Maximize your potential
Recently I had the privilege of visiting the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany. In this museum were hundreds of precious relics that pointed back to ancient times in history. One that stood out was the re-creation of the Gates of Babylon. It was initially constructed around 575 BC by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II. The gate has been reconstructed using pieces of the original gate … the same gate that Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel walked through. It was breathtaking! Of course, it has great value as a piece of history, but it no longer maintains usefulness outside of the museum. It’s a relic.
As I stood in awe of those museum artifacts, I was reminded of this truth: There is a danger of you and me becoming artifacts in a museum. We call them relics, …remnants … of a past life, a memento of what used to be. Is it because we simply age out? Not really. I think it goes well beyond the age issue. Of course, age plays a part in the process, but the usefulness and effectiveness of a children’s ministry leader has less to do with age and more to do with a mindset. It has to do with reinvention.
The word “invent” actually means “to find.” “Reinventing” therefore, would mean, “finding again.” So here is my definition of reinvention: Reinvention is an intentional process of discovery and adaptation for the purpose of maximizing potential and effectiveness.
The reinvention process actually sets us up to benefit from the natural order of change. The world is in a constant mode of change and there is nothing we can do to stop it. The question is this: Will you become the master of change or a victim of change? Reinvention helps us master change and ensure that our lives stay on a trajectory of increasing success. Reinvention prevents us from inadvertently becoming part of a museum. The bottom line is simple. Those who do not reinvent become relics.
It’s easy to assume that reinvention is just for those who have been involved in ministry for a long time. The truth is, reinvention is a necessary step regardless of your age. I know a few 60-year-old children’s ministry leaders who are relevant and effective, while at the same time, I know a few in their 20s who are already in a ministry rut and close to phasing out for a lack of relevance and effectiveness.
Let me give you an example of how reinvention played a part in my ministry over the last 25 years.
I did EVERYTHING, and I mean everything. This is leadership from ground zero.
I still taught the kids hands-on, participated in all the events, led more adults, created and cast vision, did long-term planning and goal-setting, recruited and trained volunteers. This is leadership from a 10,000-foot perspective.
Now, my ministry happens from a big picture perspective. I have more responsibility, lead bigger teams, and my ministry to the kids happens primarily (although not entirely) through other people. I lead and develop them, as they lead and develop the kids. This is leadership from a 40,000-foot perspective.
These three settings required me to reinvent myself as a leader. The role of the position clearly dictated that. Even if you are not changing churches or roles, it’s imperative that you reinvent how you lead to determine if your current style is the most effective way to lead in the ministry where you are serving.
Two Types of Reinvention
There are two types of reinvention that I believe children’s ministry leaders need to be aware of—external reinvention and internal reinvention.
External reinvention is reactive. It’s a response to an obvious external force. For example, when you transition from one church to another or you change ministry roles, you experience an “external reinvention.” This involves a tangible transition that carries with it an obvious need for change and adaptation. This is the least difficult of the two types of reinvention because in a transition we can easily recognize the need for change. It’s external.
This type of reinvention might also be evident in certain life stages. The kids are all in school, or the kids are all out of the house. It may be the case that your senior pastor changes the direction of the church. This might have a trickle down effect and would probably mean a reinvention on your part. Another example would be the misfortune of death, divorce, or tragedy. All of these present a more obvious need for reinvention.
The second type of reinvention is internal. Internal reinvention is much more difficult because it’s proactive. This is a self-imposed reinvention. There’s no external force or situation that makes you acutely aware of the need for reinvention. This is a moment of self-awareness in which you recognize and implement the adaptations necessary to succeed in your current ministry endeavors. It’s the most difficult type of reinvention because it requires you to be fully aware of your current mindset, condition, attitude, and pathway.
With each ministry transition I’ve made, as a volunteer or a full-time pastor, it was not difficult to see the necessary external reinvention in my leadership, roles, and responsibilities. However, within each of those ministry ventures, it was incredibly difficult to recognize the need for internal reinvention. Once recognized, it was a painful move to make. Without it, though, I would become a relic—an old reminder of how we did kidmin “back in the day.”
Re-evaluation is necessary because it’s quite common for the trajectory of life to change due to circumstances, experience, or life stage. What happens when the desires of your heart and your goals don’t align with your current ministry direction? You get dangerously close to calling it quits or being transitioned off the team.
It’s good to annually re-evaluate.
