Play Ball!

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Creative ways to get people off the bench and into your
children’s ministry.

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“Play ball!” When the umpire calls out this familiar refrain,
everyone’s in his or her place! The front office is providing
support, spectators have settled in for a good show, raving fans
are ready to cheer, and coaches are eager to execute their game
plan.

If you think about your ministry as a sporting event, you’ve got
all these people in their places, too. How do you play your game in
a way that shows appreciation to all these people and involves them
in ministry at their level?

Say it again…”Let’s play ball!”

Front Office

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Front office people are often the first contact newcomers have
with your church. The front office often fields questions about
children’s ministry before people contact your actual children’s
ministry. Ap­plaud your church secretaries and office assistants
for representing your children’s ministry well.

“More often than not, this group is the most overworked and
under­acknowledged,” says Jennifer Ward, a children’s minister from
Chester, Virginia “Because they often handle responsibilities for
other areas of the church besides children’s ministry, they can be
forgotten as a part of the team. Treat them the same as your
children’s ministry team members.”

Explain why. They need to know why those
mailings, phone calls, copies, and more that they work on are so
important. Involve them in the process of whatever you’re asking
them to do rather than handing over a “to do” list with due
dates.

Encourage, encourage, encourage! Invite them to a team meeting or
team event so they can meet and get to know the people with whom
they’re serving. Communicate how people are touched by their
help.

Explain what. Spend time talking to the front
office about children’s ministry. Spark their interest in all that
God is doing in and through your ministry. Share success stories.
This will cause them to get behind you and support what you’re
doing.

“Relevant information is the key to involving the front office,”
explains Eric Echols, a children’s minister from Lawrenceville,
Georgia. “If they know what’s happening in the children’s ministry,
they’ll be better equipped to field initial questions. Provide
email updates, relevant promotional pieces, and brochures and
handouts that communicate the vision and values of your children’s
ministry in a comprehensive and concise way.”

Off-the-Bench Ideas-Why not send flowers to the
front office or at least always have reserved seating for them and
their family at the special functions they’re promoting so
often?

To say thanks and win continued support, provide a free
babysitting evening for them after they’ve helped in a big way for
one of your events.

Spectators

God bless the spectators! These are the faithful parents,
grandparents, and others who although not
directly involved in your ministry — week in and week out bring
their kids. These folks are also the ones who always donate
supplies you need. And they’re the faithful ones in the seats at
special events.

Check your attitude. Children’s ministers can
slip into a resentful attitude toward spectator parents. If you
feel this way, that’ll kill your relationship with these folks.
Never stop saying thank you to them. And never simply expect that
they’ll come through for you. Their level of involvement is a gift
to your ministry.

Just ask. Ask the spectators their opinion of
the children’s ministries at your church. They’ve watched how you
all work together, so they’ve seen things your team members are
unaware of. These spectators will feel honored that you asked —
and their input will strengthen your ministry.

Pump them up. Bring on the cheerleaders (raving
fans) to interact with any spectators who aren’t so thrilled. Give
them something to be excited about by having your raving fans share
great things God is doing.

Off-the-Bench Ideas-“We use first-serve
opportunities to get people off the bench and into the game,” says
Echols. “We ask people to sign up for a ‘one-time’ serve, then we
give them four Sundays to sign up for an area of ministry to
participate in for one week. They can choose nursery, preschool, or
elementary ministries. We had over 550 people sign up for a
one-time serve.”

Raving Fans

Raving fans are on your team, and they’re with you through thick
and thin. Thank them for their faithfulness through the difficult
seasons and congratulate them during the times of huge
success.

“Thank them for their support…they may not realize what an
encouragement they are to you,” advises Ward. “Ask them for their
opinion on new ideas or just in general to help assess your
ministry’s strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has an opinion and is
usually thrilled that someone asked for it.”

Give credit where it’s due. Energy is vital to
the continued momentum of a team. If that energy level plummets,
watch out! So keep your raving fans raving about your team.

