There is a great used bookstore just outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee named “McKays.” I learned about them when we needed to stock a new weekday preschool with developmentally appropriate books and the classic favorites of preschool teachers. We would make an annual pilgrimage exchanging our own “read that, give it back” boxes of used books.
A few years back, I picked up Walk the Talk’s Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus: How To Get Big Things Done In YOUR Workshop All Year Long. The small paperback, published in 2003, was filled with some funny insights. I came across it just the other day and thought it seasonally appropriate.
If we can all agree that one of Santa’s biggest challenges is the dance between Santa the MANAGER and Santa the LEADER, we can understand the following practical strategies outlined with truth and humor. My comments as it relates to local church leadership follow in italics.
Build a wonderful workshop: Focus on your people as well as your purpose…In church world, it’s about building relationships. The quickest way to build relationships is to share in experiences whether they be in mission, service, worship, special event help, sharing in the remarkable moments of life, or just working the room regularly with joy and encouragement.
Choose your reindeer wisely: Hire tough so you can manage easily…I want the best for my kids. Whether a Sunday School teacher, a permanent sub, a small group leader, a CLUB345 chef, even setting the altar shouldn’t be done by volunteers, but sold-out followers of Jesus in the local church. And if the ones serving are not yet the best, we can give them the encouragement and tools to grow from where they are to be the best they can be.
Make the list and check it twice: Make the most of what you have…We can whine that we don’t have enough time, money, volunteers, kids, material, equipment, talent, or expertise. Or we can make the most of what we have. Share your kids with other kids. Share your resources with others who have resources who will share with you. I don’t have to have everything to make everything available for ministry to children in my own house. I DO have to build relationships with other children’s directors through networking. We have a gym (we host the Winter Ball Invitational). We have access to our sanctuary during Advent (we host Silent Night.) A colleague has paid interns who’ll clean up anything (she hosts Messy Night). A colleague has a beautiful stage area (she hosts a christian concert). Another colleague can do anything in her huge fellowship hall (she hosts shared summer camps.)
Listen to the elves: Walk awhile in their shoes…Children’s Ministry Directors are not supposed to do everything. We are to equip and delegate. But we can’t equip nor delegate if we don’t intentionally partner. I know that my kid’s parents want the very best for their kids and will do anything to make it happen. They just may do it differently than I do. I raised my kids in a different time. (We finally purchased a computer in our house when Baby Girl was a sophomore in high school only because she was working on a project about the Vietnam War and according to our 1970 World Book Encyclopedias the Vietnam War was still going on.) Providing easy wins for parents is part of my job. These parents are already harder on themselves that I could ever be. I won’t be the one to join in the chorus of “you’re not doing enough.” I will be their cheerleader and make them look great in their kid’s eyes. I will provide a lot of resources and encouragement because I don’t know what’ll stick for each family. But they will know that we’re in this together.
Get Beyond the Red Wagons: Teach “The Business” of the business…Sharing the why we do what we do is important and it is constant. We can do all the things other churches do, but are we really aware of what we do best? Then capitalize on THAT. Then promote THAT. Then talk about THAT. The business of the local church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Period. We can do a lot of other great things, but our marching order is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Have we done THAT? Are we pre-planning for THAT in the context of what we do best? Do my folks know how and are they given opportunities to tell their story with Christ?
Share The Milk and Cookies: Help them see the difference they make…This goes beyond volunteer recognition, which is very important. Sharing life with my families and fellow disciples is one the best parts of what I do. But am I allowing them to share life with me? I can invite them to networking lunch, women’s ministry retreat or dinner event, sit with them at church, tell the stories I hear, go shopping, invite them to a concert or play, share a night with other KidMin leaders, local and not so local trainings, or even gather together to attend the Amy Grant/Vince Gill Christmas concert at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.
Find Out Whose Naughty and Nice: Coach “the majority in the middle”…It’s so easy to stroke the KidMin superstars, but it’s the majority in the middle who are the backbone of the workshop, er the local church. When we started an extremely successful, free, academic tutoring ministry just a few short weeks ago, MEN stepped into Children’s Ministry like I never expected. I confess I didn’t recruit them. They asked if they could play. Leaders in their vocation and (who I thought were the) non-flammable faithful who attend bible study, Sunday school, and serve on church committees. Building relationships with these folks by spending a year in the adult choir and at least one season a year in adult bible study, as well as working the room at special events and making myself available and approachable on Sunday mornings made for a very safe and easy opportunity for these guys to see me and say, “Hey, what if I…”
Be Good for Goodness Sake: Set the example…One of the most pivotal questions asked by a wise pastor from the pulpit of this reformed pew sitter, “If everyone in the church was just like you, what kind of church would we be?” Good grief! I had some catching up to do. I have counted on Christ. He is also counting on me. Setting the example of service, worship, belonging, community, healing, accountability, joy, teaching, telling, setting healthy boundaries, helping is a result of just how much work the Savior has done in me, around me, and for me. Let me never forget from where He has brought me. Let me never forget my salvation wasn’t just for me.