If you’re new to children’s ministry you might be wondering: What do I do first?
You’ve either received training or been handed a ministry handbook and are now left to put on a ministry to kids, whether you have done it before or not.
And if you’re brand new, you might feel a little overwhelmed. That’s normal.
Children’s ministry is very fast-paced and full of details.
Ministry events happen quickly, and each and every gathering requires a lot of prep work.
It will take you at least 18 months to feel like you know what you are doing. You read that right 18 months.
So take a deep breath. You can do it.
Once you get enough time and know enough people, the pieces will come together and you will feel confident knowing your role. And then you’ll take off flying.
In order to help you become a leader who is on the right track, here are 5 tips to help you start with confidence.
1. Stay close to Jesus.
Your church hired you to fulfill a job.
Yes, that job is very busy, rewarding, and fun, but don’t forget why you’re ministering in a church.
Your priority is to model who Jesus is for a community of children and families who need Jesus desperately.
At INCM we regularly say, “We care more about who you are than what you do.”
And your church might not always communicate that, but they need a healthy and whole you in order do to the work of Jesus in your church.
Your church needs an authentic representation of a follower of Jesus to be leading kids and families to Jesus.
So find time to read your Bible.
Keep daily prayer times.
Make sure you have a group of people to meet with regularly for Bible study and prayer. (And I would suggest these people are outside of the church so you can be a person and not a leader to them.)
And continue to worship with your community when you can.
Your soul matters to Jesus more than your to-do list or your title.
Now to the practical advice.
2. Children’s ministry is very administrative, so get yourself organized.
Sometimes people mistakenly think that ministry to children is all fun and games.
But every gathering requires several steps of administration in order to host and accomplish its goals.
Learning to be detail oriented and following through is very important for you to master as you lead children.
If you’re a relational leader, that’s ok. Most children’s leaders are.
But if you struggle to follow through on tasks, or have a hard time keeping appointments you’ll want to create systems to help you grow.
Administrative skills can and must be learned.
A few rules that helped me when I started in kids’ ministry were:
- Return calls or emails within 24 hours of receiving them.
- Write down any task that pops up in a planner, notebook, or on your phone. (i.e. You’re in a staff meeting, and you’re reminded that you need to create an invite for an upcoming event. Write it down!)
- Try not to procrastinate.
Whether you are naturally detail-oriented or not, you can learn habits that will help you become organized and efficient so you can do ministry with ease over time. Be a learner.
3. Meet with existing stakeholders in the kid’s ministry.
If you’re brand-new to a community, you need to get a sense of the culture and the church needs to get to know you!
How better to learn the culture than to meet with people who are already active in the ministry?
A stakeholder is someone that participates in the kids’ ministry regularly.
If they are enthusiastic about the church, attend often, and you see them serving or participating regularly, they’re someone you want to talk with.
You can determine who the stakeholders are by asking your church staff who they know that is involved, or by looking over the volunteers that are already helping in your ministry.
I would suggest meeting with 3-5 stakeholders, at first, including parents, grandparents, adults, and youth.
If you want to do more meetings, you’ll just get more and better information.
I would suggest setting up a play date with a stay-at-home mom at or near her home, a Zoom meeting after the kids are in bed with parents who serve in your ministry, or a short chat in the foyer with members who participate in the kid’s ministry regularly.
Face-to-face is best.
Talking on the phone is good.
Surveys are ok, but not the best for this situation.
Ask Helpful Questions
When you meet, consider asking them these helpful questions:
- How long have you been a part of this church?
- What drew you to this ministry for your kids?
- If they have kids in the ministry, ask: Why do your kids like this ministry so much?
- How do you want to participate? (If they’re already volunteering, consider asking them if they feel the amount they volunteer is too much, too little, or just right.)
- Do you have any hopes about what the kid’s ministry could look like in the future?
Jot the responses down and reflect on them after you get several responses.
It will help you to create a mission/vision statement for your ministry later on, and it will inform what you need to prioritize in the immediate future.
The information is so valuable. For example, if a volunteer says they are serving way too much, you can prioritize recruiting more volunteers.
If a parent loves the outreach events, you can consider how you are doing them quarterly to help your church connect with the greater community.
If the kids love the games and stories, keep learning how to do these better!
Also, meeting with stakeholders is critical in helping people to connect with you.
Before you meet, consider what you’d want your new members to know about you and your thoughts on kids’ ministry.
Write up a short phrase that you want them to know about how much you value ministry to kids.
It’s always good to cast vision when you’re meeting with people.
It could be something like, “I look forward to partnering with you to share Jesus with your kids.”
Or, “I just love when kids love being at church and feel safe. It helps them to connect with God.”
No matter what you come up with, parents and stakeholders will appreciate that you are thinking about how to minister well to kids.
How Connecting Paid Off
When I started a role in a community church, no one knew me because I was brand-new to the community. It’s as if I came from Mars and had to learn everything about the community.
In order to help people get to know and trust me, I wanted them to spend time with me so they could make a judgment about whether their family wanted to journey with me at the helm.
On more than one occasion, I met with moms who were skeptical about the direction of the ministry under new leadership.
I was able to listen to them, acknowledge their concerns, and let them know what my values were, as well as give them an understanding of what the future could look like.
Years later, these moms were my biggest allies and supporters.
4. Don’t change everything all at once.
A great ministry friend of mine said to me once, “Leadership is disappointing people at a rate they can handle.”
You might see a lot of things that need to be changed, updated, thrown out, or retired.
And people are deeply invested in those things.
Before you switch curriculums, cut out programs, or cancel events, take some time to assess what is working, what is broken and needs to be retired, and what needs to be revamped.
Pay attention to who cares a lot about all of those things.
They might not be important to you, but they are important to someone else.
Consider what it looks like to make changes that don’t affect people in huge ways at first.
If you see a lot of big holes that need to be fixed, make a note of it and work from the least amount of resistance to change to more resistance to change.
I would even suggest taking a year to walk through the church calendar before you make any bigger changes.
It’s only after you know the culture of the church firsthand that you can assess what it really needs.
5. Find Your Tribe
One of the best ways to keep at it in ministry is to find other leaders with who you can learn, share encouragement, and ask for help.
You need to find people who are in it with you.
Consider calling other children’s ministry leaders in your area to see if they are willing to meet. You might even find that there is a group that is already meeting and would love to include you.
And if you can’t find something local, consider regional.
I met some amazing leaders through a quarterly regional children’s ministry gathering, and I’m still connected to some of them today!
Become a member of INCM to connect to other leaders online.
Attend local and not-so-local conferences and events geared toward children’s ministry to network with people. (CPC is a great one to find your tribe. We might be a little biased.)
Being new in the ministry can be fun and exciting! You can do it.
And with the right tools and community, you can make an impact for the Kingdom of God.
INCM is dedicated to connecting you to the resources, training, and community you need to minister to the next generation.
We are cheering for you!