Burnout: What Is It and What To Do.

I’m resurrecting the blog! Why? Because I genuinely like writing. I’m not necessarily super good at it. I change tenses, will occasionally have a typo, and write conversationally, rather than formally.

But a podcast reminded me to quit listening to “the jerk.”

“The jerk” is the voice in my head saying, “don’t do it.”

Will I only get one – or maybe a handful of readers? Probably yes.

Is it all stuff you could read somewhere else or that you’ve heard before? Also, probably yes.

But it’s my blog. I like writing, and so I am.

When we left off, I had written about what burnout might look like. It doesn’t always look like a moral failure or something earth-shatteringly dramatic. Sometimes it looks normal until…BAM!

Didn’t see that coming!

I saw some warning signs with my son this summer and then one night…BAM!

He collapsed due to fatigue and dehydration, passed out for 5-8 minutes and we were on our way to the ER.

He’s fine now, and we were able to squeeze in a few fun things (would you like to go to the hospital via ambulance or via ferry boat on a sunny day?)

Within 24-hours of him collapsing and being taken to the ER, he was back on stage.

So today, I’m not going to give you all of the warning signs of burnout. When I tell you “how” to recognize it, the first thing I’ll do is tell you to surround yourself with people who will speak truth into your life.

My youngest son sometimes says, “Mom, put down your phone and talk to your family.” So, I do.

My youngest daughter sits in the front seat next to me in the car and when I’m tempted to check my phone at while at a red light, she stops me.

I’ve ceded control of my phone while in the car to whoever is riding with me.

Those may seem like small, minor things. But to our family, they make a big difference.

We’ve been operating in this mode for a few months – I’ve seen a difference.

Let me stop here and say that I have read – and I believe – that balance is a myth. I’m either growing or dying. Healthy things grow. Inactivity is stagnation. Stagnant things are dying.

However, I do believe in sabbath rest.

So, here are the ways I get there – and I’m able to do it on my busiest days when my “to-do” list seems endless:

  1. Surround yourself with the right people. I’ve already told you about my two youngest children. They are rock stars. My husband is awesome and so are my two oldest children. They tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear.
  2. Set some hardline boundaries. I have about a 36 hour window each week that I absolutely will not work (at my primary job).
  3. Limit the side hustles for a season. If you’re truly on the brink of burnout, limit the side hustles. Focus only on your primary job for awhile. Another tactic: don’t accept any side hustles without first talking to your boss about how it may impact your work. If you’re not rested or your family is suffering, your work suffers. So if your side hustles mean you’re not truly resting and investing in your family, they’ll eventually impact your work. Limit them if needed.
  4. Look at hours, not days. If the thought of an entire day off seems like too much, take hours at a time.
  5. Compartmentalize your duties. There are aspects of my job that I don’t love. It’s why it’s called, ‘work’ and it’s why they pay me. I do those things during office hours only. There are other aspects of my job that I love. They are genuinely fun. Sometimes more fun than whatever sport my fantastic family is watching on t.v.. I’ll do those things at home. For fun.
  6. Add rest to your “to-do” list. Just yesterday, I added ‘read a book,’ and ‘take a nap’ to my to-do list.
  7. Use YouVersion. I’m in a YouVersion devotional with a few friends. Do this regularly to make sure you stay in God’s word.
  8. Make friends outside of church. Some of my best friends do not attend our church. Some of them work for other churches, some have other careers.
  9. Is it your church or your job? Before I started working at our church, I told my boss that my family had to be “all in.” We visited and they loved it from the start. My husband said, “THAT was a breath of fresh air.” My kids loved it, too. I know that even if I didn’t work there, our family would attend there and I’d likely serve the church by doing exactly what I’m doing now. If it’s only a job to you, I’ll be blunt: consider looking for another job.
  10. Remember the words of Romans 8:28. God works all things for good. Not some things. All things. Even crazy schedules and long to-do lists.

