Take time to gear up for your next ministry year
“I’ll be right back!” Ever uttered this infamous phrase on a busy Sunday in children’s ministry? See if you can relate to the rest of this all-too-real story from one of my many seasons serving kids.
I was curious how Allison’s parents would respond to being pulled out early from the worship service when their daughter sprained her ankle in Sunday school. I quickly dashed to the nearest first-aid kit for an ice pack. No luck. Would the medical supply closet have what I need? Again, the cupboards were bare. No need to panic. Just grab some ice from the freezer in the church kitchen and get back to the third-grade classroom as fast as possible. Seriously, who forgot to fill the ice trays again? There must be something frozen here to substitute for ice!
In this unguarded moment, so many thoughts flew through my mind. Why was the teacher having kids jump off tables pretending to be Peter walking on water? Will Allison’s family return for a second visit next week? It’s only September. How am I going to survive another ministry year?
Heading back to the education wing, I realized something needed to change. As I handed Allison’s Sunday school teacher a slightly defrosted (but fortunately still wrapped) cheese Danish to place on her sore ankle, I decided it was better to stock up than get stressed out in children’s ministry.
Whether you have been responsibly serving kids and leaders for one day or 1,000, getting ready for a new ministry season requires foresight and fresh perspective. Being equipped for the adventure of ministry is hard work. But the eternal payoff is worth every minute of front-end preparation.
It can seem overwhelming to arrange ahead of time everything from vision to volunteers—including curriculum, supplies, calendars, budgets, communication and more. But taking time to thoroughly get ready will help each step go more smoothly. It can even give you breathing room when the unexpected inevitably comes your way.
As your next ministry season approaches, check out these steps you can take to stock up in several areas so you and your ministry are geared up and ready to go.
Stock Up: Strengthen Your Heart
Endurance in any activity requires fortitude. As someone who serves in children’s ministry, taking stock of your heart is essential for remaining faithful year after year. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”
This may be a familiar passage, but we don’t always heed its instruction. All too many leaders begin cutting spiritual corners when it comes to abiding in God’s Word and prayer as the pace of life and productivity increases. This approach may work in the short term, but it is a terrible long-term strategy.
This year, carve out time to reconnect with the Lord BEFORE you gear up for the ministry season. Spend a day alone with God, inviting Him to replenish your heart, volunteers and ministry. Invest time in still, quiet moments so Christ can refresh and restore you.
Each one of these passages marked in bright pink need to be in a separate little box – they’re action steps or things to think about. They don’t need a title or heading.
Looking for a great passage to reflect on to strengthen your heart? Check out John 15.
Stock Up: Get Focused
“What you do isn’t children’s ministry. It’s childcare.” How many times have you heard that? Statements like these can be heartbreaking. That’s why taking time to get focused before the ministry year begins is important.
The night Jesus was betrayed, He spent time in earnest prayer. He made sure that heading to the cross was still what God had in store for Him. Christ’s focus as a leader and in ministry was crystal clear. His mission was marked out; His values were set in stone. Nothing was going to hinder Him from meeting His ultimate objective.
You, too, have a critical mission: to live out the Great Commission among kids, families and volunteers. Championing outreach and discipleship in children’s ministry requires having:
- A focused purpose and plan each year
- A compelling vision understood by your senior pastor, colleagues and volunteers
- An unwavering commitment to stay in it from start to finish.
This year, take time to prayerfully get your bearings so you can map out a plan that motivates you and everyone around you. What biblical truth or theme is God leading you to focus on this season? How can you best communicate where the Lord is leading you and the ministry this year?
Grab a blank piece of paper and craft the clearest vision you can in response to how God guides you.
Stock Up: Build a Team
An African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” When planning the upcoming ministry year, recognize the value of unpaid staff. Gifted and committed volunteers comprise the core of strong ministries.
Consider all the roles that need to be filled. Then, ask God to provide you with an inner circle of co-leaders who will shoulder the ministry load with you. Together, begin recruiting, training and empowering the body of believers for the work of ministry so kids and families will choose to trust and follow Christ. Ephesians 4:12 is a reminder that each person has a place, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”
List at least five people you could ask to step up to serve in children’s ministry.
Stock Up: Set a Game Plan
Thriving children’s ministries are built on more than just great games, but finding fresh games, activities and curriculum for use throughout the year is important. There is no question that God’s Word is 100 percent relevant for kids today, and communicating His truth relevantly requires creativity. Many inexpensive, even free, materials are available online. Or, check out resources provided by many qualified Christian publishers.
In addition to thinking through what each age group in your ministry will do and learn together, be mindful of how you will address child protection and security. Make sure kids, families and leaders can experience a safe and nurturing environment to grow in their faith together.
What is one new curriculum idea you have for this year?
Stock Up: Confirm the Cost
Luke 14:28 says, “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?” Jesus’ words here point to discipleship, though it portrays a parallel principle in ministry. God has entrusted you with the responsibility of stewarding His resources in children’s ministry. To gear up for the next ministry season, take adequate time to assess your arsenal of resources.
Resist falling into the mental trap that your limited budget restricts what God can do in your ministry.
- Scour your curriculum closet for unused materials.
- Contact local companies for donations to use as craft supplies or prizes at theme events and parties.
- Ask adult and teen volunteers to invest their time to help clean rooms and toys, create set designs and props, use musical abilities to lead worship and mentor kids in God’s Word.
As you count and confirm the cost of this next ministry year, budget your time and finances accordingly. Your calendar, checkbook and church treasurer will thank you!
Who can you ask to help find untapped resources?
Stock Up: Partner Up
Arguably the top barrier to effective ministry is poor communication. When leaders try to do everything on their own, don’t share ideas and plans and choose not to collaborate with parents and other church ministries, their children’s ministry suffers.
Just as Jesus modeled, leadership is first demonstrated through humility and servanthood. Your willingness to join forces with others who want kids to trust and follow Christ as much as you do is mission critical.
Partnering with parents through advisory councils and co-ops will help ensure your ministry remains focused and sustainable. Opening up dialogue with other departments in your church will limit unnecessary battles over resources and room assignments.
This season, pick partners inside and outside the church who will champion and communicate what your children’s ministry is all about.
Stock Up: Stay on Your Knees
Stocking up before the ministry season starts is not a guarantee you will never get stressed out. Strengthening your heart is an ongoing step that needs to happen throughout the year, as are the other steps described here.
However, don’t overlook one final step: prayer. Each time you present your requests to the Lord, you humbly open your hands to Him. In return He promises to guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). “God, where will we find the leaders, money, ideas and time? Father, how will we get your gospel into the minds and hearts of kids who don’t know You?”
Children’s ministry matters and requires so much. Pray that the Lord of the harvest stocks you up for service to Him.
Take time to gear up this year by starting with step 7 and working your way through the rest.
Dan Lovaglia has served in pastoral ministries for 15 years in the areas of teaching, training and team building. He is passionate about equipping kids, families and ministry leaders to know, love and serve Christ—a great fit for his role as Instructional Design Manager in U.S. Training at Awana. Dan and his wife, Kate, live with their two soon-to-be teenage sons in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.