Once you’ve had a chance to sort through some of the questions and points posed previously and you’re on board in your new role, resist the temptation to “hit the ground running.” Beware of making major changes or shifts right out of the chute. This can easily lead to distrust or resentment from the “Old Guard” or the “but we’ve always done it that way” contingent.
Hit the Ground Listening
Children’s Pastors/Directors are usually creative, passionate, high-energy types. Slowing down and “hitting the ground listening” may not come naturally – or easily – but some serious time invested in listening to those around you – staff, parents, kids, etc. – is crucial. Accurately hearing what people are saying – as well as what they’re not saying – may not only spare you some unnecessary grief and confusion down the road, but it’ll also build your credibility. Approachability is key. It’s something you’ll have to “advertise” as well as cultivate with parents, kids and everyone else. (Note: This doesn’t mean letting people run you over, treat you like a door mat or otherwise disrespect you. It means cultivating a moldable heart, a teachable spirit, a listening ear and an open door whenever possible.)
Springboarding and Storming
If you’re new to Children’s Ministries, consider some of these questions as a place to jump-start the strategic planning and creative thought processes. Better yet, bake up some brownies, pour some lemonade, sit down with some like-minded folks and and use these as a springboard into a brain-storming session on the subject. Don’t forget to bring your Bibles!
– Why do we have Children’s Ministries?
– What is “Children’s Ministries”? What is it not?
– What about “spiritual formation”?
– What do we want to accomplish in Children’s Ministries? How are we going to get there?
– What’s our main objective? Mission statement?
– What is God’s heart toward kids? What does He want us to be doing?
– What’s our biblical mandate for ministering to children?
– Who can we invite to join the team?
– How do we involve parents?
– Where will we get solid prayer supporters?
– Where are we weak? What’s not working? What complaints, problems, issues or concerns do you hear? How will we address them? (Note we said “address,” not cover up, deflect, or ignore. The latter approach doesn’t solve anything and may only exacerbate a bad situation.)
– What’s our strategy for accomplishing what we want to do, for becoming what we want to be?
As Bill Hybels points out in his review of George Barna’s Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions, Why Children Should Be Your Church’s #1 Priority, very few churches have or are willing to substantively invest in making ministry to children a top priority. If that’s the case in your church, what and where do you need to flex, grow, revise, revamp, update, round-file, enhance, augment, strengthen or toss?
What philosophical/institutional changes need to be made to accomplish the mission? Some questions to consider:
- In what ways will we need to change our weekend structure and other programming/ministry to accommodate space and time for our children to more fully experience God and His Word?
- How will we communicate these goals to parents and children?
- How will this affect the overall annual calendar?
- Are there any events, practices, curriculum, mindsets or structures that violate these principles? If so, what are they? If identified, how will we go about revising or eliminating them?
- Are there any events, practices, curriculum, or structures that are missing that support these principles? If so, how can we obtain them or integrate them into our existing paradigm?
- What are we willing to give up or sacrifice in order to make this a reality?
- What are we unwilling to give up or sacrifice?
- In what ways have we been unintentionally blinded by tradition, existing practices, paradigms, assumptions, or recycled curriculum that we need to abandon immediately?
- How can we ensure that we are not merely “adding on” children’s ministry, but that we are fundamentally adopting a new approach to thinking and being?
- How will we be inspirational in our approach?
- How can we cast a compelling vision to those we are leading?
- How and who will serve as role models, specifically, to those who are unsure or unaware of a new approach? Who do we need to recruit?
- What is one thing I can do today that will allow me to be better equipped to lead this charge?
- How will I engage others in this process? How can I inspire them with this new direction? What resources will I need to help me do this?
Parents play a vital role in the spiritual formation process, both as being spiritually responsible before God, but also as the church has chosen to partner with parents to implement and achieve this process. Questions to consider related to parents include:
- How will parents need to be inspired by this new philosophical/institutional direction?
- Who is responsible for this inspiration and how will it be unveiled and executed?
- How will parents need to be equipped? What kinds of events, information, classes, training and teaching opportunities will be available to ensure that every parent understands the philosophy and has the opportunity to be empowered to implement it in their home?
- What resources will be needed to equip/support our parents? Finances? Classroom space? Ministry priorities? Time? Staff?
- What specifically will be expected from our parents?
- How often will we offer practical opportunities for parent education and support?
- How will we communicate with our parents on a regular basis and give them updates?
- How will parents offer feedback to us? What tools are available?
- What tools may need to be developed and put into play, and upon whom will the responsibility rest for so doing?
Ministry to Children?
This is a vast subject and we’re just touching the basics here. Questions to consider in ministering to children include:
- How will we inspire and communicate a new path of spiritual formation and growth to our children?
- What are the desired outcomes within this paradigm? How do we measure them, and who does the “measuring”?
- In what ways will we adapt our language in order to make sure that all grades participate in and understand the path before them?
- In what way will we solicit feedback from them, if any?
- How will we discern the diverse but complimentary roles of church and home in this model? Who will be responsible for articulating each role in the life of a child/parent?
- What types of child involvement in this process will be encouraged? How will they be able to shape this formation process for themselves…especially in the upper elementary grades?
As you can see, ministry to children is serious business. Properly planned, prepared and implemented, Children’s Ministries harbors tremendous potential for impacting the world for Christ! It goes far beyond Sunday morning baby-sitting or a sloppy, haphazard approach that equates “ministry” with entertainment or a “keep the young ‘uns occupied so they don’t interfere with the adults” attitude. Effective ministry to children requires leadership, careful thought, strategic planning, vision, resources, teamwork, support, and prayerful undergirding. These are just some suggestions to get you going.
Also, here’s a great article on “Basics 101,” or What You Need to Know the First Three Years of Your Ministry. Check it out!
Now it’s your turn. If you’re a Children’s Ministries Director, Pastor, Sunday school teacher, parent or children’s volunteer, what are your ideas? What’s worked and what hasn’t? Share your experiences and observations. Let’s learn together and look for more victories in ministry to children!
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Join us next time for Getting Started in Children’s Ministries.