Getting Started in Children’s Ministries: Part 1 of 2

CONGRATULATIONS!

If you’re reading this post it’s probably because you’ve answered God’s call to serve in one of the greatest, largest, neediest, most challenging and most rewarding ministries on the globe: CHILDREN! Whether you’re a “wet-behind-the-ears whipper-snapper” or a seasoned ministry veteran needing a “kick-start,” here are some suggestions to keep in mind when considering Children’s Ministries:

1.  Do your homework.  Thoroughly check out the church or organization where you’re applying.  Find out as much as you can about them.  Visit their web site if they have one.  Ask for a copy of their By-laws.  Find out about the organization’s history, financial stability, future plans.  Talk to current and former members if you can.   Ask about leadership styles, institutional priorities  and perceptions.  Don’t assume that this suggestion doesn’t apply if you’re being recruited as an unpaid volunteer rather than as paid staff.  In the case of the former, it may apply more.

2.  Meet with the senior pastor one-on-one. If the senior pastor is reluctant to do so, or unable to find time to “fit you in,” that’s a clue regarding his attitude toward ministry to children.  In your meeting, have a list of questions ready.  Don’t be afraid to ask pointed questions.  This may help ferret out strengths or weaknesses that could be “make or break” down the road.

3.  Ask about your compensation package. This may be a little touchy, but  if the information isn’t offered up front, you’ll have to ask.  Getting specifics and clarity right off the bat is better than diving into murky water and expecting it to clear later.  If the church is “hiring” you as a volunteer, what kind of hours do they expect you to put in?  What are the ministry goals?  How will they be measured?  By whom?  What kind of support can you expect?

In this meeting, pay special attention to:

Non-verbal communication.  Seventy-five percent of all communication is non-verbal, so be sure to listen not just to what s/he’s saying, but how s/he says it. Carefully observe tone of voice, facial expression, posture, gestures, etc.  If the pastor’s mouth is saying one thing but his/her body language and non-verbals are communicating something else, politely decline the offer, pronto!

– Eye contact.  If the pastor can’t or won’t look you in the eye, take note!  That can indicate duplicity, a “hidden agenda” or some other “axe to grind.”   Don’t go there!

– What’s the pastor’s leadership style? Talk to others who’ve worked with the pastor.  Be sure to talk to those outside the church as well as within to get a more balanced picture.  What kind of feedback are you getting?  Consider: Will the pastor let you “run with the ball,” or does he insist on being the coach, referee, quarterback, kicker, equipment manager and grounds keeper in every game, on every play?  Is he nurturing or stifling?  Does he understand the difference between leadership and control?

– What is the reputation of this church or organization within the local community? Does the community see it as warm, welcoming, open and engaged, or as cold, ingrown, holier-than-thou and clique-y?  How do members serve one another and the neighborhood?  Do those outside the church/organization see it as as a caring, authentic body of believers or as a “religious club” catering to just the needs and interests of “club members”?

– Ask for clarification regarding your role. Besides the usual “data dump” related to salary, hours, office space, and such, ask what the expectations are for this job?   How does leadership see children’s ministry in relation to the rest of the church?  If you see your role as a professional and the pastor sees it as something less, take heed!

–  Is  Children’s Ministries  part of church leadership?  Is the C.M. leader part of the church board, council, etc.?  What input is expected regarding C.M.?  (If no input is requested or expected, that’s a clue regarding how senior leadership sees you and your job.)

How does leadership view children’s ministries? Related to the above, is church leadership committed to a vital ministry to children, or are children seen as a “frill” or “fringe” ministry?  How is leadership involved in ministry to children?  Is the organization willing to “put its money where its mouth is” – or are you expected to work wonders on a shoestring (or less)?

Is ministry to children viewed as a significant, vital  part of the overall life, ministry and goals of the church? If it’s viewed as peripheral, tangential or otherwise inconsequential, consider that the outfit may really be looking for a baby-sitting coordinator, and that’s not you.  Keep moving.

– What’s the volunteer pool look like? Is recruiting relatively easy, or is it like pulling teeth?  Are elders/deacons actively engaged in ministry to children?

What plans or strategies are in place – or under development – to include ministering to parents so they can minister to their kids?

– Is the pastor and church leadership willing and ready to support you fully, or do you get a sense that you’ll be thrown in to “sink or swim” on your own, with only nominal or no support?

– Do you have responsiblity without authority? Can you make decisions and make them “stick” – or does everything you say, do, and think have to run up the bureaucratic ladder?  What decisions need pastoral approval and which can you make yourself?

– What personal and spiritual enrichment opportunities are available?

Part 2 – Volunteer Leadership, followed by a three-part mini-series on Social Media and Ministry.

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