If you’re anything like me, the to-do list can grow out of control sometimes. It’s a challenge to keep it under control. But I also know God has called me to this crazy thing called “ministry” and I cannot imagine doing anything other than what I do.

It’s a weird cycle. I’m not defined by what I do – I know that first and foremost I’m a child of God. Don’t miss that. But I also know how God has designed me and wired me. I know my purpose.

I also know I’m in it for the long-haul, not the short-term so I have to find ways and times to rest, invest in my own relationship with God, and stay healthy, without falling into laziness or making excuses for things not getting done.

Hopefully this has helped you – even a little bit – if you’re struggling with boundaries or burn-out, send me a message. I’d love to talk to you.

For now, I’m preparing for next week and beyond.

New content coming each week: process, progress, assimilation, sustainability, forms, church management software, family, and whatever else comes to mind.

The Administrative Role and Communications

A few months ago I had a chance to record a video for the That Church Summit. I prepared my content and knew exactly what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.

Unfortunately, the day came to record the video and I had a cold. A runny nose, scratchy throat, eyes watering cold. It also happened to be a cold day. A really cold day. And we were filming in a room that had the heat turned down. Something about bright lights, camera and recording equipment, and proper temperatures. Evidently recording equipment and heat aren’t necessarily friends.

If you happened to catch my video – I apologize. I’m much better at writing than I am at video delivery.

With that being said, I thought I’d give you the written version of my one and only That CC appearance.

My topic was The Administrative Role and Communications.

Some people are surprised to know that I’m our Lead Pastor’s Executive Assistant. Some of my counterparts at other churches have expressed surprise that I’m not the Communications Director. One person said he thought I was full-time in communications.

As the Executive Assistant, I get to play a strong role in helping our Pastor with our web site, social media, graphic design, and database management.

You may have a similar official title: administrative assistant, ministry assistant, or church secretary. And you may also have been handed the responsibility of maintaining the web site, handling social media, or graphic design.

Here’s a few things that have helped me in my position and I hope they will help you as well.

EVERYTHING COMMUNICATES

The first thing to remember is that everything communicates. Whether it’s creating a web site landing page, a postcard to promote an event, or the weekly bulletin, it’s form of communication in your church. You are communicating something to someone. Even answering your church phone is a form of church communication.

DON’T DO IT ALONE

Don’t try to be an expert at everything at first – or ever. One of my favorite venn diagrams is made of three circles. The circles are labeled: affinity, ability, and affirmation. Where those three meet is your sweet spot. For example: I’ve been told that I’m good with kids (affirmation). I know I have the ability to care for children (all four of mine are still living). I don’t particularly love serving in children’s ministry (no affinity).

When it comes to communications, I love (affinity) working with the database and creating social media content. I’ve been told I’m good at both (affirmation), and I have the skill to do what I need to do (ability). Our Lead Pastor is smart (totally hope he’s reading right now…) and allows me time to stay focused in these areas.

I’m blessed to have some very high capacity volunteers that serve our church in areas of web content and development, Sunday morning production, and photography.

YOUR TOOLS

As you venture into communication, you’re likely to have a lot of questions (I took classes for what I do and I still found myself using Google to look up “pixels to inches converter.” You might even be searching: “what are pixels.” Know this: that is okay. There is no such thing as a bad question. Ever.

INVEST IN YOURSELF

You may need to set aside time for training and – let’s be real – this training may need to be on your own time and your own dime.

Give up the Starbucks. Take a few classes online or at a local community college, pay to join a premium Facebook group.

If your church has it in the budget, that’s fantastic. If not, you may need to make an investment.

You’re learning a new skill – you are worth it!

WHAT ARE YOU COMMUNICATING?

Remember that everything communicates rule?

What and how you communicate is very important.

