People First, Tasks Second

“Think of ways to encourage one another through outbursts of love and good deeds”
Hebrews 10:24 NIV

“People First, Tasks Second” advised Pastor Jon standing at the whiteboard. The Core Value was drilled into church staff. Pastor Jon was doing his best to establish a culture on our team that would take good care of their volunteers. To my husband doing church with excellence, meant taking care of the people around you. Excellence did not mean that we ran around worried and frustrated because of a misspelled power point slide or forgotten microphone battery. Doing ministry with excellence meant, keeping our focus on the real goal, seeing people grow in their faith. People first, tasks second. How do we do this? By being sensitive to the needs of our volunteers. By taking time to pray even with a busy Sunday morning schedule. Frequently giving words of praise and appreciation. This was Pastor Jon’s definition of doing ministry with excellence. Taking excellent care of people, especially our volunteers.

As a task-oriented person, it’s challenging for me to both focus on the goal and give volunteers the personal care they need. I am one of these ladies who daily writes out a list with neatly drawn boxes put a check in by each item. I love the satisfaction of filling in my blank boxes one by one. I have been known to write down a task after it’s completed, just so I can enjoy the feeling of filling in a momentarily empty box. At the end of the day, I can look back on my list with the satisfaction of a day well spent. Ministry wives like myself do not need any help from our spouses to find something to do, we seem to overload ourselves all on our own. Putting people first and tasks second takes sheer determination for me. There are days when I will tell myself, “My task today is this person.” It’s my way of breaking free from my to-do list. I may not get a lot of other things done that day, but my task that day was a person.

As a Pastor’s wives, there are people that just want to be near you and get to know you. Each of them cutting into your time, for me, they are cutting up my To Do List. One way I reconcile getting the tasks done and spending time with people is by inviting them into my work. Remembering to Taking other’s with you as you do the tasks of ministry is a great way to pour into people and get tasks done at the same time.
I have heard it said, “Never do ministry alone.” We should always be taking someone along with us. You can help others gain experience in ministry and at the same time be deepening relationships as you choose to include others.

You can learn a lot about people as you do the simple tasks of setting up Sunday school chairs or picking up crayons. It’s during these times that you learned of unemployment or a sickness in the family. It is those times when you just pause for a moment to pray with a volunteer, that says so much about how much you care. While serving as a children’s ministry director there were times I felt that a volunteer wasn’t serving so much for the kids, as much as they were just to have a godly woman in their life. They wanted to be close that they might receive personal counsel. Putting people first and tasks second, added a dimension to ministry that has brought amazing fulfillment.

As you take others’ along with you in the tasks of ministry, hear what Tony Morgan has to say in his book, “Simply Strategic Stuff.”

  1. Identify tasks others could do.
  2. Find individuals capable of handling them.
  3. Share your vision and ask these people to fill the roles.
  4. Tell them how to do it.
  5. Show them how to do it.
  6. Have them show you how to do it.
  7. Monitor their progress.
  8. Celebrate their success.

As you take a close look at the eight steps that Tony mentions above, the volunteer is not without you until step seven. And during step seven and eighty, you are still coming back, checking on them and encouraging them along.

Ladies, instead of us running around to the point of exhaustion, let’s get organize and gather people around us. Let’s never do ministry alone. People First, Tasks Second.

Made the trip, missed the Adventure!

“…You of little faith, why are you so afraid? Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” Matthew 8:26

I sat in the backseat as Mom drove through the rolling vineyards of California’s Napa Valley. Heading to grandma where she lived in a two-story cedar home. Her landscape was a mixture of shady trees and piles of cluttered treasures that she had collected over the years.

She would collect any and everything. I remember one time my grandmother gave me a case of red socks. I wore red socks through most of my grade school years! Another time we pulled up into the driveway to find six Singer sewing machines sitting out in the front yard. She had boxes piled on boxes with stuff, that she just knew her grandchildren would love. Adults would call it hoarding, the grandkids just called it wonderful. To say the least visiting grandma’s house was a treasure hunt. My brothers and sisters would come back to the car with their arms full of toys and knick knacks, showing me what they had discovered, while I sat alone in the car.

