U-Turns Allowed


Daring and Do-Overs

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Between launching new ministry programs, managing more than 100
volunteers, and coping with day-to-day ministry issues, Browning
says he’s learned much through trial and error. But he maintains
that some of his greatest growth experiences have come from what he
considers to be significant challenges-and occasional

• Being Bullish — Browning says one of his biggest
mistakes was “Just coming in with my vision and sharing it. I
didn’t have an opportunity when I first got here to sit down and
ask the volunteers what they wanted in a ministry.” If he had it to
do over, Browning says he’d spend more time learning about
volunteers’ ideas for the future and getting their input on how to
improve programs.

Not Being Bold — Another mistake, he says, was “not
being brutally honest with my volunteers about where we could go as
a ministry. I wasn’t bold enough when I first got here. I wasn’t
bold enough to say, ‘Listen, we have a huge responsibility.’ ” Over
time, he’s learned to take risks and speak up for his

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• Being Visionary — “Don’t be afraid to share your
vision. I think a lot of people have a vision inside, but they’re
afraid to share it,” says Browning. “Don’t be afraid to share that
vision. We wouldn’t be where we are today if I hadn’t said,
‘Listen, we’ve got to move toward family ministry. Because doing
this glorified baby-sitting service thing isn’t working any more.
Watching kids while their parents are in worship-that’s not going
to cut it.’ “

• Being a Change Agent — Browning led a philosophical
and cultural shift among his volunteers that focuses on
responsibility, not roles.

“We can use people in their areas of giftedness, but I think it’s
more about the overall responsibility we have,” says Browning. “Our
mission statement is to creatively connect kids with Christ. So
everything that I talk about with my volunteers ties their role
into how we’re going to do that — but it’s not about their

Some conflict Browning experienced has been a direct result of
this shift-from a focus on fitting volunteers into a tailor-made
role to focusing energy on the overall ministry

“We need to be more relational,” says Browning. “At the rate we’re
growing, there’s no system in place as far as how we’re going to
keep up with these kids. I just had that conversation with my
volunteers, and I had some irate volunteers. They were so upset
with me because I said, ‘We’re no longer going to have workshop
leaders. We’re no longer going to have teachers. We’re going to
have small group leaders and we’re going to have people who can
help create the most awesome environment on Sunday morning.’

Browning says he immediately heard the complaint: “You’re taking
away my role.”

“This is when it really struck me that it’s not about a role, but
the responsibility we have to these kids at the church and as a
ministry team. If we have a lot of people who just have roles
around here but no responsibility, then we’re going to be in a
world of trouble. We’re not creatively connecting kids to Christ if
volunteers are so concerned about their roles and not their
responsibility to connect those kids to Christ.”

Keeping the Faith

Children’s ministers know that filling their own spiritual cups
can be a challenge. Browning makes it a point to stay energized and
spiritually refreshed weekly.

• Discipleship Groups — “I have an awesome group of friends
through a campus ministry called Chi Alpha Ministries at UCA,” says
Browning. He also meets weekly with a discipleship group of about
10 male friends to study the Bible and discuss life issues.

• Outside Worship — “I’ve found it really hard to worship in the
place that I work just because of the fact that when I’m here on
Sunday morning, I’m a manager of a ton of volunteers. I have so
many hats to wear on Sunday morning — production coordinator,
speaking. I can’t sit down and worship because there’s so much to
accomplish. On Sunday night I worship at a college and career
service called Elevation at New Life Church. That’s my weekly

Browning knows people might think it strange that he doesn’t
worship with the people he works with, but he also doesn’t
underestimate the importance of being fed spiritually and realizes
that’s the tradeoff in his situation. “It’s really hard to put an
hour aside and just sit down to soak it in.”

“If we aren’t trying to offer kids our best on Sunday morning,
then we should give up,” challenges Browning. “You have to be
creative to connect kids to Christ these days because we’re up
against so much in the world.”

Browning, who seems both bewildered and excited about his
successes, credits his love and passion for kids — and his
willingness to shake things up. “I guess I wasn’t quiet about where
I saw our ministry going,” he says.


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