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New Kid on Staff

Martin Johnson

Part of starting small and thinking big is just being realistic. There may be a lot to do, but being strategic about your approach to ministry will pay big dividends in the end. Recognize that your work may need to take place in stages. These four organizational stages should keep you busy, productive, and on track.

1. Stabilize current ministries. Take a long, hard look at the ministries you've inherited. These programs and opportunities are what your congregation, children, and community are used to. Your volunteers have labored to bring these ministries to where they are. Don't just throw them away and start over. That might very well invalidate your volunteers' hard work, and that's simply not good politics.

Use the first several weeks and months to stabilize and freshen up the current offerings and outreach -- without fundamentally changing them. Take time to validate, love, and appreciate the workers for what they've accomplished. Provide teacher training, start a small group for your volunteers in your home, have people over for dinner, or hold a retreat. Remember that relationship-building is one of your most important tools in ministry.

2. Implement manageable delegation. Princess Leia had Han Solo, Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker, and the robots. Jean Luc Picard had #1, Worf, and Mr. Data. Captain Kirk had Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Scotty. And you need your lieutenants too! As you're stabilizing your church's ministry to children, look for people who exhibit creativity, perseverance, hard work, and a team attitude. Then grab 'em! You need people to serve with you in key leadership roles.

One of my guiding philosophies of ministry is this -- I have to work to put myself out of a job. If I try to do it all myself, it'll never be done. If I have people I'm training to take my place, and as they serve, they too work to find people to take their places, then we'll all succeed.

Ephesians 4 tells us that we're to equip people for service. That means giving them the tools, training, privilege, and responsibility of ministry. Football teams need "depth" -- more than one player who can play the same position. If there's an injury or illness, there's someone to take the missing player's place. Without depth, one injury may mean defeat. We need depth in our children's ministry leadership too. That means putting leaders in place, and letting them succeed-or fail.

3. Enhance your ministry. You've stabilized the ministry and placed good people in charge of areas, age groups, or departments. Now you have the time and luxury of enhancing and improving the ministries you offer to the church and community. Maybe it's time to change curriculum or build a new theme for the age-old Wednesday night program. This is the time to add music to your Sunday school. You might want to consider adding visits from special costumed characters for Sunday mornings and weeknight activities. Now's the time to change the names of events and activities, and to move and add leadership as needed.

The depth that's needed in leadership is also needed in the classrooms and other ministries. Find a co-teacher for every teacher, then find a classroom assistant. Set up a quarterly parent rotation through each of the classrooms. Make your volunteers' lives easier by establishing a resource room where they can gather needed materials and teaching aids. In short, make what you have even better by fine-tuning and tweaking every aspect of the ministry.

4. Create new ministries. Things should be humming right along once these first stages are well in hand. Now you can start up those new and exciting ministries you've been dreaming of. This is your chance to dream as big and creatively as you can. As you add new ministries, you can carefully retire older, outdated, or worn-out ministries from bygone days. Remember to validate and appreciate the founders and volunteers as you retire these old programs.

This is an exciting time in your life. Have fun and relish the opportunity to be in God's service, influencing the lives of his precious little children. Avoid the tendency to be a Lone Ranger, and you'll find the joy of serving on a team of friends who share your love for children and families. Spread your wings, try new things, dare to dream big dreams, pray hard, and trust God. This is an adventure-never lose sight of that!?

Martin Johnson has been a Christian education specialist for more than 15 years, serving in three churches ranging in size from mega-church to church plant. He currently serves as an associate pastor in Wichita, Kansas.
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