Welcome to ministry, my friend! I always say to new leaders, “You will be better off 6 months from now!”
I find it remarkable, inspiring, and refreshing when I meet a new ministry leader! There’s something beautiful that always bubbles to the surface whenever I have one of those conversations.
After only a few minutes I begin to hear about the calling.
This reverent word is the magnificent word that separates ministry from any other sort of work. There’s a spiritual confidence that begins taking shape when a new ministry leader, whether young or old, begins working out their new calling.
So where does a new leader begin?
New ministry leaders face a long list of needs—each being as important as the next. For example, a need to recruit volunteers, build a budget, create a philosophy of ministry, select a curriculum.
And the list marches on.
But, let’s start here!
People Trump Programming
I learned a principle from a young ministry leader years ago, that is still remarkably, undeniably true. As he began his ministry as a new leader, he sought some advice from a veteran leader.
The advice was to invest in those who invest in you.
But I’ll come back to this in a moment.
I have witnessed firsthand, way too many times, new ministry leaders who fall prey to going after programming first. It’s natural to do so. And it’s what is seen, experienced, and often measured as early success.
In the movie Eight Men Out, we hear the words, “Build it and they will come.”
Not so quick my friend!
Lest you build something and leave your people behind. It behooves you to focus early and often on people. Above all, people are your most precious commodity.
Messiah Jesus was the greatest example of this principle.
He spent His lengthy days with people. And large crowds often were pressing into Him, to hear Him, see Him and simply stated to be in His presence.
We know it to be true that Jesus was just as masterful with a small group of people.
Jesus knew that His product was not programming, an event, or study—but rather being with people. It was from building relationship with people that I believe New Testament programming was cleverly created.
It was in these moments where the gospel was presented, and people responded to the good news.
The point: “Invest in those who will invest in you!”
In other words, make it your highest priority to spend time with your key ministry stakeholders.
But who are these people? They are your volunteers.
So put a list together of all the names and begin having conversation with each of them. Then grab a few for a coffee, or you might be a chai sipper, invite a few to munch on a pizza, and build community.
Just do it! Have a conversation with every volunteer who serves with you.
These volunteers are the ones who are rolling up their sleeves and doing great ministry with you. Certainly, this is fundamental and foundational to building programming.
So get to know them, who they are, and why they serve. Moreover, learn about what makes them smile or even tick.
I’ve heard this saying many times, “We hired you to take the ministry to the next level.”
That begins when you spend time with your people!
I find that most children’s ministries have a vision statement in place. In fact, I am sure this declaration is something that was in place before you were hired. It awaits your arrival, and it’s important to know what it is and they why behind it.
The wonderful Helen Keller was asked once, “What is so bad about being born blind?” Her response was simply, “Far worse is to be born with sight yet not have vision.”
Read this quote again and pause to reflect a few minutes around it. Jot a few thoughts down.
I suggest your next action step is to evaluate your vision statement. Live with it a few days. Post it in a few visible spots, so as you wade through your days you reflect upon its words, meaning, and reality.
Look, I have never been good at math. But I do know that 2 plus 2 still equals 4! Similarly, a ministry’s vision statement must equal something. If not, it’s only words!
You should grab a few of your key leaders and volunteers for this fun exercise.
Write out your vision statement on a white board or poster paper. An example might go like this: “The ministry of KidsCreek exists solely to intentionally share the gospel with children and families—to equip parents to do so also at home with their children.”
Begin by circling each key word and asking smart questions!
What’s our definition of ministry? Is this happening? How? When? Is our name identified right for today?
Why is this a key word? What’s the definition?
Why this word? Is it accurate?
How do we do this? Why?
Do we? How? Give examples? Is it the main point?
Who are these people—spiritually, socio-economically, emotionally? Who are these people away from church?
How are we equipping our families? Why? Is it being used? What if we stopped? What might be the ramifications for us and them?
This process will march you and your team like a fourth of July parade to answering tough questions around these important defining words. The ultimate win is to measure the words against your desired outcomes.
This process should bring you to one of these places.
Firstly, you as team agree the vision statement is accurate and outcomes are being seen, heard, and felt in all your efforts.
Secondly, we need to rework a few words for this to happen.
Thirdly, we need to rebuild.
Regardless of where you land, this is a process that should be done every five years. Churches change and evolve. Specifically, top level leadership changes and demographics can carry a heavy hammer. These carry implications for your ministry.
So stay aware!
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