As a new leader in children’s ministry, I remember the excitement, overwhelm, and gratitude for God’s goodness that flooded the first few weeks. When I was just beginning, I found myself frequently asking, “Am I doing this right?”
If that’s where you find yourself right now, you are in the right place! To help you acclimate to your new role, let’s walk through a few necessary first steps to build a healthy foundation for your leadership and those you lead.
First things first, we desperately need your role in the Church. But it can be easy to lose focus when you find yourself in a new season. You will often feel the rush of the coming Sunday. It can tempt you to spend time on tasks that seem urgent but aren’t the most important. While this is a common trap to fall into, adopting this rhythm will prevent you from moving forward with purpose.
To manage the tension between the urgent and the most important, I encourage you to pause each day, commit time to prayer, and reflect on what you’ve learned. As we know, the first few months will contain a great amount of learning! This doesn’t have to be a long span of time.
For me, creating the right rhythm has often looked like 30 minutes to reflect on what I have learned and the questions I have about moving forward in my role. Then, asking God for His grace and wisdom as He guides my steps into a place of newness and uncertainty that day.
Once you are grounded in focus, there are three areas to begin pouring into. They are intentional relationship building, learning your ministry, and seeking feedback.
Intentional Relationship Building
Now and in the future, remember to not do it alone. This applies to the majority of your work as a ministry leader. As Ephesians 4:12 states, our roles exist “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up …”
A great place to start is by reaching out to your volunteers and introducing yourself. You may already know some, or all, of the volunteers you are working with. Still, reach out and use the opportunity to cast some vision! Share with volunteers your excitement to serve with them, ask them about their experience volunteering, and share your passion with them.
With a larger team, this step can seem daunting. I recently began a role with a team of over 150 volunteers and daunting was a great way to describe it! For the first few months, I made a goal to reach out to one volunteer at a set time each day to introduce myself and get to know them. While I did not get on the phone with everyone, the conversations I had were a meaningful starting point. Many on the team were grateful, and we were building relationships outside of Sunday services.
This rhythm doesn’t need to be limited to volunteers—you can also include parents in the mix! In the first few months, identify who your committed, core families are. (You can ask your volunteers to help with this if you’re unsure!) Investing in families right from the start builds trust and communicates to parents that their child’s ministry leader is a hands-on influence in their child’s discipleship.
Learn Your Ministry
You may have come into your role with a clear vision. Or you may find yourself feeling unsure and full of questions. In either situation you may find yourself in, there is no need to fear. There is no need to expect yourself to come into your ministry role with a fully formed plan and methodology to execute on day one.
I have learned that before I can plan and set goals, I need to learn about my new ministry as quickly as I can. With an open mind, these are five general areas you can seek to understand within your first month:
First, study what is being taught in each age group of your ministry. This includes an understanding of the components of each lesson, the scope and sequence of lesson plans, and the Scripture and truths that are taught.
What does a weekend service or midweek program typically look like? What is the flow of service? Are there large group, technology, or worship components within services and events?
In addition to building relationships with volunteers, it is important to learn the strengths and weaknesses of your team in order to build an even stronger one. Who are the strong, committed leaders who may be open to higher levels of leadership if needed? Where are the areas for your team to be developed? What does volunteer onboarding and training look like for your team?
4. Parent Partnerships
This one is often overlooked, but don’t undervalue the importance of your parent partners! Does your ministry have a strategy for engaging and partnering with parents? If so, become an expert on that process and seek to know parents who are engaging.
As parents trust their children to our care, we want to lead ministries that value safety and a positive experience for all who participate. As a start, begin with key safety measures, including the check-in and check-out processes.
As you learn, ask questions, and study, it will be helpful to consider perspectives outside of your own. I encourage you to create an attainable goal for receiving feedback from both parents and volunteers in your ministry.
This may look like coming up with two or three intentional, conversational questions and striking up a conversation with one volunteer or parent each week. You can gear your questions toward areas of your ministry where you would like to have a deeper understanding. (Bonus point—this is a great way to build relationships and cast vision as well!)
As you “learn your ministry” well, you’ll want to carve out time to sit down and evaluate as you go. Pausing and acknowledging what you’ve learned can go a long way in establishing a ministry mission statement, strategy, and values down the road. Here are three easy and helpful questions to ask as you reflect:
- What is going well?
- What is a challenge?
- What is a problem that needs to be fixed?
Remember Your Why
Some of the best advice I’ve received when beginning a new ministry role is, “not everything needs to be done in a day (or a week, or month, or year).” You will likely face moments of inadequacy and uncertainty. Instead of letting those moments stir up fear, let them be an opportunity to trust God’s plan for you and the people you lead.
When challenging moments rise up, resist the temptation to work harder and faster. Instead, pause and remember your “why.” Why are you doing this? Why did you feel called here? What do you hope God will do?
And then, talk to your Father who loves you and is equipping you in every moment. Leading in children’s ministry is a beautiful honor and privilege. There is an opportunity for a fun, joy-filled road ahead of you.
Like anything worthwhile, it can be challenging. But remain focused on the opportunity God has given you to introduce the next generation of your church and community to their Savior.
I pray that, as you go, you will have those wonder-filled moments of gratitude when you say, “Thank you, Lord, that I get to do this work and be used by You.”