The summer is full of kidmin life: Vacation Bible School, Faith Field Trips, Annual Conference, my youngest grandson’s first birthday. Summer is also a time to prepare my heart, soul, and mind sold out for Christ for a school year filled with intentional faith formation and discipleship for the little people and their families God has called me to champion. With podcasts, books, tea with colleagues, and phone calls on the commute, I listen to the ‘theme’ the Lord is speaking for this new season to come. I’m not sure where I heard about Sustainable Children’s Ministry: From Last-Minute Scrambling to Long-term Solutions, but it is my best read of 2018.

How I wish this was out when I first started living out this call to Children’s Ministry some 25 years ago! The authors are Mark DeVries, founder of Ministry Architects which helps churches and faith-based organizations build sustainable ministries, and Annette Safstrom who is the voice of the 234 pages of in-the-trenches-been-there-done-it-struggles-but-now-shares-the-life-giving-systems-to-keep-you-in-love-with-kidmin based on her 30 years of experience. Yep…there are those who do this for life. This book focuses on the set-up. It’s about taking the time and great energy to set up systems and rhythms and measurable goals to let you know if we’re hitting the mark of long-lasting discipleship or just an event planner at a great venue. The practical is strong in this one.
Here are some highlights:

Chapter 1: From Chaos to Clarity “Putting foundational systems in place will never be urgent, but without them, everything becomes urgent.”

Chapter 2: The Workhorse Syndrome “Most children’s ministry leaders I know didn’t know they were on a path to professional children’s ministry until they were already there.” TRUTH!

Chapter 3: Beyond Goldfish and Bubble Machines “The right systems, like a good fence in a garden, can offer the kind of protection any ministry will need to thrive.”

Chapter 4: Measuring Up In working with churches of all different sizes, denominations, and complexities of programming, we’ve discovered these four patterns: $1,000 per child in financial investment including staff salaries; one full-time staff person for every 75 children who participate in some aspect of the ministry each week; one adult volunteer for every five children; in a typical church, the number of children who participate weekly in some type of program at the church tends to settle around 15% of the total number of people who worship on an average week. Grabbing a calculator yet?

Chapter 5: Building Your Ministry With Simple Machines speaks about where to start ‘the Database machine, the Calendar machine, the Volunteer machine.’

Chapter 6: From Pearls to a Necklace speaks about ‘the Communication machine, the Attendance Tracking machine, The Visitor/Guest and MIA Tracking machine, Safety and Security machine, the Check-In System machine, and the Facilities and Maintenance machine.’

Chapter 7: Seeing What Other’s Can’t – Yet is filled with a wealth of measurable goals, vision and mission vocabulary, and the bull’s eye you wish for the ministry to hit…so you know whether you’ve hit it or not. I mean we’ve all put on great events, but are we just event planners at a great venue? These are tools that keep our feet on the ground, keeping Jesus in the hearts and minds of our families, and keeping our churches from becoming just a neighborhood venue for stuff.

Chapter 8: The Delegation Dance about building your team, empowering your team, and managing your team. This section is worth the price of the book alone.

Chapter 9: Beyond Rotation “Make your prospect list…you’ll need three times the number of unfilled positions.” “When we fail to train our volunteers, we send the message that the job they signed up for isn’t really that important…So stop apologizing for recruiting and training…everyone needs to be invited three different ways if you want them to come.”

Next week I’ll move through the remaining five chapters. What the authors share is super practical and what most of us have learned along the way. Sometimes the hard way. Sometimes with scars. There’s a whole chapter on how to avoid seasons of living the life of the walking wounded. But the hope and a better way are possible. Whether you are new to kidmin or uber tired and running on empty, this is a healthy read. No matter what size church or what level of influence in your organization’s ministry with children or how long you’ve been at it, there’s a hug and a kiss on the cheek from the Lord in this one.

Ya’ll! Get the book and grab a pen! It’s dripping in goodness. Find part 2 of this post here.

“Be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6