I’d just left four years of theological college behind and landed my first full time job as a children’s pastor. I was thrilled to have landed a job at a church that cared so much about kids and families, they put serious dollars towards a person who could lead their team.
The size of the kid’s ministry on Sunday mornings was a bit daunting. Previously I’d lead small teams and small kids’ ministries of around 30 kids. This position was for over 130 kids! Yet despite my bible college education and years of experience in volunteer Christian ministry, I was about to make the biggest blunder. A blunder that could be averted if the whole church, from parents to pastors, had the right mindset.
I’m not blaming anyone else…it was my fault. I take responsibility.
What was it? How can you avoid it?
What have parents got to do with it?
Let’s set the scene:
Before my time the kid’s Sunday church had grown to 140 kids and had been led for a couple of years by a charismatic, enthusiastic, leader who had drawn a large group of volunteer leaders behind her. Well done, you go girl! When that leader left a huge deficit was left behind…how do you fill her shoes? Another female leader was appointed, this time from outside their church and she had a tough time keeping up with the demands and expectations of the role; basically, it was very hard to fill the first leader’s shoes. After one year in the job, the second leader moved on…then I came along. As I write this…I realise that I actually made two big mistakes, we’ll leave this one for another time, but the bigger of the two I was about to make as I took over the reins.
Whenever leadership changes, I’ve noted that it’s a catalyst for people to move, change, drop out or sign up for volunteer roles. So, even before I arrived, significant numbers of leaders had left the kids church ministry. But it didn’t stop there…nope the blood loss of leaders kept flowing. Man, that makes you feel bad. But, hey you’ve just arrived…surely it can’t be all you, right?
In reality some people take longer to leave…but should’ve left at the end of the previous year. That’s cool, no hard feelings. But as the team shrinks…you start to freak out…how on earth are we going to service this enormous kid church…I mean if it was tight with 20 leaders, how you going to manage with 10?
What’s the solution...apart from prayer?
Big mistake you’ll make is...
You’ll get desperate and reach out for leaders…anyone…please…we’re drowning here!
Seems like the obvious thing to do, right? I mean once you’ve prayed…isn’t that the next step…make an announcement, share a post on social to your church website…and wait for people to volunteer?
What is at stake?
The problem with general advertising for leaders at your church is that we are seeking godly leaders who have the right attitude and are suitable for working with kids. Given recent horrors around church abuse of kids, we cannot simply ask anyone to lead amongst our kids.
Here's a solution...
Step 1…we need to select our leaders carefully. Each person needs to be identified, encouraged and ‘screened’ as being suitable for ministry with our kids. How can we do this if we make a general, public call for leaders? We’ll end up with some folk that really aren’t gifted toward kids’ ministry and who may even be inappropriate.
So, ask yourself…does our church have a process in place, it might be informal, whereby we actively watch out for suitable people we can then encourage, after making sure they are safe for kids, to be involved in kids’ ministry?
Step 2…we need to train leaders not plug holes
People are our greatest resource and we need to love them and value them for who they are not just what they can do to plug our latest leaky boat. That’s why we need a training mindset.
So, ask yourself, ‘what does a training mindset look like? Do we have one at our church? How are parents involved?’
Right now, and for only a couple more days some friends of mine, Dick and Jonathan Hardy at Leaders.Church in the US are offering a free checklist and video series to help you get cracking on leadership training.
In the southern hemisphere at least, right now, spring, is a great time to be thinking about leaders for next year. We start afresh in January and it’s a time for people to make a move. Why not get stuck into the free resources Dick and Jonathan have so that you can start making valuable changes to your ministry for the new year.
No doubt, they’ll have a bigger course on offer shortly, and if you do decide to go for that, I may end up with a commission…but there’s no obligation. So, grab the freebies, check out the full course on offer in a few days and get cracking on what is the most important thing you can be doing to develop your ministry to kids and expand its impact for God’s glory:
Future Proof Your Ministry - click here to get the FREE video series and checklist from Leaders.Church
How parents can turn the tide
We might think that training our congregations to be servant minded leaders is up to the staff or key volunteer leaders. But when we think like this we disempower our biggest leadership training funnel: parents!
As I mentioned in a previous post, parents can be the greatest trainers of leaders as they model and shape the attitude of their kids. Will their kids have ‘the mind of Christ’ (Philippians 2:5-10)? Or be church consumers?
‘How am I as a parent modelling the mind of Christ to my kids?
How can I encourage them into a mindset and practice of service and considering others more important than themselves both at home and in the church?’
Ask your staff team:
‘How can we be talking about and encouraging parents to take up the ‘leader-training’ mindset with their kids?’
I should have known better and at the time; I kind of knew it was against my instincts…but pressure leads sometimes to bad decisions.
Get out of the pressure mindset and get into the training mindset