When I watch my grandson play with little green army men, he’s very particular about where every figure goes. He sets one, then realizes he must reset another. He’s flat on the floor, taking in the whole scene as close as possible. It’s all in the set up. There’s a leadership lesson there. It IS all in the set up when it comes to preparing for a new school year. So when I came across Sustainable Children’s Ministry: From Last-Minute Scrambling to Long-Term Solutions I had a road map for setting up systems.  As the authors shared in chapter 1: “Putting foundational systems in place will never be urgent, but without them, everything becomes urgent.”

My review and synopsis of the first nine chapters can be found here. These are some highlights from the last several chapters:

Chapter 10:  Beyond the Victim Before we can have politics in the church, we have to have relationships. Invest time and communication with your parents. Invest time and communication with your senior leadership. Invest time and communication with the other staff on your organization’s team.  The authors share the ‘secret six’=six secret ways to be the champion of the ministry you’ve been called to lead into the regular flow of what you do:

  1. Celebrate successes-share stories of last week
  2. Share the bigger vision-when you ask for help, share the big picture of where you’re wanting to go. For the last 90 days I’ve been sharing how we need to split children’s church due to our growth in numbers, so I began asking for prayer for leaders to take on Well-Versed Kids for our 3rd-5th graders. There are now 5 on that team and we are ready to begin next week!
  3. Embrace fun-offer an environment where there is a spirit of joy and resilience, not negativity and a critical spirit of what you’re missing, lacking, coveting… You get the picture.
  4. Share the dream-‘get your message to the congregation through stories and pictures.’ I use a closed Facebook group, I use the church’s main FB page, I send parents pictures of their kids, and I have a story every time someone asks, “How’s it going?”
  5. Build trust with key leaders-there are folks in every congregation who have the trust and ear of the rest of the congregation. Find those folks and talk about what’s happening ALL THE TIME.
  6. Be patient-Did you know it took 10 years for Chick-Fil-A to be the fast food restaurant that finishes every customer transaction with ‘My pleasure’? TEN YEARS! “Give yourself the grace to let change happen at the Spirit’s pace, not your own.” This is when a kidmin networking group can help. They will help you maintain the momentum when you are in the valley and feeling like nothing’s happening the way you’d hope for. The scriptures and my monthly networking group has been my lifeline.

Chapter 11: Children’s Ministry is Family Ministry Parents are already partners with us in the faith formation of their children, and so there are few things more important to our children’s ministries than building relationships with parents. I know Sunday mornings are not the ideal time for you to have serious relationship-building time with parents. But your presence and availability to them during that time is key.  If you are scrambling around looking for cotton balls, trying to get technology working, or teaching one of the kid’s classes yourself, you may miss your most important opportunity of the week-connecting with the people who have the most spiritual influence on the kids in your program. Make a plan of contacting a certain number of families each week, then contact them. If you’re not a people person or an introvert with exceptional people skills, this can be a matter of prayer. But it’s got to happen to grow and have a sustainable ministry. Jesus was all about relationships, old and new. Met or invested in anyone new lately?

Chapter 12: More Than Planning is where Annette shares a few hard-won tricks of the trade for managing the urgent while preparing for the future. Whether you’re struggling like I was or you’re an organizational savant, these tips might help you get enough altitude to tend to the things that matter most.

Chapter 13: Your Ministry Marathon ‘Injury prevention and warning signs that you may be one of the walking wounded…prevention…and recovery.’ Find a rhythmic week in ministry with ‘on’ time, ‘flex’ time, and ‘sabbath’ time. What can typically happen on which day of the week, write it out, then guard it with your life. It is your life! Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson of the North Georgia UMC Conference speaks often of guarding and celebrating a weekly Sabbath. As church staff, our Sabbath is different, but critical. Figure it out, then guard it. The way I guard it is to talk about it. “Fridays are my Sabbath.” It’s that easy, because people who care for you will also help you guard it. Here are a few thoughts of when and how do we staff members worship.

Chapter 14: Finding Your Bounce Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down. Well, they do fall down, they just don’t stay down. If we are the team with many ideas, then we get the ‘chance to fail often and quickly.’ So how do we get out of the pit?

  1. Be humble, not defensive. Learn to respond with, “Fair enough,” or “Point well taken.”
  2. If you pay the tuition, learn the lesson. Debriefing is the last thing you want to do, but when it offers solutions, isn’t that what we’re looking for?
  3. Talk most about what you want most because ‘we always get more of what we focus on. Focus on the ways God IS at work regardless of our most recent misstep.’

Then, develop/build a community of support for yourself with mentors, your supervisor, and coaches. Hey, even Olympians need coaches and so do you!

God’s called you. Your organization has hired you. Parents are relying on you. Kids are depending on you. I believe in you. What are you doing today to set yourself up for the long haul?

“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5