Looking Ahead & Pointing the Way

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Getting from here to there


One of the most intriguing professions in the world to me is forecasting the weather. Sometimes they miss it, but most of the time they get it right. Mr. Webster defines forecasting as “to predict a future condition or occurrence; to calculate

in advance by forethought and foresight in planning.” These are not just descriptions and duties of a meteorologist. It’s also the responsibility of a children’s ministry leader.

Let’s take a look at Moses In Hebrews 11:24-26 it says,

“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.”


Let’s also examine Paul where he says in Philippians 3:13-14,

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God n Christ Jesus.”


Now, let’s look at you. Are you accurately predicting future conditions and occurrences by advanced planning and careful calculations? Are you focused on looking ahead? Moses did. So did Paul. If you’re going to lead with success for a long period of time you have to master this! A leader must know where he’s heading, where he is now, and how to get from where he is to where he’s going. This can’t happen without forethought, foresight and advanced planning.


Planning must always go before action. It must be intentional, consistent, calculated behavior that becomes a way of life for you. Last minute planners are always surprised. They are surprised with where they are, surprised with where they are going, and don’t really understand what they did to get there. You can’t just work on the ministry you have without focusing on looking ahead to where you want to be in every part of your ministry.


We’re going to look at twelve steps I’ve used to become a leader who can look ahead in order to point others in the way God wants you to go.

  1. Know where you’re headed.

A vision is simply to know where God wants you. This sounds pretty basic, but why don’t you ask Him? Many times we spend more time in a conference or seminar than on our knees. You’ll never know God’s plan without asking Him. Dare to dream in Him. If people were no problem, where would you put them, and how would you use them? Start with the end in mind and plan backwards. Once you get a picture of what God wants, be specific. Read Habakkuk 2:2. Make it simple to follow so you can give it away to others. A God-inspired vision was meant to give away. A lot of people have asked me: How did you lead one of the largest children’s ministries in the country? That’s simple. I asked God where He wanted the ministry to go and did what He told me. I’d love to take credit, but I can’t. I was just following Jesus’ plan for our kids, our team and our families.


  1. Know where you are.

Be honest. Things are never as bad as you think they are and things are also not as wonderful as you think they are. They’re always somewhere in between. You have to learn to evaluate everything, especially the needs that need to be met. What are the needs of the kids God has given you? What are the needs of workers? What do they need to know to raise their abilities? Evaluate your budget or count the cost. Evaluate your policies and systems. I don’t work on the church I have; I work on the one I want to have. Evaluate your thinking. Your thinking can make you or break you. Evaluate what is working and what isn’t. I work on my “things to do list” and my “things not to do” list all the time.


  1. Know where you’ve been.

Be a student of the history of your church, especially the history of the children’s ministry. Know what they have defined as a win. Study the numbers—attendance trends and percentages. Know the thinking of past and present workers, as well as what workers are needed. Look at the ratios in each class at each service. Have they ever been better? Why? I even study the budget. Study the accomplishments of past and present leaders and the challenges they have faced.

  1. Know what others are doing.

Learn to network with others. A smart leader studies the success and failures of others. Listen and read their materials, books and blogs. Study from afar. Learn up close by attending a conference. Don’t just attend sessions, but ask questions constantly throughout the entire event. Visit the facilities of others. Develop a relationship with other kidmin leaders on whatever level is available including e-mail, phone appointments, lunch, and/or hang out with them during a weekend or a single service. Tweet, text, Facebook and Instagram with those you want to learn from. Don’t ever think you know it all. Continually cultivate a desire to learn by having a mentor, constantly reading, and talking shop with someone you respect. Stay current with what others are thinking and doing now, not just what they used to do.

  1. Get God’s plan for your ministry.

How does He want you to get to where you desire to be? Pray, get in the Word, and be led by the Spirit. Once you’ve heard how, now brainstorm with the wise. Planning must always go before action, but not your plan. Make sure you get God’s plan. If you ask, He will answer and tell you exactly what He wants you to do.


  1. Develop the plan by breaking it down in steps.

The first step is the most important. What has to be done so the next step can be done is my favorite way to break it down. It’s important that you don’t try to do too much too quickly. When possible, always get others involved, because you need the wisdom and input that comes from functioning as a team. You also want others to start taking ownership in the plan so that it’s a win for you and the team.

  1. Communicate and execute the plan.

Communicating and executing is not just for the now, but is also for down the road and all along the way.   Start with the level of leadership around you (your staff and/or key volunteers). Next, teach the plan in detail to the next level of leadership. Break it down with what each team member needs to know to walk out the plan as well as how to raise their abilities. You and this level must communicate the plan to all the other workers. How? Use every method available to you. Start with meetings for both informational and training. Add email blasts, newsletters and blogs. Communication doesn’t happen by accident—it takes work.


  1. Evaluate.

Use your M.B.W.A. (Management By Walking Around) degree. Study the numbers, not just from this week but also from last week and last month; then, compare them to this month. Look at the same day from past years. Are you on a pace to hit what you are aiming for? What are you looking for? I try to evaluate current trends, both downward and upward. What warning signs are you seeing where you can correct problems before they happen? Is your plan working? Do people understand what they should be doing? Keep an eye on your structure and your policies to make sure your structure is a growth structure and not a maintenance structure. Policies can strangle or enhance growth.

  1. Teach and make corrections

Teaching brings definition. Delegation without definition brings about a weird spirit. Correct in love. Teach on what you have learned through evaluation. This is an area where you must be consistent, and never let up until you arrive at where you are going.

  1. Set the pace and be the leader.

My favorite definition of a leader is one who leads. Be willing to model what you want others to do. Do what you’ve never done. Aim at excellence and desire to be cutting edge, whatever it costs you.

  1. Keep momentum and energy moving forward.

Look down the road and forecast what is ahead. Think forward, not just in the now. (My 2014 will be totally planed by June.) Make things happen. Instigate change!


  1. Out work everyone.

Work smart. Come early. Stay late. Accomplish more. Work hard. There may be others with more talent or abilities, but no one has to out work you. Once you hit what you were aiming at, look ahead and repeat the process.





About the Author

Jim Wideman is considered as an innovator, pioneer and one of the fathers of the modern children ministry movement. He is a speaker, teacher, author, leadership coach and ministry consultant with over 35 years of hands on experience in the local church, Jim has trained hundreds of thousands of children’s and student ministry leaders from all denominations and sizes of congregations around the world. In the 80’s The INCM awarded him with their “Ministry of Excellence Award”, in the 90’s Children’s Ministry Magazine name him one of the 10 Pioneers of the Decade, In 2010 “Children’s Ministry Magazine once again named him one of the “20 Top Influencers in Children’s Ministry, and in 2012 the INCM presented him with their first ever “Legacy Award” for his lifetime achievement in Children’s Ministry. Jim currently oversees all the Next Generation & Family Ministries-Birth through College at World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, TN Jim and his amazing wife Julie, have two successful daughters, two handsome son-in-laws and the cutest grandson ever born!