Children’s minister Rhonda Haslett from Indianapolis, says, “To
say thanks for their help, I give them credit for areas where
improvements are made. They love this! I attempt to tap into their
wealth of knowledge…or at least talk via email regularly.”

Call them into greater leadership. Get raving
fans involved in more complexities of your ministry. Allow them to
give their input on ways to improve the team. Involve them in the
planning stages of the ministry.

Give them pompoms. In other words, give them
the props they need to promote your ministry: T-shirts, key chains,
bumper stickers, posters, lapel pins, buttons, and more. These can
be inexpensive ways to help them show support for their favorite
team!

Give them a voice. Let the parent who loves
your children’s ministry share from the pulpit a way that your team
has met a need for his or her family. Better yet, capture that
story on camera to be used at teacher trainings or at a booth that
promotes your team.

Off-the-Bench Ideas-Intentionally involve
raving fans in the game that’ll be most exciting for them. Answer
these questions: Is this individual enjoying or really struggling
in ministry? Does the person’s ministry have results?

“We help our key volunteers dis­cover what they’re passionate
about and help them serve in their passion,” says Echols. “If a
leader’s passion is teaching, then teaching becomes the focus. If
it’s crafts, the focus is crafts. If people’s giftedness is
worship, then they lead worship. We empower our raving fans to
serve in their passion so they can hit the ball out of the park
every time they step up to serve.”

Coaches

Coaches are in the game. They’re already serving, so reiterate
that a healthy heart is a serving heart. We need to tell them
they’re making a difference in others, and God is making a
difference in them.

Cast vision. Your team members can become
champions for children’s ministry if they know and understand your
vision for children’s ministry. First of all, align your vision and
values with the overall church’s vision and values. Then keep your
vision before your team. Share success stories about how your team
is fulfilling the vision and values.

Retreat with them. These coaches are already
planning plays to help children win. Why not plan an event for
them? Create a time and place for intentional team building and
vision casting-even if it’s just going out for ice cream after an
event.

Unite your coaches. Give your coaches
opportunities to network and encourage one another. Some coaches
are more than committed; they’re the influencers who desire to
equip other raving fans to be better fans. Your coaches need to be
around each other.

Off-the-Bench Ideas-Your coaches thrive on
making a difference for God, so share with them often the stories
of how they’ve impacted kids, parents, staff, and yourself. Also,
share with your congregation the incredible difference coaches are
making by featuring a different coach in your bulletin or
newsletter each time. Tell how God is using each incredible coach
to help kids win in their relationship with Christ.

Nonattenders

If these people never come to anything, why bother with them?
First, because you owe them for the contributions they’ve made to
your ministry to make it possible-both financial and political.
Also, you want these people to continue to feel good about your
ministry so they’ll continue giving and supporting. Nonattending
church members give three things to your ministry indirectly:
faithful attendance at church, financial support, and a political
vote for your ministry.

Say thanks. Applaud these folks for attending
church services on a regular basis. Through newsletters, emphasis
from the pulpit, and promotional material, show the importance of
children’s ministry to these people.

“Even if they’re not directly involved in your ministry, you
couldn’t run your ministry without your congregation’s gifts and
tithes,” says Haslett. “So say ‘thank you’ regularly for people’s
continued generosity. Nor could you have the programs you do
without the church’s continued support. Never take this for
granted.”

Ask for their input. “When they look at you
bewildered because they’ve never even set foot down the children’s
hallway,” says Ward, “explain that’s exactly why you asked them!”
It’s very useful to find out what these nonattendees know about
your children’s ministry — positive or negative.

Off-the-Bench Ideas-Special events are a great
way to get these people involved. Invite them to participate in
churchwide events, such as a Super Bowl party, picnic, or any other
“out of the ordinary” event.

Christine Yount Jones is executive editor for Children’s
Ministry Magazine.

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