  • Watch your first impressions team (Your guests are probably watching you online before coming for a first visit. Make sure you’re giving an accurate representation of who you are).
  • Be engaging with your community. Your online presence is more than event promotion. We partnered with a local coffee shop to give teachers free coffee on the first day of school. We frequently do give-aways for $10 gift cards for coffee or pizza.
  • Show people who you are; not just what you do. Give glimpses into the personal lives of staff members and volunteers.
  • Sometimes non-professional videos are better than professional videos. We’ve gotten some of our highest engagement when I’ve taken rough cell phone video of things happening in the office.
  • Develop a brand/style guide. Giving volunteers clear parameters of what’s expected when it comes to brand and style will help avoid any confusion.
  • Use a communications form for events and announcements. A form is a good way for ministry leaders to put all of their thoughts in one place. You can make sure submitted forms are available to your team. It saves the ministry leaders’ and your valuable time. Fifteen minutes to fill out a form takes less time than fifteen back-and-forth emails, sometimes over the course of fifteen days.
  • Use your administrative tools to provide data and metrics. Ministry leaders love their ministry. Your children’s leaders love children’s events and think they are the most important things happening in the life of the church. Your men’s ministry leaders love men’s ministry events and think they are the most important things happening in the life of the church. Your women’s ministry leaders? Yes, them too! It’s what makes them good at and suited for what they do! With your administrative tools, you are in a unique position to provide the data that will help them best reach their target audience.

MAKE IT EASY

Structure everything you do from the outside in. Children’s check-in on Sunday morning should be easy. All event registrations should be viewed through the lens of someone who has never been to a church. Sure, it may take some extra work on your part, but it’s worth it when you begin to see those connections. Make sure your web site is clear and easy to navigate. Ask your counterparts at other churches to audit it for you every once in a while and be open to their suggestions.

THE MAIN EVENT

While all ministries and events are important, the most important thing you will do is set up your Lead Pastor for success. People may connect through another ministry or event, but all avenues lead to your main service – the auditorium or sanctuary – ‘the big room.’ Everything you do has to reflect your Pastor’s communication style.

If your Lead Pastor wears a three-piece suit, preaches from the King James Version, and your church is liturgical, your online presence should reflect that.

If your Lead Pastor is a little more relaxed, casual in his delivery, and inserts jokes into his sermons, your online presence should reflect that.

I have said it before, but it bears repeating: people are watching you online – your web site and social media channels – before visiting. Make sure your online communications accurately reflect what they will see and hear at your church.

SET UP EVERYONE ELSE FOR SUCCESS

In your administrative role, you are always setting up other people for success. This means that as your church grows, you may continue to fill an administrative role, while someone else steps into a more prominent communications role – or you may move into a more prominent communications role while someone else fills your current administrative role.

I want to stop here and ask you to read two verses:

Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith. – Hebrews 13:7 (CSB)

Obey your leaders[a] and submit to them, since they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. – Hebrews 13:17 (CSB)

Our only call is to observe our spiritual leaders, imitate their faith, and obey them. Your Lead Pastor and your senior leadership team have a great weight on their shoulders as they lead the church. In an administrative role – even in some communications roles – you may not have the same authority of decision-making that falls on their shoulders. Your only call is to obey their instruction.

As you continue to balance your roles, make it easier for others to help you by:

  • Centralizing file access by using Google Drive or Dropbox.
  • Sharing passwords to stock photo or digital asset sites.
  • Saving documents as .pdf’s for easy printing (not everyone has access to or is familiar with Adobe software).

And finally…

You are not just setting up the next person for success,  you are setting up the next generation for success. Because you get to play a small part in building the Church (notice the capital ‘C’) for generations to come.

You are not just communicating to connect people to your church, you are communicating to connect people to a relationship with Jesus.


People (Continued)

As we’ve established, I love helping people take their next steps. Just yesterday – even after oral surgery – I was able to help someone find a small group and an area of service. It was energizing – even during the time of day that the oral surgeon told me I’d be tired!

But even with that being said, my comfort zone still falls squarely behind a computer screen. When dealing with people, I prefer email or text.

Gratefully, our Lead Pastor sometimes understands how my brain is wired and has allowed me to serve in a capacity that helps people take their next steps. At our church, we call it the “What’s Next” desk. It’s in a perfect place – out of the way, not obstructing traffic flow, and in a place where guests can stop by just before leaving the building.

