Archive for category Collaboration

Tools You Can Use: Dropbox

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Have you ever found yourself in a stressful situation where time was of the essence, and you had to get a large video file, multiple documents or multiple high resolution photos to someone on your team?  You could download them to a flash drive and then hope to drive them to the party if they are local, or overnight express them to the party if they are out of town.  But what if it doesn’t get there in time?  And forget working together in real time.  That’s impossible with a flash drive unless you’re in the same office.

Several years ago, my marketing team introduced me to a tool that has become so part of my regular work that I hardly think twice about it.  However, some recent encounters with colleagues have revealed to me that I’m clearly not the last one on the block to know about this handy-dandy tool.  Dropbox is a user-friendly means of sharing documents and files as easily as you store them to your own computer.  The process works this way:

  • You create a “folder” and upload your files to that folder.
  • You share or invite others to that folder to collaborate.
  • You receive a notification in real time on your computer when a shared item is revised and saved.

The advantages of this tool are many.  As opposed to Google Drive, you can park video files, graphics, and photos, in addition to pdf files, and other documents.  And honestly, have you ever tried getting any sort of support from Google?  Jesus will return before that ever happens!  Another advantage is that you receive a whole lot of storage for FREE before you ever have to buy more space, so you can remove files from the Dropbox that you no longer need to be shared.

I can tell you that this tool has served us on so many important projects that would not have been completed efficiently had we not used Dropbox.  We have shared documents and videos as we formed our Parent Mentor Program.  Our new logo refresh took place in Dropbox.  Marketing documents are constructed and share there.  Respite volunteers, attendees, and policies have all been updated using this tool.  And we are currently using folders in this application to create our new website refresh.

Even if you don’t want to share files with others, Dropbox also offers you the ability to store documents for easy access when you’re away from the office or your home base computer.  With their application available for all device types, you can go from desktop to tablet or even smart phone with the greatest of ease.

For a FREE video tour or download visit:  http://db.tt/lE8i9SWr

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Our Biggest Struggles

ID-10032808Leadership is not for the faint of heart.  Ministry makes the challenges of leadership that much more complex.  Combining our own spiritual state with trying to motivate and direct a group of individuals, all with different attitudes, opinions and desires can really put us to the test.  I will always remember the words of an experienced friend when I answered the Lord’s call to lead a ministry.  She had a dynamic history, not only as a pastor’s wife, but also in women’s ministry.  As we strolled around a placid, glistening lake she warned, “Leading a ministry is a double-edged sword.  On one side of the blade, you wield the incredible power of God.  And the other side will pierce your own heart.”  If you have served for any length of time, like me, you may find those words to be true.

For the past week, I have watched a fruitful and lively conversation between colleagues at the Special Needs & Disabilities Ministry Leaders Forum on Facebook.  The conversation began with the terrific question from Laura Lee Wright, “So what are the biggest challenges facing us as disability leaders today?”.  The flood of answers have ranged from difficulty with volunteers, to awakening churches to acknowledge the need for disability ministry, to raising up the next generation of leaders.  As leaders have shared their greatest struggles, debate has ensued as to what our primary role as leaders should be.  Should it be inclusion?  Should it be an extension of special education?  Should it be showing others that those with intellectual challenges have as much need for salvation as anyone else?  It has been a worthwhile discussion.

At the risk of irritating those I hold in high esteem, the answer to these deep questions and greatest struggles are likely found in Jesus’ response in Matthew 22:36-39, “’Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mindThis is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (NET)  In other words, rather than “doing” ministry, the ministry occurs as an outpouring of our daily living.  It’s that easy and that hard.

