In our posts on team unity, we’ve been talking about how to lead ministry teams with clarity and transparency and what leads people to commit for the long run to children’s ministry. In this post, we’re continuing the conversation by discussing how to build a committed ministry team.
Children’s ministry is, oddly enough, about much more than children’s ministry. It’s also about the people on your team.
In fact, your primary job as a leader is not to focus on the result or fruit of your ministry. It is not to tend to the outcomes you desire. If you do, your staff will likely be neglected, and both your team and results will be compromised.
If you focus on your team—serving them, building them up, equipping and empowering them, seeking their success in their roles—you’ll build a rock-solid team that will have a difficult time doing anything but bring the results you want.
Often the greatest fruit we saw in our ministry was the growth in our team members, as opposed to growth in the kids (although that was definitely there too). The fact is that if you’re growing as a team, the kids your team serves pretty much can’t help but grow as well. Leadership in children’s ministry is just as much about the people on your team as it is about the kids… maybe even more so.
Recruit and Develop Leaders
Invite; Don’t Beg
Another approach we took in our ministry was to personally invite people to be members of our team instead of publicly ask for volunteers. To clarify, there’s definitely nothing wrong with asking for volunteers, and there’s certainly not a cut-and-dried way to do this.
There is a difference, however, between serving on a team you’ve been asked to be part of because the leaders want you and serving on a team because they needed people and you volunteered to help out.
You want people to feel valued and needed in their roles. It makes a big difference for someone to be personally invited into a role where they are needed and where they will be able to grow instead of being one of a whole congregation that’s asked to volunteer because “three more people” are needed.
The first makes someone feel valued and respected that the leaders would see potential and value in them. The second makes someone feel like they’re just another body who is there merely because the ministry needed people and because it seemed like nobody else would sign up.
Also, it’s worth noting that the people you want—the people who will be the most effective in ministry and valuable as team members—won’t volunteer. But they may join if invited for a specific purpose or to fill a specific role and if there will be value added to them through being part of your ministry.
Care for Your People
Your team is your highest priority and your most immediate responsibility. I am convinced that one of the most important roles of a leader is to care for and invest in his team. Like I’ve alluded to before, people will want to be part of an organization that gives them a true team experience and provides meaningful growth and value for their lives.
As a leader you have been given a position of great influence and impact in people’s lives, especially those on your team. How will you be a good steward of this profound responsibility? This goes far beyond running an efficient and productive organization. I believe it means that you also need to shepherd your team.
You need to know them personally, care genuinely for them and their lives, and come alongside them in their joys and struggles. Essentially, love as Christ loved. Lay down your life for them.
Here are a few practical ideas for how to do this. Remember that it can be easy to overlook these things in the midst of the busyness of ministry operation; don’t let the urgent crowd out what’s truly important.
1. Get to Know Your Team
As in, really get to know them. Talk to them. Ask about their lives: how are they really doing? What are their joys and struggles? Listen to them and care about what they have to say. Spend time together as a team outside your ministry context. Build relationships. This alone will cultivate incredible strength and unity within your team.
2. Mentor in Ministry Work
When people first join your team, they’re likely going to have a pretty steep learning curve to get up to speed with the culture, the team dynamics, their roles, and how things generally operate. Think through these beforehand and have a path to guide them through this process. It’ll make them feel cared for and much less overwhelmed than they otherwise would.
As time goes on, be available for any questions they have and regularly talk to them about how things are going. Then provide coaching for how to overcome the challenges they face.
3. Empower Your People
As leaders it is easy for us to expect people to sacrifice their time and effort for our agenda and for that of our ministry, and there is certainly an aspect of this that is fine. However, when our perspective is that we expect people to sacrifice for our goals, there will not be long-term success or benefit for either your team or the ministry. We need to be able to check our agenda at the door and lay down our lives for the success of those we serve.
Get to know your people, their goals, and their aspirations, and do everything you can to build them up and empower them to do what they want to do and go where they want to go.
4. Recognize and Celebrate
One of the most impacting ways to encourage and empower people is to show them recognition for their work and to celebrate as a team. Be on the lookout for ways to regularly thank your people for good work and publicly recognize them. Show them how their individual work contributes to the success of the ministry. Make this a frequent and regular practice.
In addition, make sure you’re regularly celebrating accomplishments and milestones as a team. This doesn’t have to be anything huge or expensive, but it will do wonders for encouraging the hearts of your team members.
At Heroic Life Discipleship, the leadership team would serve breakfast to our entire ministry staff three times a year at the end of each semester. We’d take this time to hang out and enjoy each other and to remember the work God had done. Then we’d go around the big table and individually thank and encourage each member of the ministry and give them a small gift.
This was always a very meaningful and impacting time for the whole team. You don’t have to do exactly what we did, but do think creatively about ways to recognize and celebrate as a team.
Here are a few questions to help you determine how well you’re caring for and developing your team:
How well do you know your team?
- Do you know how each individual team member is doing?
- How are they succeeding?
- How are they struggling?
- How frequently do you spend time together as a team?
- Do your people feel like they’re an important part of the team?
- Do your people feel that they are personally growing as a result of their work with your ministry?
- When was the last time you thanked one of your workers in front of the whole team?
In our next post on team unity, we’ll be exploring ways to create a culture of community in your ministry.