Grandma owned a pointy teeth dog with snarling lips. Despite his chain, he spent his afternoon lungeing against it, I spent the afternoon safe in the car watching him snarl. In the safety of the car I, watched my brothers and sisters enjoy their adventure. My mom and grandma would tap on the window and try to persuade me out, but I wouldn’t budge. I had made the trip but missed the adventure.

Sometimes I still feel like that little girl, thinking to myself, “Cyndi, you’re playing it way too safe, staying comfortable in your surrounding.” There had been times when I made the trip half way around the world but missed the adventure. Staring out at other people’s adventures, cheering them on, “You’re doing a great job rescuing the prostitutes” or “Keep up the good work with the homeless” all from the safety of what was familiar to me. My Heavenly Father taps on my window trying to persuade me out, but I don’t budge. If only I could keep my eyes on the Father, but I have a tendency to look over his shoulder at the ugly dog that keeps barking and fear grips me once more.

There are a variety of reasons that we make a trip, but miss the adventure:

Fear is the biggest deterrent from an adventure. Fear of failure, fear of inadequacy or fear of being overwhelmed. Whatever the fear is, it holds us back from stepping into an adventure. When I first landed in Beijing, I posted a saying onto my fridge,

Short and sweet. I kept this saying on my fridge for the first six years of life in China. Early on I came to the realization that my biggest enemy in serving God was not governments nor ideologies, but rather my own internal fear.


Some of us have not let go of our past ministry assignment. We find ourselves comparing our current life to what we had in the past, “I used to have a better house, better friends, better income…” Maybe you never really wanted to move to your new location, wishing that your husband had stayed at the previous church. You find yourself missing home and overcome with grief. It’s physically impossible to look forward and backward at the same time. If we want to step into a new adventure, then our focus cannot be on our past life. A fellow ministry wife recently shared with me that she was so sad about leaving a church pastorate, it took her three moves and twelve years of discontentment before she realized that she was the only one fueling her own unhappiness. Tackle your discontentment with thanksgiving, putting your focus forward instead of backwards.

Too many Trips

Our attachment to family back home can get in the way of stepping into a ministry adventure. It is tempting to be on a constant search for an airfare deal that takes you back home to family and friends. If you are living aboard, visiting the homeland can become an unhealthy distraction. One of my biggest obstacles in recruiting volunteers, is too many trips. Potential volunteers turning me down because they had a trip on the horizon. They struggled to put down roots because their excitement was always about their next trip. Whether it’s our volunteers or ourselves, don’t let the pull for the homeland keep you from how God wants to use you where He has planted you.

Lack of Burden

Our own lack of burden can keep us from being compelled into a new adventure. Leroy Cloud, my Senior Pastor in Hong Kong once shared a memorable truth with me, “Your ministry will never go beyond your burden.”
This quote has always reminded me that a burden is foundational to any adventure. For most of us, that burden will develop as we get involved with other people’s lives. Burden increases with involvement, likewise burden decreases with lack of involvement. The more you distance yourself from the need, the more your own indifference to the need will increase. Be willing to give your time to the needs that are around you.

The saddest part of missing the adventure at Grandma’s house wasn’t missing the treasures of knick knacks that littered my grandmother’s property. The saddest part was missing out on Grandma. I missed her hugs, warm hands, smiles and her sweet conversations. It’s the same way with God when we choose to make the trip but miss the adventure there are beautiful qualities of God that we don’t experience. Let’s make the trip and remember to take on the adventure that God has for us.

The Chokehold of Regret

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my fears, and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23,24

“No patients walks out of this place alive!” I thought to myself as I made the last turn and headed down the gloomy hospital corridor to the last room on the right. The smell of rotting flesh assured me we were walking the right direction. I had been warned that the patient’s advance cancer had filled her room with an unforgettable odor. I along with two younger ladies from my Bible study group, put on our bravest faces and walked into the room, casually leaving the door open to welcome in some much needed fresh air.