We have long heard the expression in real estate that the key to success is “location, location, location.”  These days in leadership circles, it seems the theme from every remarkable authority on the topic points to “relationship, relationship, relationship.”  The biggest struggles facing us as leaders in the special needs arena may be best overcome by heeding those words.  In the context of Matthew 22:36-39, it’s relationship with the Lord first, then relationship with every type of person the Lord puts in our path.  God pours into us, and we pour into others.  By being in relationship with those who have medical, emotional or cognitive challenges as well as having relationship with those who do not, we are able to be “bridge builders”.  It’s the old 1 Corinthians 11:1 mandate, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”  (NIV)  When others see us hanging around with people they may be afraid of, they see that it might be okay for them to hang around with them too.  As we serve those with disabilities publicly, we bear witness to the value of all individuals and their need to know Christ.  As we build friendships outside of that service, we are able to do what Tony Morgan terms “shoulder tapping” or inviting others to serve along with us.

My encouragement to my fellow servants would be that we all develop a consistency in practicing these simple-yet-difficult relational rhythms to achieve our ultimate goal.  And isn’t that ultimate goal that all individuals, regardless of ability level or trauma faced, be presented with the Gospel of hope and opportunity to grow in relationship with the One True King?

What are YOUR thoughts?  We would love to hear!

Image courtesy of:  FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Shut Out By The Secular World

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A number of years ago the general announcement was issued for an expo serving patients and families, also inviting exhibitors to display at the event.  The demographics matched with those we aim to serve, so we proceeded to reserve our booth space.  Much to my dismay, the host of the event refused our reservation stating that they wanted no affiliation with any religious organization.  Known for our works of compassion with hurting parents, my outraged pastor even volunteered to step up and plead our case with the host.  I refused his offer, having no desire to go where we were not welcome.

While it is the prerogative of any event sponsor to set guidelines on who they will or will not allow to participate, it is counterproductive when faith based organizations are shut out by the secular world.  Of far more benefit to those with disabilities are bridges built in cooperation between secular and religious groups.  Government organizations surely don’t have all of the resources they need.  Matters of faith are also of huge concern to families with a loved one who has a special need.  So, how do we overcome such obstacles?  Here are some thoughts:

  • Build relationships.  We can never hear this principle enough.  People like to work with others they know.  If you build friendships and find personal common ground with those in secular work, those relationships can blossom into more.
  • Be willing to cross promote.  Trust is built and good will is shown when we are open to sharing the work of secular organizations with those we serve.  Many non-religious organizations need avenues to reach more people.  If we are willing to open one of those avenues, reciprocity is more likely.
  • Live your mission.  Rational or not, lay service providers can have tremendous fear that faith based  providers will pressure and street evangelize at events.  If those same providers see your organization merely loving people with excellence, just like Jesus did, those fears will be assuaged.
  • Invite secular organizations to speak or share with your members.  If you need a guest speaker or writer, a great way to connect can be to engage these government or non-religious groups.  Most won’t think twice about sharing their expertise or services with your members.
  • Network.  Add value to those who shut you out by introducing them to new connections.  When you are willing to make introductions, you become a valuable connection in your own right.
  • Persevere.  Even if you continue to be excluded, remaining warm and open can pay off in the long run.  And if you continue to be shut out, at least you know that you are doing what is upright in the sight of the Lord.

Has your disability ministry been shut out by the secular world?  If so, how did you deal with it?  We would love to hear about it.

Photo Image Courtesy of 123RF

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Rating Your Social Media Etiquette

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So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11, NLT ~

We encourage one another when we cross-promote one another’s work.  When another colleague has good insights or information, we all benefit by sharing that information with our circles of influence. So, how are you doing with that?  Take this brief quiz to assess your “Social Media Etiquette”:

1.  I read materials written or shared by my ministry colleagues

A.  Daily

B.  Weekly

C.  When I get an opportunity

D.  Rarely

2.  I share my colleagues’ blog posts, articles, events or announcements on Facebook

A.  Daily

B.  Weekly

C.  When I get an opportunity

D.  Rarely

3.  On Twitter, I RT (retweet) my ministry colleagues’ blog, article or announcement tweets

A.  Daily

B.  Weekly

C.  When I get an opportunity

D.  Rarely

4.  On Pinterest, I pin, repin or like my ministry colleagues’ blog, article or announcement pins

A.  Daily

B.  Weekly

C.  When I get an opportunity

D.  Rarely

5.  On Google+, I add other colleagues to my circles, especially those who have added me

A.  Always

B.  Sometimes

C.  Only if I like the other person/organization

D.  Never

6.  On Twitter, I make sure to extend the courtesy of thanking people for RT’s and tweeting #FF (Follow Friday), especially for those who have done the same for me

