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It’s OK to give up in children’s ministry

3D character holding chain together - isolated over a white background

Amazing and yet very sad when you can watch a children’s pastor move from one ministry to another children’s ministry and they sink terribly at the new one.

As many of you know I have moved from my last church to my new one here in Des Moines, Iowa as the Family Life Pastor for First Church of the Open Bible. Making this move from my last to my new has caused me to look at my ways, systems, processes, and challenging me to also “Let Go” of some great things that I would have used at my last church to pick up some new ways for my new church.

This is what has me thinking through the terrible mistake many children’s pastor will make as they too make their new moves into a new ministry. I have never seen where the children’s pastor wasn’t knowledgeable enough to succeed or could have learned to do the new, it was they didn’t want to “Let Go” of the old and comfortable for the new, exciting, and challenging.

To avoid this you need to learn about your new place of ministry. What are the things you need to know? Being an efficient and effective learner will reduce your window of vulnerability to loss. Here are a few things I am personally spending time on:

Before I even arrived:
* Read up and asked questions of my network about this church and the team members who are here.
* Spent tons of time talking with my new Senior Pastor
* I created a list of questions that help guide my learning once I got here.

Right after I arrived:
* Met with my direct reports and we settled on how we would communicate.
* I listened and arrange myself to be in places where I could here volunteers talk. They would all bring their own perspective to what each of the problems and strengths were here.
* I would also in this step re-do my questions some as I was able to target them more specifically because I was armed with more knowledge.
* Always kept my senior pastor in the know of what I was thinking. In this piece is where I started to learn of things I had to let go of to pick up some new stuff.

After being there for a bit:
* Met with key parents and got their ideas and feedback
* Met with the kids and got their ideas and feedback
* Talked with the community people and asked what they knew or thought of my new church
* Met with area children’s pastors
* I would also in this step re-do my questions some as I was able to target them more specifically because I was armed with more knowledge.

I find for me if I spend the right time asking the right questions I will soon discover I need to let go of some old tried and true things that are comfortable, and pick up some new and unknown ways to help the ministry God has blessed me to be part of. If you don’t, the result is never good.

How your children’s ministry can stay on top of kid culture

thumbs up kid

Staying plugged into kid culture takes some very deliberate strategies the older one gets.

Knowing this, it does take some deliberate decisions to stay plugged in which is why I want to lay out some of those deliberate decisions that I take.

1. Hang out with kids
This may seem very obvious but how many of us actually do it? The best way to find out what kids like is to hang out with them at programs, events, games, and recitals. Ministry doesn’t just happen in an office. It happens where people are.

2. Ask them what they’re into
Just by hanging out with kids you’ll learn a lot if you just take time to ask questions. Ask kids what their favorite shows and movies are, what they like to read, and where they wish they could vacation at and why? Be creative with kids as you ask them questions, but don’t make it feel like a questioning at your local police station. Write down your findings, I like Evernote because it syncs with between all of my devices. Sometimes I just have my phone with me while gathering information, sometimes it is my iPad mini. With Evernote, it doesn’t matter I have it covered with all my info gathering synced between all devices.

3.Surf the web
Just by doing a Google search typing in: “Most popular sites for kids” it pulls up some great finds like this website regardless of when you want the info so you can always pull up the most recent updated info.

Here are just a few preferences from the kids in my ministry:
* Nick
* PBS Kids
* Cartoon Network

Here are a few preferences from the adult leaders in my ministry to help them stay sharp with their skills and building a network of support:
* Kidology
* CMConnect
* KidzMatter

There are just a couple of ways that work for me to stay connected with kids regardless of my age.

What would you add to this list?

Successful budgeting for children’s ministry


I am sure at the time of this writing many of you are going through what i am going through, the budget process. Even if you are not going through it at the time of reading this I would recommend sending this to your Evernote web clipper account for future use.

Here is one way of budgeting but it has brought my team and I great success for the next year of ministry.

We create what we call a success map. This is a document of 5-7 BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) that will need all the children’s ministries to tackle in the new year for success to be had. I am the one who puts those 5-7 goals out there but they mostly show the big goals my pastor has for our church. The main difference is that I will convert what I get from him into language that my teams can take on.

A. My pastor wants to create new ways to reach into our community.
B. I will translate into – Each cm department will create at least 1 new way to reach new families in our community that will equal a 5% gain of your current attendance.

