?  Because that’s the kind of man he is…

Bro. Jim’s love for Children’s Ministry has driven him to invest in Children’s Pastors with everything he has.  Heard of Infuse?  A year to be in deep relationship with unprecedented access to Bro. Jim – Why?  Because that’s the kind of man he is…

In Children’s Ministry he has been the single most influential person in my life.  I loved it the day he referred to me as one of his Padawan’s…later he called me one of his Timothy’s.  I’m not saying this bragging – I was a Children’s Pastor at a church of 200 when we started talking…why would he even give me a thought?  Because that’s the kind of man he is…it had nothing to do with me.

But beyond all that he has invested in my life as a Children’s Pastor; I am more proud of my friendship with him. As a friend he is supportive, encouraging, and genuine.  It has been one of the top 5 experiences of my life having him for a friend – Why would he want to be friends with me?  Again – it has nothing to do with me – It’s because that’s the kind of man he is…

Bro. Jim is an icon in Children’s Ministry and I pray for years to come that he continues to lead the way.  I also pray that God blesses him even more than he has blessed others.

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Hey Sports Fans!!

Posted by spencerclick on November 7, 2009

BallsI’ve been thinking about sports a lot lately.  My Ohio State Buckeyes are doing well, my Reds are finally out of their misery, and my Bengals aren’t looking too bad (for now).

Most sports share something in common – they are made up of teams, they have a coach, and they keep score.  It’s the team concept that I’ve been thinking about.

I like teams – I want to build a strong Children’s Ministry Team – but what sport should I use as a model?  Baseball has strengths – there are a lot of positions.  Football has strengths – a couple of superstars can make a big difference. Basketball has strengths – they shares roles.  All of them want to see the whole team succeed – but they all go about it in different ways.

When I started in Children’s Ministry as a volunteer I wanted to be on a baseball team – I wanted to have a clearly defined role.  I wanted to know what was expected of me; what I needed to do in order to be considered successful.  When I moved into my first paid ministry position I wanted to have a football team and I wanted to be the quarterback – I wanted to be the star – I wanted to drive the team by talent and skill.  Now that I’ve been doing this for a while I’ve decided I want a Basketball team and I don’t want Lebron – I’d rather be Phil Jackson.

Basketball teams have a lot of advantages:

  • There are positions with specific role – But when it’s time for offense everyone is one offense & when it’s time for defense everyone is on defense…
  • You can have star players – But the team must work together to be successful – Jordan was great but without Pippin and the rest of the team…
  • You develop a plan for your plays – But those plans must be flexible to go with the flow of the game…
  • You have a coach – But the bulk of the coach’s job is training the team through the week for the game…

Now no analogy is entirely perfect – I think in my ministry I’m going to strive to build a strong basketball team.

  • We will define roles – But focus on the overall needs of the team…
  • We will  have those who are stronger than others – But focus on building team work for overall success…
  • We will plan – But we will be flexible so we can meet the reality of the day we are faced with…
  • I will play the role of coach – I will spend more time training and prepping my team than playing the game.

My goal and job as a Pastor is to train and release volunteers so they can effectively minister to the kids of my church.  So, how about you?  What kind of team are you building?

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Why I don’t blog a lot…

Posted by spencerclick on September 13, 2009

Lot FullI’ve had a few folks ask me why I don’t write more blog posts…I like the flattery, but I have some thoughts on why I don’t write more.

Some thoughts about me:

I enjoy writing…

I think I’m pretty decent at it…

One day I think I’d like to write a book…not sure about what, but I think it’d be a great challenge and accomplishment.

I’m a fairly smart guy…

I have a lot of subjects I’m pretty well versed on…

I think that there are some wonderful Children’s Ministry Blogs out there.  I also think that there are great blogs on leadership, innovation, and a multitude of other subjects.  Sometimes I have something to add sometimes I don’t…I think sometimes it’s hard to hear the really good stuff because of all the ‘white noise’ of the unexceptional.  There are a lot of blogs out there that just parrot other blogs or repeat stuff from online forums…they tend to make it hard to sort through to find the good stuff.

I want this understood:  I think God has called people to certain positions for a reason.  Look at the blogs out there – some are filled with wonderful useful information from really talented and blessed individuals.  I don’t want to detract from what God has called others to do – so please don’t take this as a post knocking those who blog a lot or are seen as experts.  In my experience people who want to be seen as experts rarely are and those that are seen as experts rarely want to be…

When I was younger I really wanted to find a niche and take it over – I wanted to be the “go to” guy on things…honestly I when I graduated college I wanted to be Jim Wideman.  I pushed hard to be ‘somebody’…it never really happened.  And I think that’s a good thing for me.  I think one of the greatest compliments I ever received came from somebody I used to want to be: “I think Spencer just wants to do something great for God…”  That’s really my heart’s desire.  If that’s all I’m ever known for then great.

Some people stretch and strive too hard – they set themselves up for failure or heartache.  I know, I speak from experience.  Their motives aren’t pure and the end result is disappointment – for them, for those they try to lead, for so many…too many individuals get burned out from ministry or get wounded in ministry from self inflicted wounds.  Let me encourage you – check your motives.  If they are to glorify God and not yourself – then you’re probably good.  If the priorities are reversed then you probably need to take a step back…

In a nut shell that’s why I don’t blog a lot.  It would be too easy for me to become consumed by it and try to build it into a platform for me to spring off of and that isn’t what God’s called me to…how about you?

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Somethings you can do somethings you can’t…

Posted by spencerclick on September 7, 2009

bigsmallBefore you start reading this post let me preface it with this – I am an expert of very few things.  Putting on my pants, tying my shoes, eating and a few other things – beyond that I just have opinions.  My opinions are my own and do not represent the opinions of some small group of experts – I say that because I want you to read what I write and realize that this is just what I think…not the gospel – again – this is not a Word from the Lord.  Ok, we’re clear.

I’ve been blessed to serve in churches of varying size – the smallest was 75 and the largest was just over 2000.  I say this just so you know I’ve seen a gambit of churches.  I know those who have only worked in large churches have an opinion of small churches, just like those who work in small churches have an opinion of what it’s like to work in large churches.  My Sr. Pastor said something the other day that I think applies here:  assumption is the lowest form of communication.  So, unless you’ve worked in a specific church size – you’re assumptions of what it’s like are probably wrong.

In all the books that I’ve read (and that’s a lot) – I find things I want to put into action.  Sometimes though I find myself very frustrated because I can’t get things into place.  I just recently figured out what the problem was – not everything I read in a book can be applied at all the churches I’ve worked at.  There are aspects of some books that can’t be applied at a smaller church – likewise there are aspects of some books that can’t be applied at a larger church.  It wasn’t until I saw a significant shift in the size of the ministry I was working in that I came to this revelation.  So when I get a new revelation I feel the need to share and in sharing I hope I can bust some myths.

I could go into a lot of detail of my conclusion, but not everyone will enjoy my process of discovery.  So here’s the executive summary:  Bigger isn’t always better and smaller isn’t always worse.  There are things that you can do at a larger church you can’t do at a smaller church and there are things you can do at a smaller church that you can’t do at a larger church.   When you read a book, hear a conference speaker, read an online post – use what will fit into your ministry.  Don’t try to be a big church if you’re a small church; don’t try to be a small church if you’re a big church.  Be the church God has called you to be. The thing to keep in mind is that God has called you to a place of ministry – so minister in that place.

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