A.  Always

B.  Sometimes

C.  Only if I like the other person/organization

D.  Never

7.  I take personal interest in my ministry colleagues and their family life, personal and ministry challenges, and joyful successes

A.  Always

B.  Sometimes

C.  Only if I like the other person/organization

D.  Never

8.  I collaborate with other ministry colleagues

A.  Daily

B.  Annually

C.  On rare occasion

D.  Never

9.  I learn from ministry colleagues

A.  Daily

B.  Weekly

C.  When I get an opportunity

D.  Rarely

10.  I pray for ministry colleagues

A.  Daily

B.  Weekly

C.  When I remember

D.  Rarely

Give each letter A a value of 4; B a value of 3; C a value of 2; D a value of 1.  Your results:  35-40 ALL STAR.  We could all learn a great deal from you and your generous building-up of others! 30-35 OUTSTANDING.  You are dedicated to encouraging and supporting your colleagues.  Good job!  25-30 NEEDS HELP.  You are busy to the exclusion of others.  While you may be well-intended, you need help stepping up your game with supporting and encouraging ministry colleagues.  10-25 GET GOING!  Maybe you were unaware of the need to engage in this sort of cross-supporting etiquette prior to this article.  Whatever the reason, you had better get going stepping up your game because our faith demands it and because this is considered “best practices” for your area of service.

Another simplified way to examine how you stack up to your peers in any given category is to join Klout to assess your score.  Klout analyzes all of your networks including Facebook, Twitter, Four Square, YouTube, WordPress, Google+, Bing and more.  The score also breaks down what percentage of your total influence is affected by each network.  The average Klout score is 40, and tremendously famous individuals or organizations score 90 or higher.  One thing to note, this score seems to be more highly influenced by how faithfully you check in and vote for others by comparison to more neutral analyses.

What are your thoughts on sharing, cross-promoting, collaborating and encouraging?  We would love to hear!

Image courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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The View from the Summit – Part II

April 19th and 20th once again brought us the premier conference  in disability ministry, McLean Bible Church’s Accessibility Summit.  In Part I of our summary of this year’s Summit, we looked at the experience, events and speakers of Day 1 (April 19th).  Here in Part II, we will look at all of the excitement that continued on Day 2 of this remarkable event.

Much of the day’s anticipation was centered around keynote speaker, Emily Colson, daughter of Chuck Colson, and author of the book Dancing with Max: A Mother and Son Who Broke Free.  Jackie Mills-Fernald set a high expectation by introducing Emily as “a masterful story-teller”, and she did not disappoint.  

Day 2 012 (2)Pictured above is Emily Colson in her keynote speech at the 2013 Accessibility Summit

With poignant stories of her son’s life, Emily wove vivid mental pictures of the value of her son and people like him with statements like, “People are attracted to Max because they want his joy. He appreciates the little things, like refrigerators.”; “Max changed people not in spite of autism, but because of autism.”;  “I thought it was all about Max needing a church. It’s the CHURCH that needs Max!”.  Hers was a life-changing keynote speech that awakened the psyche of those new to special needs ministry and rekindled the passion of those who have been working at church inclusion for decades.

The day’s workshops began after the conclusion of Emily’s speech and a brief intermission for some welcomed refreshments.  I had the privilege on sitting in on a terrific presentation by Dr. Steve Grcevich on child and teen anxiety.  This was a well-attended workshop as many of us recognize that anxiety can often be an unwelcomed companion to numerous other diagnoses.

022 (2)Pictured above Christian psychiatrist Dr. Steve Grcevich, Chairman of Key Ministry

While my personal purpose in attending his workshop was to glean more information for my son who suffers from PTSD and generalized anxiety, Dr. Grcevich’s clear description of symptoms to watch for had me leaving with a focus on my youngest daughter who has myriad diagnoses including ASD.  Needless to say, his presentation was extremely informative, equipping attendees not only with thorough insights, but also solid resources.

