Hiring a Lead in ministry with children used to be about hiring a teacher with creative decorating skills, training in behavior management, and a Vacation Bible School coordinator. Not anymore.

In my conversations with search teams and pastors over the last few weeks, these have been just a few of the questions we have chatted about…

Do you live in the community? If the pastor’s answer is YES, then it opens the door to consider an experienced candidate who is a connector who may commute. If the lead is expected to pull daily office hours, a commuter won’t fit. Ask what would it take for the hired lead to be trusted to get the job done without daily office hours? Everyone wants someone with experience, but what kind of experience would permit him/her to work from a home office at least one day each week? I commute an hour plus from my home to the church building, typically three days per week, but I connect by phone, social media, email and more, plan, research, collaborate, and learn all the other days, except Friday Sabbath, at tables all over the place including the home office.

If the pastor does not live in the local church community, then it would be wiser to hire someone who does. It’s important to have someone on staff living in the community the church serves. That person will know the rhythm of the community, attend the local school meetings, the cross country meets, and will know the holiday parade schedule, among all the things which make that community special. They’ll know how the community shops, drives, vacations, learns, and plays. 

Hint: Go to the next couple of PTA meetings and watch who ‘works the room’, chats with lots of people with a resting face of ‘joy’, or has great kids who enjoy being in groups of people.

Story: An innovative kidmin lead was hired from a school event as she worked the room. It was discovered she was a connector who ran local political campaigns which made for a perfect fit for a new church start’s children’s ministry. She earned a Christian education certificate to get the theology part down. After 3-4 years she handed off a healthy, vibrant ministry and a new kidmin church building to a supportive church when she moved on to pioneer a new endeavor. I learned so much from her about marketing, packaging, vocabulary, and sustainable energy.

As the local church’s head disciple-maker, as clergy, willing to teach someone how to do ministry? Not as a micro-manager, but would you be willing to hire a networker personality and not be annoyed because they don’t yet know how to build a ministry budget? The amazing kidmin community of the North Georgia UMC Conference can walk alongside a teachable networker to build a candidate’s skillset like budgeting, calendar management, collaboration, Safe Sanctuary, curriculum decisions, and more. There are some skills a kidmin lead will need to be part of his/her nature like connecting outside their department/local church with other ministry leads, making new friends, team building/recruiting, gratitude, helpfulness, communication clarity, a learner, generosity, a great sense of humor, trustworthiness, a desire for other disciples to succeed, to equip the saints to do the ministry of the church, goal setting, and loving people. There is a big difference between event-planning and really loving people to Jesus. Skills are important, but personality traits may be more important. Know what the pastor team can teach, what he/she is willing to teach, and what will annoy the daylights out of them to teach. 

Hint: Whatever the job description in your hand, it’s outdated. Post-COVID has set the pace and priorities of families we serve on it’s head. 

Look at the printed job description understanding there may be too much to ask of one person, especially from the get-go. Be okay with a dream list of tasks. It may be more reasonable to bullet-point the top, most important 5-10 tasks from which to grow the job description with the natural giftedness/bent a candidate can bring to the table. You’ll be surprised at what could be fabulous. Evaluate and check-in from those items every 30-60 days. Let the job description grow into the ministry you dream about for the future for your families. I re-evaluate my job description every January because a healthy ministry is always growing and changing to the audience we serve. Read more about that here.

Hard question: Do you really want your kidmin to look just like the one that can be found at every other church? When a person serves the local church in their natural giftedness and bent, what could burnout one person might just energize another. 

What are the three most important things that have to happen in your context within the next year if the church were to start from scratch? – VBS? Christmas Eve kid’s service? Sunday morning numbers? Midweek? New people? Retention of volunteers? Folks on-ramping in the kid’s area then getting connected in another? Full programming (whatever that means)? Returning numbers? New numbers?

What about the first 90-days? – connecting with a monthly networking group, already engaging social media, in-person detail, evangelism (be specific with a definition), mission (defined), a clean database, priority programming, marketing, event planning, reading a book on ministry systems?

Hint: Break down your church year into quarters. What has to happen in that quarter no matter what? It may not look like an event to plan, but a opportunity to piggy-back, partner, share, and not even on a Sunday.  This is especially helpful with a small to mid-size church when resources feel more limited and you will need whole-church buy-in.

This we know:

There is lots of movement this year. Hardly anything moved last year due to COVID, so if nothing else, this year seems extra.

  • COVID has caused people to reassess their priorities, so people are relocating into and out of the area. Use all the means possible, not just church staffing sites, to post the position and network, network, network.
  • There are lots of open positions, many of them part-time in smaller to mid-size churches. That’s okay. Our current societal structure encourages side-hustles. You’d be surprised at the work and elegant art that can be attended to with excellence by someone trained in other fields like counseling, teaching, preschool, real estate, etc. which can rock the church house in growing a ministry with families.
  • Consider hiring for a period of one-year, then reassess. 
  • Require networking and specific continuing education as part of the job and allow time for it.

What else?

Realistic and reasonable expectations make for a much more enjoyable workplace. Hiring new staff is a disciple-making opportunity, and we must always be looking for ways to make the experience better. Next week I’ll share more about hiring a pioneer and the most important question every candidate should ask. 

Other Resources:
UM Discipleship Ministries: Recommendations for Hiring a Children’s Ministry Director
HR Daily Advisor: How to Spot Talent
StartChurch: Hiring Church Staff
8 Truths of Hiring Church Staff