This post was written by Crystal Mazzuca, a member of the INCM Blog team.
A good leader knows a lot. A great leader grows what they know through a lifetime of learning.
As a children’s ministry leader, you know a lot.
You know how to captivate a room full of children.
You know how to manage behavior and social issues.
You know how to take a shoestring budget and run a VBS that knocks the socks off your community.
But when is the last time you learned something new? A new philosophy or strategy? A different way of thinking? When is the last time you challenged yourself to think outside the box, push your boundaries, and explore something new and different?
Christian leadership influencer John C. Maxwell wrote in Talent is Never Enough, “The greatest enemy of learning is knowing.”
One of the best things we can do for our churches, our ministries, and ourselves is to remain lifelong learners.
Valuing both the professional and personal growth that comes through learning will make us better leaders.
So how can we cultivate a lifelong love of learning?
Here are 4 different approaches to being a learner for the long haul.
Learn Different Ways
Do you love curling up with a good book, highlighter in hand, and taking notes in the margins as you go?
Or do you enjoy listening to a podcast or audiobook, gleaning from the words and conversations as you do other tasks?
Maybe your best learning happens in a group setting, having face-to-face discussions where you are able to ask questions and engage.
One of the best things we can do for ourselves as leaders is to challenge ourselves even in the ways that we learn.
If you are a big reader, try changing things up by listening to a podcast or two.
If you really enjoy learning on your own, challenge yourself by joining a coaching group or attending a conference.
If you’d much rather talk while learning than reading a book on your own, consider reading a book with a friend.
Even being flexible and open to how we learn will help us to be well-rounded, well-versed leaders who hear from a rich variety of voices in different ways.
Learn Different Things
From teaching and theology to trauma-informed training and worship, we all have aspects of ministry that we are incredibly passionate about.
But as lifelong learners, we need to develop a hunger to grow in a variety of areas.
Learn about your strengths
Whatever you love, whatever you are good at, whatever gets your heart pumping and puts a smile on your face – become an expert!
Keep learning and diving deep into what you’re already good at so you can become even better.
When we feed a passion that is already inside of us, it gets us even more excited to grow.
Learn about your weaknesses
We can shy away from our weaknesses, feeling embarrassed or overwhelmed about those things that don’t come so easily.
Rather than avoid them, we should face them head-on.
We have an amazing opportunity in this world filled with resources to grow in the areas where we feel like we fall short.
Are you struggling to find volunteers?
Are you lacking confidence in creating a budget?
Find resources that speak to your low areas and use them to grow.
Learn about being a leader
Not every area we are learning about needs to be ministry specific.
There is an incredible benefit to learning about leadership in general.
There are plenty of Christian and secular leaders that have so much to teach us about managing people, growing teams, casting vision, and leading well.
Learn about being a disciple
Leadership in ministry shouldn’t be the only thing that we are hungry to learn about.
We should be just as much so (I’d venture to say even more so) invested in growing personally.
As Christians, our number one job is to be a disciple – not a Children’s Ministry Pastor or leader.
The more we grow in our relationship with Jesus, the more we are formed and transformed by His word and Spirit and the better leaders we will be.
So incorporate in spiritual formation and biblical learning to your leadership development. Our personal growth in Jesus should never stop!
Learn Different Rhythms
Our seasons of life often dictate how much (or little) time we feel like we have to devote to learning.
But the question isn’t do we or don’t we have the time to learn – it’s how can we best use the time we have to grow as God wants us?
No matter how busy or free we feel, we can all do something to help ourselves develop habits of learning.
Here is a list of different rhythms of learning you can incorporate into your season of life.
- Wake up 30 minutes early to read or listen to a podcast.
- Listen to a podcast or audiobook on the way to or from work.
- Read a blog during your lunch break.
- Block out one afternoon a week to spend learning.
- Set a goal to read one book a quarter or month.
- Participate in or start a book club.
- Join a coaching group.
- Take an annual personal learning retreat.
- Budget to go to a conference.
- Find a limited series podcast and set a goal of finishing the whole thing.
- Make a comment and ask a question to a blogger, author, or speaker you follow on social media.
- Go back to school to get a certificate or degree. (INCM offers the Engage Certificate in an incredible partnership with Bethel Seminary, which offers you seminary credit.)
Whatever you do, develop a regular rhythm of doing it.
When you make time for it, you will see yourself grow leaps and bounds!
Share What You Learn
What’s one of the best ways you can internalize what you are learning?
Share it with others!
Whether it is a talk with your senior leadership, a training you lead with your volunteers, or even posting on social media – sharing what you learn will lock in your newfound knowledge and help you put it into practice.
In addition, it will inspire and encourage others to grow and learn as well.
Regardless of how long you’ve been in leadership, how much you enjoy learning, or how much time you feel like you have, make learning a priority.
The more you learn, the more you will grow.
And the more you grow, the better of a leader you will be.
One final note: with all that is available to learn and the myriad ways we can access it, things can start to feel overwhelming!
If this is you, take it one step at a time.
Pick one thing to focus on or one rhythm to add in.
After all, you have a lifetime to learn.
Crystal has always loved working with kids. After earning her Master’s in Christian Education Administration, Crystal was hired as the full-time Director of Kids’ Ministry at her church. She’s thankful to have found a family of like-minded brothers and sisters who share a common passion for Kingdom growth through discipleship.