After another brief break, the next set of workshops was up.  There were so many outstanding sessions to choose from throughout the Summit, and this time slot was no exception!  Larry Jamieson of Walk Right In Ministries presented on “The Importance of Special Dads.”  Back by popular demand, Jolene Philo once again presented on “Managing Time Without Losing Your Mind.”  There were also opportunities to learn from experts like Linda Starnes, Tracy Terrill, Harmony Hensley, and David Glover.  Exhibits continued and lunch was offered after this second morning session.

One last afternoon workshop session was offered before the conference concluded for the year.  With more excellent presentations by friends and colleagues Jackie Mills-Fernald, Rebecca Hamilton, Amy Kendall, Barbara Newman, and Cindi and Joe Ferrini, attendees ended this year’s conference on a solid note.  I attended the workshop “Connecting With Community” by Karen Jackson of Faith Inclusion Network.  Karen is, as I describe her, a bridge-builder between church inclusion and secular resources.  Her presentation was an outstanding, detailed explanation of how to connect the two in your own church setting.

Exhausted and joyful after the Summit, those of us there lavished our love and appreciation on event coordinator extraordinaire, Rosie Oakley, without whom this conference would be possible.  Packing up our booths and our wares, we returned to the Crown Plaza hoping to recover a bit before dinner.  Several of us later reconvened to enjoy a meal together at The Cheesecake Factory in the mall across the highway from the hotel.

Dinner after the Summit 1Pictured above ministry friends from across America reunite one last time to share their work with one another

The evening extended the Summit as we learned more about one another’s ministries, filled ourselves with decadent cheesecake, and laughed ourselves to tears, especially over one attendee’s special “hat”.  As always seems the case, the night ended too soon, and bittersweet promises of “See you next year,” were exchanged.  Sleep came quite easily after two days of so much excitement.

When I awoke in the morning and I sent my dear roommate Jolene on her way to the airport, it felt much like the day you un-deck the halls after Christmas.  It was hard to see such a fulfilling weekend come to an end.  Yet, much to my delight, this certainly wasn’t the end!  I had the great pleasure of both riding the airport shuttle and taking the same flight as Deb and Mitch Bankes of New Hope Church’s Disability Ministry.  It was a treasure to continue conversation about the conference and our ministry stories as we fostered a new friendship.  Just one state and five hours away from one another, we discussed the notion of connecting again during the upcoming year.

The energy and encouragement of the Accessibility Summit now also continues online.  Many of us have been discussing how we ministry leaders can have non-working time together either before the Summit or another conference in the year ahead.  We are such a unique bunch with far fewer opportunities to connect than other pastors or ministry leaders, so being intentional about creating them is essential.

Please do yourself a favor and be certain to save the date for the 2014 Accessibility Summit to be held at McLean on April 4th and 5th.  As you can see, it is a “must attend” gathering.  Meanwhile, feel free to connect with so many of us on the Facebook Group “Special Needs and Disabilities Ministry Leaders Forum”.  We would love to include you in this exciting work that God is advancing to His glory!

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Pray for the Summit

Accessibility Summit

It’s been 4 years since I attended my first Accessibility Summit at McLean Bible Church in Vienna, VA.  All it took was one visit to this incredible conference to know that I wanted to return.  Amongst the nation’s largest disability ministry conferences, this well-run event offers an excellent, comprehensive array of workshops and exhibitors.

On its Facebook page, the Accessibility Summit describes the event as follows:

About

APRIL 19-20, 2013 This national conference is designed to offer a broad range of information and resources to individuals, families and caregivers, faith-based organizations, educators, and other professionals impacted by disability.

Mission

Celebrating its 13th year, this national conference is designed to offer a broad range of information and resources to individuals, families and caregivers, faith-based organizations, educators, and other professionals impacted by disability.

Description

The Accessibility Summit is a national disability conference taking place in the Washington, DC area on April 19-20, 2013. There will be 30 workshops and over 60 disability-related exhibitors.