For some special events, we might ask guests to stop by What’s Next and find out about our church.

For our last major event, we relocated the What’s Next desk to another part of the lobby (it’s on wheels). It was still off to the side – visible, but not obnoxiously in the way.

For Christmas Eve, we’ve had a donation of some cool coffee mugs, filled with candy and other treats. We’ll ask people to stop by What’s Next, sign our digital guestbook, and then we’ll draw names for some give-aways.

This is where it gets interesting.

I asked our Director of Worship Ministries where he’d like the What’s Next desk on Christmas Eve? His answer: Centrally located in the lobby.

Centrally located.

Centrally.

Really?

Yes.

Also, could you position it so that people can’t get behind it?

I’m pretty sure he hasn’t thought that through.

Or has he?

Because if people can’t get behind it…

and I’m a person…

then logic tells me that I cannot be behind it.

I came home and whined to my kids.

“People are trying to convince me that I’m a people person.”

“You are!”

I should also remind them that I pay their car insurance and their cell phone bills.

Would that make me a people person?

I do love helping people take their next steps.

Process.

Progress.

People.

Prayer.

As I pray, God is revealing that He’s using some special people (there’s that word again!) to help me take mine.

It’s not fine.

broken glass

“It’s fine.”

I say that often.

Most people around me have learned that by vocal inflection, that phrase can mean different things.

It really is fine.

It’s not fine, but we’ll deal with it [later].

It’s not that great, but good enough.

And I also remind people that God is working, even when we are not.

Nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to have a fully functioning web site or award-winning social media. If a ministry doesn’t get promoted, God will still continue to work in and through that ministry.

But the Bible does instruct us to share His story, to tell others of His greatness, to do our work with excellence – as if working for Him, and to use the gifts, talents, and abilities He gave us to serve,  honor, glorify, and point others to Him. (That was one sentence, folks!)

So at the end of the day, even when it isn’t really fine, it is fine. Because we serve a God that is greater than anything that’s not fine.

But what about when it isn’t fine?

Last week, I edited a response form.

I realized after a few edits that it really needed to be archived and I needed to create a new form.

Because of my knowledge of   love for   neurotic obsession with our church management software, our web site, and other communication channels, creating a form is no small task.

What’s the header image?

What are the automations?

Is it connected to a group or event?

Who gets notifications?

Who are the form managers?

Is this promoted anywhere?

Is it connected to a button on the web site?

Do we need a url redirect?

Is the information correct on announcement slides? In the bulletin?

So, after the form was created, checked, double checked, and linked to our web site, I sent the final product to one of our Elders.

He asked for one update to the web site and said the form was good to go.

Good. To. Go.

On Sundays I get to serve at our “What’s Next” desk. (Your church may call it “Next Steps.”) It’s a place where our guests can register for upcoming events, connect with a small group or ministry team leader, or find out more information about something they saw or read about.

We have three tablets which display quick links to our current response and sign up forms.

The Elder who I had worked with this week walked over and began scrolling through the forms.

It wasn’t there.

A simple setting in Church Community Builder: the box next to ‘display on list of forms’ had not been checked.

I apologized. I could not believe that I had overlooked that last step.

And he looked at me and said, “it’s fine.”

No. It’s not fine.

I asked him to send a text or email to remind me to make the correction.

I decided then and there to stop saying, “it’s fine” when it really isn’t.

It’s time to tackle issues, address problems, fix things that are broken, and work better, smarter, and harder today than we did yesterday.

The next time you hear me say, “it’s fine,” it really will be.

Making Someone Else Famous

stage tech

This week I got to help our Lead Pastor with something.

He’s also my boss, so I hope I’ve helped him with many things this week.

But this particular thing  was pretty darn cool and he was happy with the process.

I’m being purposely cryptic because there are a few other people I hope get credit for the final product.

