by Chris O’Malley
Networking is such a business term. So how can something so businesslike make a difference in the local church? I have been in the networking “business” for more than fifteen years; long before social networking was vogue. Network was just becoming a buzz word and was limited to business circles. Conferences like Leadership Network did a great job of bringing like minded leaders together from all over the country but small local churches were left on their own. Small budgets and overwhelming schedules made these resources unattainable.
Starting with just a few local churches in the Downingtown, Pennsylvania area our network met monthly to connect, encourage and support one another. As a larger church with multiple children ministry staff we were blessed with a facility, budget and experience to share with smaller churches. Bekah Worth, Director of Children’s Ministry at Jacksonville Chapel-Lincoln Park, New Jersey, recalls her first experiences with our network:
“I was fresh out of college and working on staff in a support role. Part of my job was to organize the network meetings. I loved seeing individuals from the area getting to know each other and connecting as they shared their ministry experience. Participating in the network helped me formulate ideas about how I wanted to do Children’s Ministry and reinforced in my mind the importance of being connected to other people who are doing the same ministry for kids and their families. After I started my new job as a director in a different church in New Jersey, attending those meetings was even more helpful, as I was able to talk with others in ministry about their struggles and how they were addressing them. One of my long-term goals is to begin a similar network in North Jersey that can offer the same support and encouragement that I gained from the Pennsylvania network meetings.”
Our network filled the gap for children’s pastors and directors especially those without multiple staff. Candy Nixon, kidsPastor for Immanuel Church of the Nazarene in Lansdale, Pennsylvania felt supported and encouraged by our group.
“Serving in Children’s Ministry can seem like a lonely place at times. We have the awesome gift of sharing Jesus with children and their families, encouraging them, instructing them and leading them. We often need to be reminded that we have not been called into this place to serve alone. The opportunity to network with others who share the same burden, desire, dream, and passion is so important. It is through this opportunity of networking that we can strengthen ideas, question opportunities, share what has worked and what has not worked.”
Meetings consist of a variety of formats including guest speakers, expert panels and round table discussions. Newbies and experienced staff discuss relevant topics together. One of our regulars, Cindy Donohue the Director of Children’s Ministry at Brandywine Valley Baptist Church in Wilmington, Delaware, shares thoughts on how the network clarified her ministry vision:
“Networking has been used by the Lord in my life to help shape my thinking for ministry direction. In praying about how our Children’s Ministry should fit into a new ministry initiative and strategy our whole church was planning, God used the networking group to expose me to some new ideas which gave me clarity of vision for the direction I felt He wanted us to follow!”
Churches of various denominations are brought together by a common love for children and families.
“Networking connects me with people who share like passion, calling, and commitment. We understand what each other is trying to accomplish. We share many of the same frustrations and joys. Networking provides me with a much needed support system.” Kathryn Creasy, Director of Children’s Ministry, International Offices of the Church of God of Prophecy.
KidsPastor, Candy Nixon sums it up. “It is through networking that we surround ourselves with like minds and other believers of Christ that can also speak into our lives and encourage us in our journey. In Philippians 2:4 it says, ‘Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but the interests of others.’ We have been called to support others, and in this journey you just might be surprised at how God enriches your own ministry as you reach out to encourage others.”
Chris O’Malley a children’s and family ministry consultant, oversees the Tristate Children’s Ministry Network Connection that meets monthly at various churches in the Tristate area. We’d love for you to join us. For more information contact[email protected]