Every ministry can be infiltrated, and every leader can become vulnerable. Here’s how to tackle the 7 most common threats to your ministry.
It’s a scary thought, especially when you consider how much effort, time, and care we put into our ministries. Infiltrated—by what? Vulnerable—to what?
The truth is, there are seven major threats to every ministry out there, biding their time, waiting to sneak in when no one is looking. So consider this your fair warning. It’s time to batten down the hatches of your ministry and prepare to use your leadership skills. Here’s how to give the boot to these threats before they ever get a toe in your ministry doorway.
Threat #1: Mr. Disunity
A lack of unity from within your team will seep in and crack apart your children’s ministry through gossip, division, backbiting, and slander. This threat is often the culprit behind church splits, “us vs. them” ministry divisions, and personal agendas that create strife.
Defeat Mr. Disunity
- Understand-and help your team understand-that unity is key. God’s power and his blessings flow through unity. (See John 17:21, John 13:35, Psalm 133:1, and Acts 2:42-47.)
- Set goals. Establish a common vision that people will support and rally behind.
- Enlist core values that identify your ministry. These core values, such as friendliness and grace, will strengthen your unity and help your team know what you expect of them.
- Model and expect direct communication. Unity doesn’t mean you agree on everything. But it does mean there’s open, direct, loving, mature communication when issues or disagreements arise.
- Create a culture where people go to their direct leader with questions or concerns rather than having side conversations with other staff, volunteers, or parents. Lovingly confront people when they aren’t following core values.
- Don’t tolerate or enable divisiveness, gossip, or bad attitudes. Once your team makes a decision, everyone stacks hands. If someone can’t stack hands, encourage that person to leave quietly.
Threat #2: The Abuser
The Abuser is a deadly enemy who seeks to destroy your children’s ministry through the abuse of children. He’ll not only hurt a child’s life, but also severely damage your ministry in the community.
Defeat The Abuser
- Make safety first. Place security for kids as a top priority in your ministry; get your leaders and team on board, and publicize it.
- Prepare. Establish secure buildings and proper plans and safety systems before something happens, not after.
- Know who you’re dealing with. Complete a thorough screening for volunteers that includes a background check, a personal interview, reference calls, and training. Maintain the two-adult rule so no volunteer is ever alone with a child. This protects kids and also the volunteers who faithfully serve in your ministry.
Threat #3: Mrs. Inwardly Focused
This threat constantly attempts to shift your attention away from those outside the walls of your church. She’s most comfortable in a holy huddle. She can be very outspoken. You’ll hear her critiques in phrases such as, “the teaching isn’t deep enough” or “we need to care for our own rather than worrying about getting more new people in” or “I don’t care if new people like the music-it’s too loud!”
Defeat Mrs. Inwardly Focused
- Remember what matters to Jesus. He has the world on his heart. He came to seek and save those who are lost, and your church is an avenue to achieve that. It’s not about numbers. Rather than focusing week in and week out only on the number of kids who are attending, also focus on who’s outside who could be attending your church.
- Keep a balanced ministry. Provide pathways for kids to grow in their faith inside your program while reaching out to your community.
- Be a hospital…not a museum. Your ministry can’t be a spiritual museum where perfect Christians are on display. It’s a hospital where the spiritually sick can come and find healing.
Threat #4: Mr. Calendar
This threat (and it may even come from you) wants to fill your ministry calendar with random events and programs. His mantra is “the busier the better.” He’s the dad who has a great idea. He’s the music group that’s going to be coming through your area. He’s that little voice in your head telling you should be doing more, more, more!
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Defeat Mr. Calendar Crowder
- Just because someone wants you to do it doesn’t mean you should. Don’t say “yes” without first seeking God in prayer, getting his confirmation, and talking with your leaders. Find your niche and do a few things well. It’s a fact: You can either do a lot of things with mediocrity or a few things with excellence. What you say “no” to is just as important as what you say “yes” to. Sometimes good ideas have to die so great ones can live.
- Be process driven rather than program driven. Think from the perspective of “pathways to growth” rather than “quantity of programs.” Ask yourself these questions. How would the new program impact resources and staff? Is the opportunity based on the personal interest of a few or the well-being of the whole? Is it a “good” idea or a “God” idea?
Threat #5: Cousin Complacency
Cousin Complacency tends to approach you after you’ve been in ministry awhile. She lingers in familiarity. She loves to whisper, “Been there, done that, no problem” in your ear. She wants you to put the ministry on cruise control, kick back, and relax. Why strive to grow spiritually and as a leader? You’re doing just fine. No need to reach more kids and families for Jesus…just hold out until Jesus comes.
Defeat Cousin Complacency
- Increase the time you spend with God. Your next level of ministry is waiting in your relationship with God. You’ll become a better leader on your knees.
- Ask a trusted friend or mentor to be brutally honest with you about weak areas they see in your leadership. Debrief with this person after events and programs to look for ways to improve.
- Constantly bring in new volunteers. New volunteers bring new energy, excitement, and passion.
- Be a thermostat rather than a thermometer. It’s up to you to set the spiritual temperature rather than simply reflect it. Stay fired up yourself if you want to see your ministry on fire.
- Keep sharing your vision. A vision left unfueled will go out. Constantly remind people why they’re doing the work of the ministry. State your vision clearly and repeatedly.
Threat #6: Mr. Pride
Mr. Pride’s goal is for you to stop depending on God and start depending on yourself. He wants you to believe the press and take credit for what’s happening. He wants to render you unteachable. And why wait for God’s help when you can help yourself now?
Defeat Mr. Pride
- Remember: The way up is down. If you humble yourself, God will lift you up in his time (1 Peter 5:6). Own your mistakes and be quick to say “I’m sorry.”
- Stay teachable. We all say we’re teachable…until there’s a lesson to be learned. Admit when you don’t understand or know something.
- Listen a lot more than you talk. The old saying is true: God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.
- Ask for others’ opinions. Ask others to join in conversations and contribute. Don’t boast. Push others into the spotlight. Know that the commendations and condemnations of man will come and go. Don’t let either sway you.
Threat #7: Miss Solo Superhero
Miss Solo Superhero wants you to do ministry alone, even if it kills you. Rather than training and investing in others, Solo wants you to do everything yourself and never take a break. She’ll try to convince you to spend all your time doing, not showing. She’ll whisper in your ear that no one can do it as well or fast as you. You know Solo’s been at work when you begin to feel like a willing martyr.
Defeat Miss Solo Superhero
- Don’t do ministry alone. Always have someone by your side who you’re investing in, mentoring, and preparing to lead.
- Empower your team and give away ministry. You may be able to go faster alone…but you’ll always go farther together.
- Make yourself unnecessary to the success of the ministry. Set your team up for success so they don’t rely on you.
- Make a dream list of volunteer positions. If you could have every support role you wanted, what would it look like? Pray and invite people one-on-one to join you. Then watch God fill your list.
One or more of these threats may be breathing down your neck right now. They may even have you backed into a corner. Take heart! You can defeat them. Implement these steps and watch God bring the victory.
Dale Hudson is a children’s pastor at Christ Fellowship in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and the coauthor of two Turbocharged! books (Group).
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