There are a few books that sit near the top of my all-time favorites:

Who’s Holding Your Ladder

How To Lead When You’re Not In Charge

Leading From The Second Chair

Do you detect a theme?

God’s given me a few gifts. Over the years, he’s put people in my life to help me find the place where ability, affinity, and affirmation all meet together.

Every day, He’s providing opportunities to help me become more like His son, Jesus.

In using my gifts, talents, and abilities to serve others, I get to help make other people famous.

How do you feel when someone else gets credit for something you did?

If you’re honest, you probably get a twinge of jealousy.

For me, it’s the exact opposite.

God knows what I do.

I have a small circle of trustworthy people who speak into my life and know what I do.

But I hope a majority of people never know.

God has called me to use my gifts and talents to make someone else famous: Him.

Discomfort

man on crutches

Yesterday I was talking with a friend. Her church had recently implemented a First Time Guest tent – outside the building. At their church, it’s a place where first time guests go, receive a gift, and meet someone who can answer questions and take them to another destination – the worship center, children’s check-in, etc.

They moved their Next Steps desk inside the building to a corner that’s quiet – which lends itself to easier conversation.

The changes they made are nothing new. Many churches across the country have similar designs.

However, her executive team gave her an argument, “we want our volunteers to be comfortable.”

I gave her a counter argument: was Jesus comfortable when he was hanging on a cross?

What we really want to do is equip our volunteers to do the job they’ve been called to do.

So, let’s take a step back and look at volunteer recruitment and WHY we volunteer.

I love our church. I’m grateful to be where I am. Most aspects of my job I get paid to do. There are other things I willingly do as a volunteer. Among my counterparts at other churches, this is common.

I volunteer in these areas out of obedience to God. I don’t do it out of guilt, or to fill a void. I do it because God has called me to do it. God has never promised His calling will be easy. He did promise it would be worth it.

If I were to volunteer in any other area, that area would suffer. (Ask me sometime about my brief stint in pre-school and children’s ministry.)

As part of serving God, there have been sacrifices and discomfort. I’ve sacrificed financially, I’ve sacrificed time with my family, I’ve been cold, hot, hungry, wet, and uncaffeinated.

But I’ve never been hanging on a cross.

 

Define Passion

Worship Jesus

Last night I got to watch my son play guitar in a band that was leading worship for about 1,000 people – mostly teenagers.

But what struck me the most wasn’t his talent. And it wasn’t the deafening roar of the crowd responding to the band. It also was not the fact that teenage girls were asking for his autograph.

What struck me the most were the times he pulled back. The times when he stepped up to the mic, sang a few words of a line, and backed up as the lead singers continued. The times he took his hands off his guitar and raised them in worship.

My son’s been playing guitar for about 7 years. He started playing in his church’s worship band around 5 years ago. Recently he’s assumed the role of Worship Leader for the youth group.

Just after high school, someone asked him what he wanted to do. He said he wants to be a worship leader. Someone said, “you already are a worship leader. You just want to get paid for it; have it be your job.”

This summer he’s part of the band leading worship at a beach camp operated by our state’s Baptist convention. The Baptist convention also organizes the band, and the drama teams. Over the years, I have heard people say they don’t like “denominational politics.” I am not even sure I have enough knowledge of the subject of denominational politics to form an opinion. But what I saw this weekend – all operated by our state’s denomination – was well-organized and pointed to Jesus.

My son loves to play (with) his guitar. He’s loved music since he was a baby and from the first time he had a guitar in his hands, he couldn’t keep his hands off of it. When he wasn’t learning how to play, he was fiddling with the strings or just tapping it.

Over the years, we’ve heard noise from that guitar at inappropriate times.

“Be quiet. We’re trying to sleep.” Guitar.

The Pastor is praying. Guitar.

The Pastor is preaching. Guitar.

The sound booth asks all musicians to be silent while they check the mic of a singer. Guitar.

The worship leader actually asked him to stop once. I don’t think he did.