Direction of your ministry
Roles and responsibilities
Growth and development
Desires of your hearts
Over time, some of these areas may change. Re-evaluation is necessary to identify those areas that may have changed and require adaptation.
One helpful action step is to bring in outside input. Proverbs 21:2 says, “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts.” It’s very difficult to be objective about yourself. That’s why we need outside input. We need someone who will speak honestly and authentically about our leadership and personhood. This is “iron sharpening iron.” Reverse mentoring, where you spend time with a student so they can help you understand what’s trending now, is a good way to receive input during the re-evaluation process. You can also ask questions, process frustrations and seek guidance from a more experienced person in your field (who is not connected to your church).
Thinking can be summarized as the process where your brain asks and answers questions. One of the many interesting things about our brains is the fact that we guide the direction of thought by the questions we ask. For example, if a person asks the question, “Why did I marry this man?” that question will not take you down constructive pathways. Compare that to this question, “What can I do today to strengthen my marriage?” Now your brain is on a positive pathway looking for solutions that will actually add value to your life. The previous question will only create frustration and foster destructive thoughts. With that in mind, it’s safe to construct this framework.
The better the question you ask, the better you think.
The better you think, the better decisions you will make.
The better decisions you make, the better actions you take.
The better actions you take, the better results you get.
It all begins with the way we think. So, we all need to set aside thinking time. Most people don’t set aside time to simply think. One reason is that while we are trying to think, all we can think about are those things we could be doing if we weren’t just sitting around thinking. The idea of setting aside thinking time is a game changer. Put it on your calendar and treat it as an important appointment.
Rethink your daily schedule. What could you do differently?
Rethink your roles and responsibilities at church. What are the things that only I can do as the leader?
Rethink your contribution to the team. In my current life stage, with my level of experience, how can I best contribute to the mission of my church?
Rethink the direction of your life. If I stay on the path I am currently on, will I arrive at my desired destination?
Write down the things you do that take the majority of your time. Now, for each of those tasks or responsibilities, apply these two questions: Why? What if?
When you reinvent your leadership, you’ll find things you need to let go of in order to make room for a new focus. What are some things that you are currently doing that you could give to someone else? What are some practices, responsibilities, and/or habits you need to let go of?
I love the illustration of the trapeze artist. If you have ever been to the circus, you have seen a trapeze artist. It’s the coolest part of the circus. The objective is for the trapeze artist to get from one platform to the other and to do it with style. They jump from one platform with the rope in their hand. As they swing out to the other rope, they reach out, grab the rope, and then what? They must LET GO of the other rope if they want to continue their progress to the other platform. This is a good illustration for leadership. To grow, develop, and mature as a leader, you must be willing to let go of some things in order to grab new things. This is where you see it as it could be. You mentally structure a new work process or work habits.
In this step of the reinvention process, you take what you discovered in the re-evaluate and rethink stage and use those findings to construct a new pattern, new daily schedule, change in your work environment, or create a different focus for your ministry.
Once you know what you need to do, put it in action. “How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees?” (William Shakespeare) In other words, it’s a process. At some point, you have to start the process. Then, it’s one step at a time. Let’s pretend your home feels cluttered and to do anything about it feels overwhelming. Fair enough. You can’t declutter your house or apartment in one day, but you can clean out one closet. Once you clean out that closet and you feel the liberation from that clutter, it will drive you to the next step, then the next, then the next.
The re-engage step in the reinvention process is that moment you take one step forward in implementing the changes you identified in the earlier steps. It’s the point where you begin to gain traction and become the master of change, not the victim of change.
Reinvention doesn’t mean you have to change who you are. We should never become someone we aren’t. We should strive to become exactly who God created us to be. However, I don’t believe God intended us to fizzle out or be put on a shelf just because the world and culture changes. That’s where reinvention helps us. It creates longevity and effectiveness by capitalizing on our God-given talents, experience, and calling.
Reinvention is a surrender of pride, self-preservation, arrogance, stubbornness, and fear. It’s rediscovering and reapplying the assets that God invested in each one of us. It’s maximizing our potential to make a difference in this world. It’s presenting us to God in an attitude of surrender with a willingness to do whatever is necessary to fulfill the calling He has placed on our lives as children’s ministry leaders.
Don’t become a relic. Reinvent yourself and experience the joy of serving God as a children’s ministry leader with longevity and effectiveness.