I met Lacey (name changed) that day through a contact at the Embassy informing the church of an American lady dying of breast cancer in the city. One of our small groups was willing to commit to regular hospital visitations. But when a holiday came around, no one from the small group would be available for the routine visits. That’s when I came into the story, volunteering to visit Lacey at the remote Buddhist hospital. I had been warned that she was in her last stages of cancer, in a lot of pain and was hostile towards Christians.

Armed with warm muffins  I and two younger ladies headed off to the dirtiest medical facility that we had ever stepped into. A place with little compassion or care for the patients. Lacey was much weaker than what I had expected. She had difficulty talking, needing to gasp for air every few words.

An earlier visitor had left behind the book “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. Lacey welcomed me to read a few pages from the book. Afterward, she shared,

“It seems to say, just what I need.”

Encouraged by her response, I began to ask her about her own relationship with Jesus when she gasped,

“Oh, too many questions”

So I stopped and didn’t pursue with any questions about her spiritual condition.

My visit was short, too short. I couldn’t help but be aware of how traumatic the environment was for two young ladies that had accompanied me and chose to keep the visit brief. The three of us left behind our baked goods and headed back into the city.

Three days later, I learned through a group e-mail, that the Lacey had passed away. The following hours, I kept checking my inbox, hoping that someone else would reply that they had been the last one to see her. After a couple of days, it was obvious that I was the last Christian that had entered her life. My mind quickly filled with multiples of, “I should of… I should of… I should…”, each thought choking me with regret. My husband and my friends tried their best to comfort me and I politely listened, but deep inside it didn’t help. I knew I should have done better, I should have stayed longer, I should have sung, bathed her, clean her room, I should have done so much more. But I didn’t.

After five days of feeling sick inside, I took my regrets to Jesus during my morning prayer time. I cried out to the Lord,

“I should have… I should have… I should have…”

Then distinctly, I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit,

“This is settled, you no longer get to revisit this. It’s settled!”

Later during that day, I was sharing my experience with one of our pastor’s wives over lunch, what came out of my mouth was. It’s as if the Holy Spirit was telling me,

“I am not perfect, I won’t do ministry perfectly and I am off the hook.”

I am surrounded by good people that bring wisdom and encouragement into my life, but none of them can compare to the comfort that the Holy Spirit brings. I spent five miserable days in the choke hold of regret, despite the words of encouragement from others. It was not until I got alone in the prayer closet and cried out to God, that I received true comfort. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter, He has a way of speaking truth to our hearts, that sets us free. As the scripture shares in Psalm 139:23 and 24,

“God searches me, knows my heart and He knows my fears.”

It was the Holy Spirit that was able to lead me out of regret and into the way everlasting. God searches me and knows me. When He speaks the truth in goes straight to my heart. I am not perfect, I won’t do ministry perfectly and I am off the hook!

Building a Prayer Board

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayers studies, prayers work and prayers religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.” Samuel Chadwick

I need to have a plan of attack against the enemy, after all, he has a plan against me! That’s when my Vision Board was morphed into a Prayer Board.

After leisurely reading my Bible on the couch with my mug of coffee, I head off to a secluded corner of the where I’ve have pinned my Prayer Board on the wall. Here is where I intentionally take on the enemy for the hearts and souls of my family and friends. Here is where I am serious about fighting the unseen wars of the Kingdom.

My prayer board used to be called my Vision Board. For the past few years, I have set aside a day in January where I would sketch out my goals for the year. It was at this cluttered board of goals that I found myself drawn in prayer. The goals and dreams that were written out, were as much prayer points as they were goals. This year after watching the movie “War Room” I decided to call my board by it true purpose, my prayer board.

