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New Kid on Staff

Martin Johnson

8 critical steps to take when you're the new staff person at a church.

Good morning. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to oversee a creative ministry to children from birth through sixth grade, while reaching out to the community, touching the lives of parents, and providing TLC to the teachers and other volunteers who staff the myriad of ministries. All this must be done with a limited budget, certain time constraints, and a too-small facility. If you do well, congratulations. If not, we will disavow all knowledge of you and your position.

So, you're a new children's minister? Maybe this is the first staff position you've ever tackled. Or maybe you've been in ministry for a long time and are finding yourself in a new position. No matter your experience or title, you now have to pull yourself together, take stock of your situation, and start plugging away. But where do you start?

We've all found ourselves in positions where we're excited and scared at the same time. No doubt, to a children's minister in a new position, these feelings run at least as deep and as strong as ever before. You may even be wondering, "Why did I ever say yes to this?"

Now, take a deep breath and relax! Things will start looking up. If they don't, I know someone who teaches a course on creative blaming.

Just kidding. Of course, you won't need that. You have a good head on your shoulders and a wealth of resources available for ideas. You also have a copy of Children's Ministry Magazine in your hands. This is a powerful tool to have right now. If you do just a small percentage of what you find in this issue, you'll be well on your way to an effective ministry.

To get you started on the right path, follow these suggestions.

•Network. You've heard the old adage, "There's safety in numbers." It couldn't be truer in children's ministry. Find a mentor or a group of children's ministers in your city to meet and talk with on a regular basis. You may want to find someone in a church situation that's similar to your own. At the same time, there's wisdom in finding people in churches larger than yours who've been in ministry for a long time. More than likely, they've found new and innovative ways to meet ministry challenges. While their programs may be bigger than yours, their successes, both large and small, will help get your creative juices flowing.

As you meet and pray with these people, remember another old saying I've appropriately borrowed from somewhere -- "Nothing in the world is original...it's adjusted, borrowed, or stolen -- and adapted to fit a need!"

•Learn. Don't try to do ministry without periodically stimulating your brain cells. Find conferences, conventions, or seminars somewhere -- and go! Learning from others who've been in the trenches is like learning from Yoda! ("Be successful, you will," as Yoda would say.) After returning from a national conference one year, my wife asked, "How was your time away with the gurus?" She couldn't have been more on track. I had spent quality time with hundreds of children's ministry gurus from all over the country, in churches of every size and flavor, and I'd been refilled and infused. With literally hundreds, if not thousands, of combined years of experience at these national and regional think tanks, we're all miles ahead if we take advantage of the ideas and advice open to us.

•Build relationships. Perhaps the most important part of building a children's ministry is building relationships with the adults who serve with you. After all, without them your job would be impossible! Making friends and keeping them should be a required course for everyone in any area of ministry. Make this a high priority. Never put relationship-building on autopilot.

Ministry is all about people -- we know that. What we sometimes forget is that children's ministry isn't simply ministry to children. It's also ministry to those who minister to children. The present and future of children's ministry must include ministry to families. Include the parents in your planning, relationship-building, and ministry. Equip adults to serve, train children, and help parents do their jobs of raising these all-important little ones.

•Start small, think big. You don't have to pull a rabbit out of the hat right away. In most cases, the people who place us in a children's ministry position trust us and our abilities. They'll be patient and sympathetic with what we need to accomplish. If they really do expect something big right away, see "Starting With a Bang!" (below).

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