The reason we call this blog “Children’s Ministry Leader” is because we believe that leadership matters. Or, as John Maxwell would say, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”
We believe that is as true in Children’s & Family Ministry as it is in any other department of the church. And if it is true, the creating a leadership culture is critically important to the success of your ministry. There are some leadership behaviors that some individuals learn, but it is up to us here at the Ministry to lead them onto the right path and provide positivity to everyone around them. We all aim to grow and we can’t do that without trust, determination and change. It’s important that you have a team of leaders at the table, not just you!
But how do you do that? How do you create a culture of leadership in your Children’s Ministry? Here are ten ways you might try to begin with:
1. Think “people” first.
People are what we are all about (or should be!). Too often, though, we are consumed with program. Program ought to serve the vision for reaching and impacting people, however, not the other way around. So adjust your program to the needs of your people, don’t expect them to fit in to a preconceived plan for your program.
2. Lead with leadership.
As the “leader” of your ministry, your number 1 priority is leadership. Yourself and others. Not teach Kids Church. Not organize the resource center. Not fix the check in system. (see more here)
Lead. Develop leaders. Create a culture of leadership.
Yes, all of those things are important, and you can and should be engaged with all of it. But your number 1 priority is to be focused on leadership. If you want to improve your leadership skills, you could always look into something like Leadership Training, to give you all the skills you need to progress further as a leader.
3. Draft for “potential”, then “position”.
Most of the time we do it the other way around. We need a teacher for the 3rd grade class, so we look for a teacher for the 3rd grade class. That’s drafting for “position”. With that mindset, a great leader (but one that will not necessarily teach the 3rd grade class) can walk right by us unnoticed.
Another thing we do here is look for people with all the right qualifications. They’ve taught before. They’ve worked with kids before. They’re a teacher professionally. They have served in ministry before. They must be a good fit for our ministry right? While the person who has a heart of gold and wants to serve but has no experience or background that “fits” is passed over.
But if we lead with leadership and are committed to developing leaders (#2) then either of these people are a “great fit” for our ministry.
4. Relationships, relationships, relationships!
Ive been saying it for 25 years: ministry always happens best in the context of relationship. So does leadership, and just about anything else you are trying to accomplish.
Invest in relationship with the people you lead. Equip them to invest in relationship with the people they lead. Cultivate relationship among parents, between kids…everywhere within your ministry.
Your ministry will be deeper, richer and more impactful because of it. Again, this is the “people over program” mentality.
5. Speak the language of leadership.
Language matters. Read this post for more on why that’s true – Bill Hybels says it much better than I can.
6. Pats on the back and open doors go far.
Leaders appreciate. They appreciate effort. They appreciate talent. They appreciate loyalty. They appreciate everything that goes in to leading, whether that’s with a volunteer or a staff member. And not only do leaders appreciate leaders, they show their appreciation. Non-leaders or insecure leaders are afraid to give appreciation away – it might diminish their own work! But in a culture of leadership, appreciation is felt and acted on – often. Here are a few ideas on how how to “say thanks” to your team.
Leaders also have open doors. In other words, other leaders are free to interact and communicate as they need to. This helps to eliminate hierarchy, allowing all leaders to feel they have a say in what’s going on.
7. Follow the 80/20 rule.
The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort. Or 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people.
Or 80% of your leadership will come from 20% of your leaders. So focus on developing the 20%.
You have only so much time and energy, and developing leaders takes time and energy. It doesn’t mean that you neglect the 80%, but you’ve got to decide where to invest yourself and your leadership resources in order to create more leaders. By doing this, you are making the statement that “real leadership and real leaders are important, and that’s what I’m going to invest in. That’s what my leadership team is going to invest in.” This contributes to a leadership culture where it’s understood that leadership is valued and the commitment it takes to be a leader is valued.
8. Have a plan for developing leaders.
If I asked you what your specific, intentional plan for developing leaders was, could you tell me?
Most of us could not answer that question well because we don’t really have a plan. Leadership development does not happen by itself. You’ve got to be intentional and have a plan. Whether this involves enrolling your employees on a course run by a university like USC, or running an in-house program, you need a plan!
And when you do, once again you are communicating that leadership is valued and the commitment it takes to be a leader is valued. You are creating a leadership culture.
9. Empower leaders to lead.
You cannot create a culture of leadership if you don’t allow others to lead. I’ve seen churches that had lessons on leadership. They talked the leadership talk. They read books on leadership.
But they didn’t let leaders lead! It sounds silly, doesn’t it, but sometimes we get so intent on holding the ministry tightly, holding the tasks tightly, and holding our own leadership so tightly that we never let others lead.
That is foolishness, and eventually will destroy any leadership culture that you’ve created.
10. Examine, encourage, engage.
Leaders who have been developed and empowered to lead must have accountability. We want to set them free, but we also want them to contribute to the vision that we are all pursuing. So we must examine their leadership. We must also encourage. Whether they are leading well or not so well, we want to encourage them in their growth. And not only that, but we want to continue to engage them in the leadership conversation. What are they learning? What mistakes have they made? What have been their successes? Where have they led that excited them? Or doesn’t?
Examine, encourage, engage…repeat.
How have you created a culture of leadership in your ministry?
(please share in comments below)