Building a Prayer Board

Gather up all the felt tip markers and colored papers you can find. You’ll also need a pair of scissors, glue stick, and one large poster Prayer Board

Center Circle

In the Center draw a circle and write your name. Under your name, you’ll want to write something that reminds you of who you are in Christ. This year I wrote out the meaning of my name. My name Cynthia means a reflection of the moon, I decided to put a godly twist to it: “Cynthia, reflector of Light in the Darkness” Every day it reminds me of who I am in Christ and the difference that my life can make. Maybe you have a special scripture or a prophetic word that had been spoken over you. Whatever reminds you of who you are in Christ, write it under your name.

Major Divisions

Next, divide your Prayer board up into major divisions. Draw four long arrows pointing out from the center circle. These arrows visually remind you that your prayers have influence beyond yourself. The four sections may change from year to year, depending on what is happening in your life. This year I have a section for Family, Community, Ministry, and Development. The area of Development has to do with personal goals.


After you have your major divisions begin pasting in pockets to hold personally written prayers and scriptures that you would like to pray over the need. I love praying scripture, it builds my faith, reminding me that God is working behind the scenes on my behalf.


Put pictures that build your faith as to how God is moving in your loved one’s lives.
I will use pictures to spur me on to pray for a need. A photo of the Great Wall may prompt me that the barriers to the gospel would crumble in the name of Jesus. A picture of my son-in-law and daughter will remind me to pray that their territory continues to expand (2 Chronicles 4:9-10). A picture of our granddaughters on baptism day reminds me to pray for their spiritual growth.

Binder Clips

In each section, I have attached binder clips. This gives me the flexibility to have temporary prayers mounted throughout the year.

Prayers from the past

Paste old prayers or Words from the Lord that are from the past onto the wall. I wrote out a prayer back in 2011, that is still current. Original writing on the original paper with prompt your memory of when the Holy Spirit first spoke the words to you.

Yearly Goals

My Prayer Board does have a dual purpose of also being my Vision Board, but like I said earlier most of my goals are prayer points anyhow. I keep my goals very visible, usually writing them out in felt-tip pen in the appropriate division. As I am praying for my aging Parents, I may feel impressed to be intentional about honoring them.
Next to my Mom’s name I noted “be intentional about affirming Mom” Near my children’s name I scribbled down “Pass down faith stories to children.”

Take your time

Your Prayer Board won’t come together all in one day. Leave some extra space on the board to jot down prayer needs, verses and thoughts as they come to you in the coming months.
May we rise up and be women of prayer, women that makes the evil one shudder.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Ephesians 6:18

Meeting Ministry

How each of us meet ministry can affect the way we view ourselves as a Pastor’s wife. Some of us felt a strong calling as a child and knew the ministry was where you were headed since childhood. Many of us felt so drawn to the ministry that we spent tens of thousands of dollars enrolling in a Bible school. Others of us were settled in our careers, then one day our husband walks into the house announcing a change of plans. Suddenly you are carrying a title that you never imagine wearing. Then there are those who just fell in love with a guy headed for the ministry. I fall in the last category.

Prior to becoming a Pastor’s wife, I didn’t weigh out the pro’s and con’s. I never sat down with another Pastor’s wife to investigate what my future life would be like. All I knew was that I was starry-eyed in love with Jon and he was working on becoming a minister.

Our first assignment was a wonderful church, A senior Pastor that taught us a good work ethic and a congregation that was full of love and patience for their new Youth Pastors. Each church following were great experiences as well. For the most part, I have good memories that linger in my mind of the people that we served.

Despite my love for ministry, I spent over two decades struggling with the crazy notion that I snuck into the ministry while God wasn’t looking. This mindset not only hampered my ministry in my homeland but continued to slow me down overseas. Still today, when someone asks me how I was called into Missionary service, I usually respond by lifting my left hand and pointing to my wedding ring. My simple reply was “God called my husband and I packed the luggage!” Not understanding God’s favor to me to be a Pastor’s wife, left me feeling unequipped and reluctant to reach out to others. Lately, I have been wondering, was it even possible for me to hear God’s calling for missionary work when my mind was veiled with a deception about sneaking into the ministry. The lie of being a non-called pastor’s wife kept me from being able to hear God in the first place. I am so thankful for the sweet determination of God and the power of the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to our hearts. I now know deep inside this was the life that God had wanted for me all along and I love it!

