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Lon Flippo

Follow this helpful guide to developing a mission-driven children's ministry.

Throughout the 20th century, psychologists, historians, and sociologists have sought an answer to how people survived the death camps of Nazi Germany. Viktor Frankl, an Austrian survivor and psychologist, concluded that while several factors -- health, strength, family structure, and survival skills -- were important, the single most noted factor was a sense of vision for the future.

These survivors had something else important to do -- a mission to perform. The power of a mission is incredible. Research indicates that children, teams, and organizations with a strong sense of mission outperform those without a sense of mission. Those who overcome, succeed, and make a difference must have a strong sense of having something important to do -- a mission to perform.

In his book First Things First, Stephen Covey gives the following definition of what mission is all about: "Mission is the ability to see beyond our present reality, to create, to invent what does not yet exist, to become what we not yet are."

In other words we must begin with the end in mind. What's the goal? How do we achieve that goal? What priorities must we focus on?

ROOM WITHOUT A VIEW
The problem that besets so many leaders is a limited view. We tend to make choices based on what's right in front of us. We become reactionaries instead of planners and thinkers. We react to whatever is critical at the moment.

Our moods and feelings cause us to change from day to day. If we feel good today, then everything else is good, but if our feelings are hurt, then we many times lose sight of our mission. We miss the big picture; we see a fragment of things.

A partial view of mission is as problematic as missing the whole picture. Partial vision of where we're going can lead to imbalance and making choices based upon others' expectations instead of upon lasting principles.

CLEARING THE FOREST
Where are you in your overall mission in life? Do you have a mission statement for your ministry? Once you've established that, then develop a mission statement for yourself and for your family. See "Developing a Family Mission Statement" for help.

This article is more than just principles; I want to help you walk through a step-by-step procedure to develop a mission statement for your ministry. If you know your mission, you'll focus your passion -- and you'll impact your ministry.

1. What's your purpose? Your first step is to discover your purpose in ministering to children. First, list the basic concepts and beliefs that you and those around you can live by. Your beliefs may look something like these:

•Children are the legacy and heritage of the church. Each of us should invest our time and resources to minister to them at their level.

•The church body should recognize that children are a part of the church of today so children can learn what it means to be a part of the body of Christ.

•The primary responsibility for training Christian children lies within the family. The church must provide training and spiritual support for parents.

•Opportunities should be created to help children develop happy, peaceful memories at church so they'll want to return to church as they mature into adulthood.

•People who work with children in the church are ministers to children and should have a burden for them. The church body should also pray for and encourage teachers and parents in their tasks.

•Teachers should teach by their individual modeling, their personal example, and their heartfelt attitudes.

•To make a lifelong impact, the church should provide an atmosphere of unconditional love, while at the same time teaching children appropriate Christian boundaries.

2. What characterizes your ministry? Next, list the things that you want to characterize your ministries, programs, and ministers. Make it personal to your church. Your characteristics may look like these:

•Teachers and lay ministers should be trained to meet the unique needs and learning styles of children.

•Programs for children should provide opportunities to learn and solidify biblical values, ethics, and lifestyle.

•To teach effectively, teachers need to receive training about age-level characteristics.

•Some of our programs need to have the sole purpose of providing happy, peaceful memories of church and God.

•Training and support programs for parents should emphasize parenting as a covenant with God. The church should provide a parenting model, a Christian community, and information on Christian parenting.

3. What's your biblical basis? Biblical support for your mission statement provides the bedrock when storms come and try to destroy your ministry. List key verses from Scripture to back up what you believe to be your purpose and to support the characteristics of your ministry.

Key verses that may apply include:

•Deuteronomy 11:19-"Teach them to your children..."

•Proverbs 22:6-"Train a child in the way he should go..."

•Matthew 19:14-"Let the little children come to me..."

4. What's your mission statement? Now that you've thought through your purpose, characteristics, and biblical basis, write the first draft of your mission statement.

Don't write your mission statement to please someone else. Look at yourself, see your talents, know your abilities, admit your weaknesses, and write what describes who you, your church, and your ministry are really all about.

Here's an example of a mission statement from Northview Christian Life in Carmel, Indiana: "The children's ministry of Northview Christian Life will provide an atmosphere of community with appropriate Christian boundaries enveloped in unconditional love that creates in our children happy, peaceful memories built around Christ and his church. We will do this by teaching for life change; modeling biblical behavior; and encouraging, training, and supporting the parents and teachers of our children."

5. How will you communicate your vision? Once you have your written mission statement, find key statements that you can use to communicate your vision. These key statements will support your mission as you highlight them around your office, classrooms, or church.

Here are sample key statements:

•"The point is not to give a new lesson, but to teach for life change."-Dr. Bruce Wilkinson, The 7 Laws of the Learner

•"The high calling of Christian parents is to be faith trainers-to make a good 'pass' to their children, who will carry the baton of faith into the next generation."-Dr. Joe White, Faith Training Your Children

6. Do you do what you said you do? Bathe your mission statement in complete assessment and evaluation. Where are we now? Where do we want to go from here? How do we make changes? How do we arrive at our goal? Take a regular look at each of your ministries and programs. Ask yourself the hard questions. Is this program meeting the needs of the children and the teachers? Does this ministry fulfill its mission in developing young people in the Lord?

When first there is mission, then there's opportunity for effectiveness. When your mission becomes your motivating force, you'll be a minister who's impassioned about a mission that's higher than yourself. For a staff on mission, petty things become unimportant as people are motivated by something that's bigger than themselves. Your mission will be the foundation upon which you make daily and long-term decisions.

History books are filled with the names of people who suffered and encountered resistance. But nobody faced greater obstruction, hardship, struggle, scorn, and suffering than Jesus Christ. And nobody had a greater mission to fulfill than our Lord and Savior. Follow his example and, in turn, be an example to those around you by knowing your mission and focusing your passion.

Lon Flippo is a children's ministries consultant in Springfield, Missouri.

DEVELOPING A FAMILY MISSION STATEMENT

To determine your family's purpose, follow this process from The Family-Friendly Church by Ben Freudenburg and Rick Lawrence (Group Publishing, Inc.).

Answer these questions:

1. What's the most important mission or goal for families to work toward?

2. Why should family members work at growing closer as a family?

3. What can the following family members do to build a strong family: mothers? fathers? children?

4. What does the family do to support and strengthen its family members?

5. What would be missing in our world if families ceased to exist?

6. How have you seen families celebrating the joy of being family?

Once you've brainstormed answers to these six questions about families in general, shift your attention to your family in particular.

Crafting Your Family's Mission

1. What's the most important mission or goal for our family to be working toward?

2. Currently, what's our family's overriding purpose?

3. Why do we care about our family?

4. What does our family do to support and strengthen its members?

5. What would be missing in the world if our family ceased to exist?

Now, using all the information you've gathered, get together to write the reason your family exists-in 25 words or less. Voila! One made-to-order family mission statement. (Consider having your mission statement written in calligraphy on nice paper, then framed and placed in your home for all to see.)

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