Please be in prayer for the organizers, McLean Bible Church, the exhibitors, the attendees, and the following speakers:
  • Keynote Speaker: Emily Colson
  • Featured Speaker:  Clay Dyer
  • Featured Speakers: Cindi & Joe Ferrini
  • Monica Adler Werner
  • Dr. Jane Barbin
  • Faith Berens, Betty Statnick & Krisa Winn
  • Scott Campbell
  • Dr. Todd Davis
  • Kelly DeSenti
  • Barbara Dittrich
  • Kelly Dorfman
  • Mark Friese, Kelly Thompson & Rebecca Rubin
  • Katie Garvert
  • David Glover
  • Donna Goldbranson
  • Dr. Stephen Grcevich
  • Harmony Hensley
  • Jacqueline Hess
  • Jerry Hulick & Michael Toobin
  • Karen Jackson
  • Larry Jamieson
  • Anne Kirkland
  • Amy Kendall
  • Joshua Metz
  • Jackie Mills-Fernald, Sunny Coté, Rebecca Hamilton, Sib Charles & Cameron Doolittle
  • Dr. Andrew Morgan
  • Barbara Newman
  • Jolene Philo
  • Michelle Robinson & Kris Kampesi
  • Sarah Sfreddo
  • Linda, Emily & Mac Starnes
  • Dr. Jayne Sulllivan & Missy Sullivan
  • Tom Sweitzer
  • Tracy Terrill
  • Jill Thompson, Victoria Geis & Shirley Werth
  • Amy Wallish
  • Rene Ward
  • Katie Wetherbee

Watch for Summit wrap-up posts on Tuesday and Thursday of next week.

MNA 2

While the Accessibility Summit is in session, our friend, Stephanie Hubach will also be bringing together another outstanding crew for the Western Pennsylvania Disability Ministry Conference.  Gospel Felllowship Presbyterian Church in Valencia, PA will host the Friday evening through Sunday morning event.  Covering a broad range of topics, this conference is also sure to be a good one.  Please pray for Stephanie, the church, workshop presenters, and conference attendees.

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Collaborating Without Losing Our Separate Mission

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Anyone who has been a reader of this blog since its inception knows, I am a big fan of collaboration.  I think working together can multiply the reach.  I firmly believe that more gets done when no one cares who gets the credit.  And grantors love to see organizations working together, eliminating the waste of duplicated efforts.

Nevertheless, I think it is natural for those of us leading a ministry to wonder how we maintain our own identity, focusing on the mission we have been given while still collaborating.  Here are some thoughts:

  1. Actually HAVE a mission, a business plan on paper.  It’s easy to lose your identity as a ministry or organization if you don’t have one to begin with!  What is your mission?  How does this collaboration fit in with or compliment that mission?  You had better know going into the partnership unless you are willing to be either swallowed up by it or eliminated by it.
  2. Identify and remember what your ministry or organization is the “best in the world” at.  Nobody is able to do everything and do it well.  There are enough areas of special needs ministry for every leader to zero-in on a specific area or two of work to pursue with excellence.  Before you collaborate, make certain you know your core area of competency.
  3. Recognize what your ministry is in need of or lacking that you see another group doing with excellence.  Again, no organization can do it all and do it all well.  Great collaborations can be initiated when we are willing to accept the weaknesses of our own group.  Reaching out to others who exhibit strength in a given area can mark the beginning of some terrific teamwork.
  4. Define the collaboration.  What role will each ministry play?  Who is responsible for what finances?  Expectations and job definitions should be put in writing.
  5. Give the collaboration a life span.  Clearly define a beginning and ending date for your partnership.  If things are going well, you may make a mutual decision to extend the relationship or even unite your ministries in more permanent ways.  If the life span has served its purpose and is reaching a natural conclusion, both organizations can walk away with a sense of satisfaction.  If things haven’t worked out very well, you can look forward to the pre-appointed opportunity to escape the situation.

Each of these ideas will help you emerge from a collaboration with your own mission remaining intact, while also protecting each organization involved.

Image courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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