After I have heard my pastor’s heart, set the children’s ministries 5-7 BHAG’s, given this to all my coordinators they go away and answer how each of their departments will help in accomplishing the BHAG’s. They will also add in some of their own ministry goals for their teams as well, and break these goals into quarters through the year. Some BHAG’s can not be accomplished in just one attempt and so many of them will continually be chipped at throughout the year, but at the end it can be said if they accomplished it or not.

The purpose of breaking everything into quarters is so all the coordinators can keep one another accountable for progress through the year.

Budgeting comes easy now that we know what we want to do, because we just go back in and assign dollar amounts to the quarterly goals. Using the example from above:
BHAG Goal:

1. Each cm department will create at least 1 new way to reach new families in our community that will equal a 5% gain of your current attendance.

Event/Place: Safe Place event. (Parents can drop their kids off for babysitting with our trained volunteers for free so they can go on a date, work late, catch up on whatever etc. from 4pm-7pm 1st Saturday each month).

Cost: Pizza to feed kids. 200 kids x $2.00 each child = $400.00 x 3 1st Saturdays = $1200.00

Hopefully you get the idea. You would keep pricing out all your goals and assign dollar amounts and at the end you will know what you want to do, the amount you will need etc. This is not the format we use with our success maps, that you will need to decide what is best for you. This is the formula we use though for successful budgeting in our children’s ministry. It also helps to see ahead of time what months are going to be more expensive than others if we need to make any adjustments.

Long term effective children’s ministries partner with parents

Beautiful family

I have spent some of my morning quiet time today in one of those moments wishing I knew then what I know now about children’s ministry. I can’t go back, but I can definitely go forward with more effectiveness.

When I started in children’s ministry, parents strangely enough were not even part of the picture. I thought if the ministry had fun games, good volunteers, and decent preaching then my job was a success. Since then I’ve learned this is only a small piece of what a great children’s ministry is all about.

Raising up a generation of world changers requires more than just great programs for kids. An often too overlooked ingredient to a successful ministry is setting parents up to win at home.

Here are some idea that have helped me partner with parents:

1. First start with the belief that parents can do the job God has given them.
In Deuteronomy 6:4-8 God places the responsibility of being a child’s primary faith influencers in the hands of their parents. God hasn’t asked parents to do something He hasn’t made them to do. Partnering with parents starts with this: parents are the single biggest influencers in their kids’ lives. We have a greater chance of success when the family and the church work together.

2. Be mindful of parents when scheduling.
I have never seen yet a time when a child could drive themselves to church. Kids aren’t as independent as junior high or high schoolers either. They need their parents to drive them places and pay for everything (this is in part why most children’s ministry budgets are funded more by the church than another ministry, kids don’t make the money). Make sure you’re not draining your parents’ resources when you set a calendar. How can we expect parents to live out what we’re communicating when we’ve got them out every night of the week or asking for their money around every corner?

3. Communicate all the time in many ways.
Parents benefit from regular communication pieces from you to keep them in the loop on everything that is going on in your ministries. It doesn’t matter if you use email, blogging, Facebook, twitter, snail mail, texting or a white board outside of each of your check-in places. Just get it out to them and do it consistently.

4. Stay in it for the long haul.
Here is one that probably took me the longest amount of time to learn the value of. Trust takes time. The longer you are around the more chances you have to build credibility with the families in your church. Unless God is specifically calling you someplace else resist the urge to move on to “greener pastures” and work to build roots where you are at.

5. Have great stuff for their kids
Last but not least, is to help invoke interest to the things of God. Some items I have noticed over the years that great children’s ministries usually involve are:

* Small groups for community building since we live in a time that kids no longer attend the same schools or hang out in the same communities.
programming with your oldest boys in mind

* Always keeping kid culture in front of all those who are investing in the lives of the kids.

* Fun and humor. Yes these are 2 ingredients that probably more emphasis should be put on than in any other ministry. Play is a child’s work.

6. Resource the plan you put together
Every good children’s ministry has a plan for developing Christ-likeness (this is what I work with children’s pastors in through coaching). Give parents a plan, show them how to use it, and give them tools to work with during the week. There are great books, curriculums, podcasts, blog, articles, and technology like YouTube to show and offer videos made by you to help parents in various areas.

There’s a great movement in the country now that is helping to reshape the way we minister to kids, parents, and families. There has never been a greater time to make a larger impact in helping families to truly become “World Changers”.

How does your ministry show you are partnering with the family?

What will be something created to take your parental involvement to the next level?