He strummed unconsciously. And even strummed air guitar when his guitar wasn’t in his hands.

So last night, I saw him consciously and deliberately pull back and worship. And I saw growth. I saw a teachable spirit. And I saw someone willing to give up – even for a brief moment – what he loves – for Jesus.

And later that evening, one of the people serving with him said, “I love serving with your son. Matt has defined passion for me.”

Defined passion.

What does this have to do about progress? And processes?

Tomorrow morning people will walk into your church for the first time. Some will have preconceived notions of what church is – organized religion, denominational politics.

What will you do to show them that you’re different?

How will you teach them? How will you tell your story? And His story?

How will you move them from the “I want,” to the “you are?”

What will you give up – even for a brief second –  to help someone see  Jesus?

Define passion.

Ministry and Money

dollar sign notebook

Ministry and money. Talking about the two together in the same conversation sort of freaks people out. For me, it’s like someone talking about snakes. Never okay. Writing about ministry and money can be difficult. But, this time – for me – it’s not.

Because I have a story to tell and, well, as you’ll soon see – it all points to God. And He wants us to tell people about Him.

Please don’t take what I’m about to write as some “prosperity Gospel.” It’s not. It is about choices, commitment, and obedience. Yes, at the end of this story, I received a blessing, but it was long-awaited and I’m summarizing in a short post, a story that could take hours to tell.

A few years ago, I found that sweet spot where ability, affinity, and affirmation all meet. I love guest services, and more specifically, seeing people take their next steps and get connected to the church. The time between first-time-guest to membership class (at our church we call it Partnership Class – you may call it something different at your church) is my absolute favorite! Assimilation is one of my favorite words. Following up with our guests when they “check the box on the card” will drive me to commit hours as service almost equal to the number of hours for which I get paid.

My son and I go to Guatemala on missions trips. They cost money. In Guatemala, I serve with our medical/dental team. Medical and dental supplies cost money. My kids like to go to church camps and retreats. Those cost money.

So when I told our Pastor I’d like to take the hospitality at some of our connections events to the next level, I also told him I’d commit some of our own personal funds to make that happen.

Why? Because I’m passionate about the ministry – I’m committed to do whatever it takes. And I know this is the ministry to which God has called me. Even when I’m tired, I’m committed to it – out of obedience to Him. When I know a Partnership Class is coming up, I budget for small things – bottled water, k-cups, chocolate, mints.

So a few weeks ago, at the grocery store, I was buying our family’s groceries and a few extra things for a church event and I maxed out my weekly budget. (I actually went $4 over budget, so if you know my husband, don’t tell him. Oh wait, he might be reading.)

Anyhow, after leaving the grocery store, I realized I had to pick up prescriptions. Funny thing – a stroke leads to several new medical expenses. We don’t have the best insurance. For some reason we have both high premiums and high deductibles. That doesn’t lend itself to a lot of margin in our budget.

So pulling into the pharmacy, I had a dreaded realization: I may need to use the credit card.

The cashier said to me, “it looks like you’ve met  your deductible. Your prescriptions won’t cost you today.”

Yes. I walked out of the pharmacy holding what should have been $250 in prescription medication without paying a dime.

If I told you these things happened all the time, I’d be lying. They don’t. Over the years, we’ve made a lot of sacrifices for ministry-related items and church-related expenses. It’s taken a lot of faith, trust, and sacrifice.

But that day God gave our family an unexpected blessing.

Take your next step. Give. Serve. It may not be easy. Do it anyway. God’s already given you the ultimate gift of his son, Jesus. We couldn’t ask for anything more. But maybe – just maybe – you’ll have a cashier say to you, “this won’t cost you today.”

Rewind: A Recap

repeat remote rewind

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to lead Digital Bootcamp for my friend, Tom Pounder. Tom decided to have me revisit an article I wrote over a year ago for another friend of ours, Kenny Jahng.

I talked about using all of our digital assets to get people connected to, and assimilated into, the life of our church . But not just to church – we’re getting them connected to Jesus.