Ladies, we all meet ministry in different ways and our Father wants us to know how pleased He is to call you a Pastor’s wife. This week give the Holy Spirit some personal time, allow His voice to reassure you of His pleasure with you in the ministry. When we find assurance of our calling we’ll be able to walk in a new confidence and minister to His Church more effectively.
Please, don’t let decades slip by until you realize just how happy God is to call you a daughter and a Pastor’s wife.






6 Keys to leading a young ministry team


“But I have never taught children before!”

it’s probably the most common excuse I’ve heard. Building a children’s ministry team in a church where 50% of the members are first generation Christians is no small feat. Many of my volunteer team had never attended Sunday school as a child, let alone taught a class before. I knew it order to get new Christians volunteering in children’s ministry, I needed a game plan to make them feel confident that God could use them. It was my own childhood memories of picking blackberries with my father that gave me some inspirational keys to recruiting newbies on to my team.

When I was young, I loved to go blackberry picking with my Dad. He was an avid berry picker, driven by his appetite for an evening slice of pie. With an expert by my side, I was more than happy to venture out to the field behind our home, where the thorny bushes waited for us. Dad would select a large two-quart stainless steel bowl for himself and give his young volunteer a small pint size bowl for myself.

Dad would always lead the way, stomping down a path through the tall, summer grass. Arriving at the berry bush, He would survey the plant, choosing the best spot for me to reach the fruit.
Before long I would grow impatient with the lower berries. Pointing up at the plump juicy fruit that got good sunlight. I would call out “Daddy, can you help me get those berries?” Dad would stop picking berries, hunted down a discarded plank and strategically plopped it down for me. With a few hard stomps into the bush, He steadied the wobbly platform. Grabbing my hand he guided me up the rickety plank. As a new inexperienced picker, I mentally hummed to myself, “One for the bowl, one for me, one for the bowl and one for me!” 
A few minutes later, Dad would hear me call out again “Dad, I need a new spot” Without a hint of impatience, He would set his berry bowl down and walk over to reset the plank at another spot, ripe for picking. Who wouldn’t love to go blackberry picking with a dad like that!

When leading a team of volunteers that have little experience in church ministry, I thought of my Dad and how we berry picked together. The leadership qualities that he showed helped me to understand how to lead a young ministry team.

  • Know your volunteer. Give thought to the age, experience, spiritual maturity and personality of your volunteer. Know what size ministry is the right challenge for them. My dad knew me and knew what size bowl was right for me.
  • Know the Way. As much as possible know and understand the environment that you are putting your volunteers in. Think through each ministry responsibility and understand where the danger areas are within that ministry. For children’s ministry, you are going to be careful before putting your newbie volunteer in a conversation with an unhappy parent or working with a misbehaving child. My Dad had been to that field year after year. He knew which bush had the best fruit.

Smooth out the path for the team. Smoothing out a path for your team involves thinking through the barriers that bring discouragement. In church ministry barriers could be:
Weak team: Work hard at building a strong team that supports one another, so your volunteer never feels alone or trapped. When you have all your ministry slots filled, write up additional ministry descriptions, so that you are always recruiting, and always have a surplus of help. Every good team has some team members on the bench. Some of my volunteer opportunities were to be a substitute teacher, they knew they were on the bench, but ready to jump into the classroom with little notice.
Inadequate training: Provide a wide variety of training, not every volunteer can attend group trainings. Buy good books, subscribe to good magazines, send out links to video trainings and mentor, mentor, mentor!
“I can’t do that!”: This is a broad excuse that could be rooted in a variety of areas. When you hear this kind of a response, pull the person away and talk to them one on one. Pry a bit to see where this is rooted. Do they feel spiritually inadequate? Do they feel overwhelmed by the circumstances or is there just a need for good mentoring.
As a good team leader be intentional to make a smooth path to guide volunteers onto your team. Thinking through the barriers ahead of time will give the Holy Spirit a chance to give you solutions to offer the reluctant volunteer.