Wimps no need in applying for Children’s Ministry

Feeble and wimpy guy

I just finished our week of camp with our SFLCKids and while there I enjoyed a great conversation on how many people are no longer in children’s ministry positions. Everyone was talking about who graduated with them and headed into the children’s ministry field to only leave for one reason or another. Some of the reasons were very heart breaking due to they seemed to allow the children’s ministry to break them.

Why is it that children’s pastoring seems to have such a high rate of carnage? Here are just a few reasons, I am sure there are a ton more. Besides the senior pastor position, I believe leading in children’s ministry is the most difficult pastoral position to serve in. The list below is not true of every church (so please keep your hate mail), but more often than not, most of it is true in most churches.

Children’s ministry…

– Is perhaps the least understood or appreciated pastoral level position in the church, as reflected in the fact that it is typically the lowest paid “leadership” position on the staff.

– Can be staffed (because of the lack of understanding, appreciation, and compensation) often by under-trained leaders, resulting in high turnover, not to mention discouragement and frustration.

– Is probably one of the most expensive groups to run effectively (due to society has made things for kids more expensive all around) but usually operates on the least amount of money.

– Usually is the largest single group in the church being served with the greatest physical, social, emotional, and mental developmental span of any in the church (babies through preteen)

– Has the largest group of volunteers to lead and manage.

– Needs to be a master communicator with the kids, volunteer, parents and the grandparents. To keep kids engaged in your message while they live in a world that they have so much at their fingertips readily available to captivate their attentions. Communicate with volunteers who all give different amounts of time and make sure no one gets left out. With Parents and Grandparents who always want and need information well in advance and receive their information in several different ways.

– Needs the largest and most diverse teaching team – multiple teachers with multiple skills are necessary for various classes vs. the ability to get by with just one. Kids move from nursery to concrete thinkers than abstract through non reading and reading up through pre-teen ages. None of these are alike or can be treated as such.

– Requires the most specific and varied volunteer training (because of the developmental range and varied ministry requirements within that range). You must be a master in all or a great recruiter to see that all areas can be trained on.

– Security needs to be thought through at a whole new level

– The most spiritually impressionable group in the church, by far, with the opportunity to make the greatest overall impact in spiritual formation, but within the group that is least able to manage themselves.

The above is in no specific order. What would you add or disagree with?

If you want your team to fail, then practice these ideas.


There is a ton written on leadership and what to do if you want to succeed. I thought seeing that there is so much coming from that end with nothing resulting from it, I would try the reverse psychology idea and write from the other direction in hopes of some better results.

If you want to see your team fail then keep setting those impossible goals.
“Big Hairy Audacious Goals” are amazing in terms of getting people to really go beyond where they thought they could, but set too aggressive a goal and a leader can make it impossible for the team to succeed.

Leaders have to show credibility by creating goals that are compelling but not impossible. A good metric is that everyone should feel the goal to be about 10 percent out of their reach. Much more, and the team shuts down at the beginning because the members think success can’t possibly happen. You as the leader may know better but if the team feels it isn’t possible you have now gotten to far ahead of them and the results are never good when this happens.

I have always heard it said that if you let your team know you are a few steps ahead, you are the leader. You let known that you become too many steps ahead you will become the martyr.

If you want your team to fail then keep measuring the wrong things.
Measurement ties back directly to the goals, as well. There’s a lot of human behavior that goes to work every week in ministries, but it goes to work attempting to do something. Make sure that they’re clear on what they’re supposed to do. You can’t blame the construction crew for building to the blueprints and not liking the house. Proper measurement helps decide whether the efforts or the underlying goals are off.

A related problem is the manager who embraces optimism and hates hearing bad news. Employees will tailor their reports to better fit the expectations and prejudices of the leader. That may be comforting in ways, but the practice will undermine all goals and performance.

There’s 2 things that I think you should keep doing if you want your teams to fail.

What would you add?

There is a balance in Leadership


Ever since I have moved to our new house in Kansas City, MO, I have truly been into my yard and gardening. While involved in these two relaxing activities for myself it has given me a lot of time to think and a ton of leadership comparisons to roll around in my brain. Here’s one.

Producing a healthy garden it takes the right amount of water, sunlight, fertilizer, and care. Too much water or too little of any one ingredient could result in damaging your gardening. Just like the best gardeners learn through experience and reflection what their gardens need to grow and develop, seasoned leaders learn what it takes to help people and organizations achieve their potential. I think they learn how much each of the items listed below need to be done.

— Plan and Execute.