Here’s a recap:

Make sure your digital first impressions match what people will experience at church. If your church is fun and high energy, reflect that on your social media and your web site. If your church is a little more traditional, reflect that. Make sure you listen to each sermon and let your Lead Pastor set the tone for what you’re doing.

Use all of your digital assets available. We recently launched a texting service that allows us to connect with guests from the moment they walk in the door. We launched an online community group, and we have live chat available on our web site.

Make sure your internal communications (ie, workflows) are in order so that what you share externally is accurate. For example, if you share on social media that it’s time to sign up for an event and share a link, make sure that link is live and active.

Equip your volunteers. You’ve worked hard all week to make sure your web site and response/RSVP forms are live and active. You’ve created social media posts to promote events. Make sure you give all of your volunteers the information they need to answer guests questions on-site on Sunday. Avoid the “I Don’t Know” factor.

And finally – remember it’s about people. And getting them connected to Jesus. Stay on top of trends and listen to your guests’ stories. A few months ago, a printing error resulted in the ’email’ line being omitted from our response cards one week. No one caught it until after service on Sunday and I was moderately stressed. But just last week, a guest brought me a card with the email line blank. When I asked her for her email she said, “I don’t check my email, can you text me?”

In this fast-paced world, we have to be willing to adapt accordingly.

Our Pastor preached an amazing sermon this morning about what our church will do reach people. One of the things he said was, “we will leverage everything within our reach to help people find and follow Jesus.”

“we will leverage everything within our reach to help people find and follow Jesus.”

I’m grateful for a church that embraces technology, change, and people.

 

 

Five Things I’ve Learned This Year About Assimilation

school hallway door

We are a homeschooling family. And yes, I work outside the home. I have regular office hours and I volunteer. And we’ve made it work thanks to family, friends, and an awesome computer-based curriculum that allows my children to do ‘school’ from almost anywhere.

We have four kids. That’s four distinctly different personalities and four different sets of needs. So last year, we decided that one of our children may fare better in public school.

He was entering 5th grade – in our county that’s the last year of elementary school. Which means there was a high likelihood that the rest of the kids (and parents) had been together already for 5 years (K-4th).

Our family had some new things to learn and I learned a few things about assimilation.

1. Tell people what to expect.

On orientation day, I had no idea where to park, which door to enter, and where to go once I was in the building. It wasn’t too hard to figure out, but knowing in advance would have eased some anxiety. Our church publishes a social media post every Saturday morning telling people what to expect on campus.

2. Assume people don’t know.

When we walked in on orientation day, we checked in and then were told that my son’s teacher was in the gym. So I had to ask, “where is the gym?” At church, assume people don’t know. Try not to use acronyms or insider language.

3. Get your internal processes in order.

I visited the cafeteria on orientation day. I asked how to set up a lunch account and was directed to a web site. “Do I need any information once I log on?” “No. It’s very self-explanatory.” Once I logged on, the first piece of information it asked for was his student ID number. I didn’t have a student ID number. When I called the school to ask about it, they said new student ID numbers would go out “within a few weeks.” Take a look at your processes – do an audit to find any changes that need to be made.

4. Connect people to people.

It can be very uncomfortable to walk into a new place – not knowing anyone – especially when you realize that everyone else has known each other for years. What I wouldn’t have done for someone to “hold our hands” those first few weeks. Consider the benefits of someone acting as Next Steps Director (chief hand-holder) at your church.

5. Make information accessible and over-communicate.

This is something the school did quite well. Every Sunday afternoon we received a phone call and text letting us know what to expect in the week ahead. Our Son’s teacher sent texts often. There were a few rare instances where we didn’t have the information we needed, but a majority of the time, our son’s teacher communicated well. In our churches, regular communication is important. Do a communications audit – your bulletin, announcement slides, web site, social media, and any other assets. Are they regularly updated? Are you communicating clearly?

Our son graduated last week. He’s moving on to middle school. I’m grateful for our time at that school and for the lessons we all learned.