Think back to your high school science class to recall what momentum is. The formula reads: momentum equals the mass of an object multipled by its velocity. I find it quite interesting to compare this law of physics to leadership. In leadership terms this translates (at least in my head) into the number of fired-up people you have on your team multiplied by the speed that things are happening creates momentum in your ministry.
If you’ve ever been in the middle of a ministry that has great momentum, it’s really easy to get up in the morning! It’s exciting and you just can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen today. Momentum doesn’t happen overnight, though, and you can’t merely declare that “the children’s ministry will now have momentum.” So, how do you get this stuff?
Declare your vision and stick with it.
What is it that your church is about? Communicate that vision and how it plays out in children’s ministry with anyone who doesn’t have ears full of wax. If you’ve got someone’s attention on a short drive to catch a burger for lunch, use the entire two minutes to paint a mental picture of what God could possibly do in your place. And don’t get sidetracked. There are so many “good” things to do out there, but if they don’t align beautifully with your vision, then let someone else do them. Know what you’re about and don’t stray away. Your train needs to stay on its track!
Launch full speed ahead.
Thrust is when you lunge forward with one powerful force. Don’t mosey into things! If you’re going into a new program, have a full-blown plan mapped out. Sure, it’s going to get changed and improved as other ideas are thrown into the mix, but start out like you mean it. If you need 50 volunteers, then spend a full day making calls and recruiting personally instead of checking in with someone when you happen to run into them. With that many phone calls going out, those people will start talking with one another. When it’s time to publicize an event, drench people with the information. Everywhere they look, they should be receiving information that will energize them about what’s coming up. In track events and horse racing, the end of the race is often determined by how quickly and effectively the runner or horse came out of the starting gate. Don’t wander into the race later on; have a plan and launch at full speed.
Pounce on opportunities.
There are some opportunities that will create great momentum, but you’ve got to do them NOW! If you wait, the experience will pass and there won’t be a way of getting it back. A very recognizable opportunity that you’ve got to pounce on is when there is a natural disaster that calls for the community to rally to help. Kids can be part of helping their neighbors through this time, but you’ve got to act now. The impact will be a change of mindset and a lifelong memory. The opportunities you pounce on are usually the ones that cause huge personal changes and decisions. Creating momentum sometimes means dropping everything in order to grab a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Be a step ahead.
In the middle of one major season or event you need to be broadcasting the benefits of the next thing you have lined up for the kids. “If you think this is cool, then you won’t want to miss what’s next!” The irony of coming off of a major success is that you want to cool down and rest, but the adrenalin is also out in full force and you can’t stop thinking about “next time.” Although I’d hear murmurs of exhaustion setting in about midweek of Bible School, by the celebration evening all the volunteers were sharing ideas of how our influence could expand the next year. That was momentum. If you’re not ready for what’s next, then the time in between will only slow your momentum. And, when that happens, you have to build up speed again in both your volunteers and your kids. Keep the “pedal to the medal” and don’t let the train coast.
Increase your mass.
Half of the momentum equation is mass. Think of that as the number of people who have bought in to the vision of your children’s ministry. A major mistake that children’s pastors make at this point is limiting their mass to teachers and leaders. Of course, they are the ones you’re involved with on a daily and weekly basis; they are the ones who already recognize their heart for bringing kids to a lifelong relationship with Jesus. But you need to put a lot of effort into expanding your mass base. This can be grandparents who can participate in children’s ministry by sewing costumes, painting sets, or cutting wood dowel rods for rhythm instruments. People who can assemble craft kits and paint classrooms will expand your mass base when you repeatedly show them how their investment and talents help lead kids to Jesus. When you notice someone’s talents or the resources that they have access to, make note of that. Then, find a way to utilize them. It’s as simple as that … and you’ve increased your mass.
Set up wins.
If you’re a leader, one of your main responsibilities is to set up wins for every team member. That comes in an entire notebook of forms. Giving a shout-out on Facebook for the idea that someone contributed. That little bit of encouragement just created momentum—in that one person and also to the ones who read it who will buy in to the vision. Equipping your volunteers is another huge way to set up wins. When people know what they are expected to do and have been trained in how to do it, they’re more likely to raise the bar on their commitment. When you train volunteers, they get the message that you think they’re worth something to the ministry. As I lead training events across the country, my affirmation comes from consistently hearing testimonies of how the workshops gave attendees a fresh new outlook on leading kids. Everybody wants to know that they have worth!
Plow through obstacles.
When something has momentum, it heads right through obstacles. Oh, problems are going to happen. That’s a given. Although, the more you plan and the more you anticipate what could possibly go wrong, the fewer you’ll have. When a tree falls across a railroad track, a train moving at full throttle can head right through. In the rearview mirror the conductor sees the tree lying at the side of the track but the train didn’t slow. The unexpected is going to happen, so be prepared, deal with it quickly, and don’t panic. So what if it’s raining and you’ve got an outdoor Olympic day planned! You are prepared with Plan B. And, you don’t get up to apologize in a wimpish way, telling the kids that you wish you had something of quality for them; instead, you dredge for every spark of enthusiasm you can find and plow right through this obstacle. Don’t even honor the original intent with recognition!
Go public with what’s happening in your neck of the woods. Use every available form of communication to let the church know what’s going on in children’s ministry. On numerous occasions I have seen children’s ministry set the tone and the momentum for the rest of the church. Adults want to know that their investment in time and dollars is changing kids eternally. It encourages them to do more, give more, and find ways to expand the ministry. Videos summing up an event, kids giving their testimonies, kids leading in worship, colorful banners, mascots welcoming everyone to service are just a few ways you can accomplish this.
It’s a good idea to construct a set list of questions you ask yourself and your team each time you’ve taught a class, had a rehearsal, or completed an event. They don’t have to be big, hairy questions, but simple ones that will prevent future difficulties, point out strengths, and sharpen your planning skills. What went super well? Where were the problem areas? How could volunteers have been better prepared? What should have been done beforehand? Were there appropriate amounts of supplies? Did we get sufficient information for follow-up? Continual evaluation ups the chance of success for your future attempts.
How do you keep momentum once it’s been established? You stay diligent in all the ways that created it in the first place.
One of the beauties of momentum is that the more of it you have, the harder it is to stop it. The faster a loaded train is going, the thicker the wall must be that’s going to cause the train to derail. To be honest, a healthy momentum means that you’re busy, but it’s the kind of busy that accomplishes a lot. For some, creating momentum comes naturally, but for most of us it’s something we have to address intentionally. With a series of successes behind you and vision for the future, there’s no end to how far your train will go.