Planning is important, but so is execution. Some leaders over plan and under execute. Of course some leaders do just the opposite. They’re busy having meetings, doing key-note presentations but making no improvements in the operation.

— Task and People

Some leaders are too task-focused. It feels everything is all business. People are used for getting a task done. On the other hand some leaders are too focused on pleasing people at the cost of solving problems and getting the work done.

— Results and Process

Some leaders only focus on results. “What’s the bottom line?” Results are important but so is process—how things are done. The how can often times decide how much results you can get at different sizes of growth. The seasoned leader focuses on both what is being accomplished and how it’s being accomplished.

— Coaching and Letting Go

An important part of a leader’s job is to coach people on how to be more effective and efficient. However, there is an important difference between too little and too much coaching. Too much can frustrate initiative. Seasoned leaders know the difference between providing too much (micro-managing) and too little (not developing your team) coaching.

— Work Life and Family Life

Some leaders get totally consumed by their job and neglect their family. To many jobs have been turned into mistresses.

Seasoned leaders know finding the right balance doesn’t mean moderation in all things. It means using the right mix of various ingredients to help people grow. Great leaders have the wisdom to know what actions are needed to meet success.

What would you add to this list?

Children’s Ministry Videos

Call me slow, but I just discovered these you tube videos from Children’s Ministry Magazine. They have a full list of videos on a variety of topics about things on Children’s Ministry.

Here are just a couple:

The Mohawk Snap Object Lesson

20/20 Vision

So do you have any other places or videos that you have stumbled across recently that can be used in children’s ministry?

What they didn’t teach you in seminary book review

what they didnt teach you in seminary

In the book of What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary: 25 Lessons for Successful Ministry in Your Church he acknowledges that education is important but there are still valuable lessons that must be learned that can not happen in the classroom.

Here is the list from this author who loves and appreciates what a seminary education offers, but has been in the actual trenches of pastoral ministry for a while now. This list is of those lessons gathered that were never taught to him in seminary. Enjoy.

Emotional survival. Ministry is emotionally hard, take care of yourself by working in your sweet spots and pursue emotional replenishment.

Five C’s. When hiring someone, look for Character, Competence, Catalytic ability, Chemistry, and Calling.

The next big thing. Before adopting any great next big idea, know and understand the “why” behind it.
** I teach my coaching students this very same thing as they are challenged to network with and learn from the next size children’s ministry. As they do this they are not to ask about the “what” as much as the “why” behind it.

It’s the weekend stupid. Sunday is your greatest opportunity to impact people; make sure it is great!

Forever Young. The church naturally skews old; intentionally target the young and you will get all the generations, target the old and you’ll the young.

It’s not rocket science. Growing a church or your ministry is not really complicated, it’s just hard work. Prayer, Inviting people, Putting on a quality service – all are just hard work.

Bone structure. Set your ministry up so that the leaders can lead. I find with this one if you don’t design this to happen they will not only not lead but they will leave!

These are only a few of the lessons James Emery White shares from his lessons, but as you can probably see they are good ones. Get the book and read the rest of them because there are so many more nuggets of gold to mine from his book.

Top 2012 Posts


I will jump in with everyone and do my end of the year most viewed post for 2012.

1. The need for communication in children’s ministry and part 2 Needed communication in children’s ministry .

Summary: With these 2 post I basically explain why, how and what I use to communicate with the different audiences that all of us children’s pastors must be ready to communicate with. Often times it is a lack of proper communication that causes a many derailment to children’s ministries.

2. A difference between the front and the back of the house

Summary: Due to my past training in management through the restaurant field, I have established for myself a clear direction in what I refer to as front of the house (example: check in counters, greeters) and back of the house (snack runners, sound etc.). In each area you there is a different feel and different public responsibilities.

3. Value or non-value added ministry efforts

Summary: This was a very painful 6 month self discovery where God challenged me to think through what things I do everyday, every week, and every month that are truly adding value to the ministry He has called me to here at my church.

4. Effective meetings can happen and Effective meetings can happen part 2

Summary: The title really covers it. I give tips to turn your meetings into EFFECTIVE meetings so that everyone will feel that their time, thoughts and contributions are appreciated. EFFECTIVE meetings should energize, give direction and inspire confidence about what your team can achieve.

I am going to stop with my top 4. Why 4? Because everyone else is doing top 5, top 10, top 12 because of 2012, top 13 because of 2013, top 20 etc. I will have mine to be just a top 4.

Hope you enjoy.

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