  • Strategically choose a place for success. A good leader carefully places each volunteer and gradually moves them forward to more challenging ministries. As a children’s ministry director, I often had my newbies taking the offering, then moved them into teaching a memory verse or working a puppet, gradually developing them into a storyteller. When they want to reach for a more difficult ministry you take the time to prepare them so that they will be successful. You walk alongside them as they attempt a more challenging task.
  • Give them the best fruit. Allow your volunteers to experience the most rewarding ministry. Prior to Easter, I would do a training on leading a child to Christ. When Easter came I made sure it was my volunteers praying with the children for salvation. Your volunteers will be so excited watching a life be transformed before their eyes. I don’t think there’s a better way to turn your volunteers into lifetime children’s ministers than allowing them to lead a child to Christ.
  • People before Tasks. A good team leader realizes that it’s all about the people: The people that are being ministered to and the people that are doing the ministering. My Dad had an incredible amount of patience with his young volunteer, his goal was more than just collecting berries. He found great joy just having me on his team. Church members will notice that you give more than you take, making your ministry one of the most popular to serve.

Lead your ministry team with genuine care and they will love serving alongside you.


What to Wear?

girlfriendsinministry what to wear 1

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3&4

“I think anything will be fine” was the patented answer from my husband, when I asked about the attire for an upcoming social gathering.

Pastoring in the capital city of the world’s most populous nation provided my husband and I with many enriching experiences. Whether it was a Christmas concerts for ambassadors, formal dinners at embassies, or birthday parties for wealthy businessmen, there was one side of me that felt truly honored to have been invited, but another side of me that felt like a fish out of water.

Leading up to the event, I would stand in front of the closet a week early wondering which outfit would work best. Sometimes convincing myself that a particular outfit would be okay, just to discover myself sweating in front of my closet with just hours before the event, certain that I would be the frumpiest lady at the party. Costume parties were the worst, almost all the ladies would be adorned in tailored made costumes. I just can’t bring myself to pay for a tailored costume that I would only wear once!

On the day of the event my mind would have an internal conversation: One-half of me is whispering “Am I trying to be something that, I am not” then the other half of me is whispering back “I am trying to become all things to all people so that I might win them over for Christ.”
Girlfriends, how do we walk this road with the heart and mind of Christ?

Firstly, If you have the money to treat yourself to something pretty, then do it. Remember, loving money is the problem, not spending it! Myself, I keep a black formal dress in the closet at all times. A black dress with black high heels is probably as versatile as you are going to get. I’ll put a different color of jacket or sweater over it for different times of the year. If I coordinate necklaces, scarves, and shoes, I have a half dozen outfits. You can usually pick them up cheaply on a clearance rack following the holidays or at second-hand store.

And let’s remember girls, it’s not so much as to what you are wearing, as much as it is to how you are wearing it. Remember to stand with your shoulders back and your chin parallel to the floor. Good posture goes a long ways in helping you look sharp!

On the day of the event, put on your outfit, take a spin in front of a full-length mirror, stand up straight and most importantly, remind yourself of the following Bible story.

In the New Testament, John the Baptist had quite a following of sophisticated Jews. They came out in droves to listen to a man who ate locust and honey and wore a gown of camel hair. They were not drawn to his appearance as much as his message. In Matthew chapter 11 Jesus asked the crowd the following rhetorical question:

“ What did you go out into the wilderness to see…A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.”

Jesus’ questioning of the crowd in Matthew is a good word of encouragement to each of us. Well-dressed, sophisticated people don’t really care about what you are wearing as much as what you are saying.

Our savior Jesus stood before multitudes and held the attention of government leaders in a simple woven garment. In both cases, It wasn’t really about what they were wearing as much as the hope that they offered.

I think it all boils down to, do your best, then forget about it! Choose the outfit that you think will work for the occasion, then get your mind off yourself and onto the needs of the people that you will meet. God is ready for you to be His ambassador of hope to all people, no matter where they gather.

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” 2 Co. 5:20