Do you remember your first day of your ministry job? I know I do! You couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face! You could tell from a mile away that I was a newbie. Then slowly, over the next month or so, the smile began to fade, replaced by a frown and tears. You see, I started my job at the beginning of a new phase in our children’s and students’ ministry. In the words of one of my beloved southern friends, “God was fixin’ to do somethin’!”
Some of you may have the illusion that if God is at work things are easy! Well, let me tell you the opposite is true. When God is at work things are hard—really hard! Why? Because we have a real enemy that is fighting the church and God’s people, and that means BATTLE! Any time you are advancing the Kingdom of God you must expect the enemy to take a few shots of his own . . . or more than a few!
We didn’t know it then, but our team was on the brink of a spiritual war that lasted several years. It included some MAJOR transitions—staff turnover, changes in ministry structure, breakdown of silos and prejudices, launching campuses, building teams, and even constructing new buildings! Our ministry story has been complex in the last four years! Here are a few things we learned along the way:
- Teams are Good . . . silos are BAD. Seems simple in theory, but it is tricky to put into practice. When I started my job, I didn’t even know I was perpetuating silos. Coming from an education background I was used to doing my own thing. As long as I was reporting what was going on to my boss, I thought I was fine. I totally missed out on the team thing. Learning to switch gears from an education mindset to a team ministry mindset was one of the hardest transitions I had to make. It took a lot of learning, humility and prayer. It was a painful transition, but it was worth it!
- Communication is essential. A common mistake is not communicating in the right way with the right people. Everyone speaks a communication language. You have to learn the best way to communicate with the people you work with. That language is going be different for people who work for you, with you, and above you. Also, you need to learn to expand your communication reach. The best thing for our ministry was to include all four of our directors (early childhood, elementary and tweens, students, and special needs) in conversations about direction, vision, alignment, support, and family. If it happens in kids’ ministry, we talk about it. We act together too, in one accord, to connect families to Jesus Christ.
- Stay Connected to the Vine. A great ministry leader once told me, “Don’t get so busy doing the work of the Lord, that you don’t spend time with the Lord of the work.” We can’t engage in sustainable long-term ministry work if we are not connected to the Vine. Jesus is the source. He gives us strength for battle, protection from the enemy, and vision for ministry. He is the one who has equipped us and called us to do work for His kingdom. We must remember to stay close to the source!
- Compromises are a must. To build a team environment you must compromise. When compromising, stay mission focused. Our mission is to, “Connect children and families with Jesus Christ.” We look at every problem that needs to be solved, or event that needs to be planned, with our mission as the end goal. If that means that someone else’s idea is better than mine, or we need to melt a few ideas into one, then that’s what needs to happen. It’s not about me; it’s not about the other directors. It’s about combining our gifts to achieve what’s best for His kingdom.
- Don’t take it personally! Wow, was this hard to learn! We have had lots of tears in our children’s ministry over the last four to five years. Some have been good tears, some not so good. Some tears I caused; some I cried. When we were figuring out how to move from silos to team, it was tough. I mean gut-wrenching, don’t want to get out of bed tough! I remember thinking that there was absolutely no way God was responsible for this! In a way, I was right. God was responsible for pushing us together. BUT, He was not responsible for how we took it personally. We attacked each other personally and professionally. Yeah, things got a little Old Testament for while! To get to the root of our issue we had to remove all the personal feelings and look at just the God stuff. When we did that, it was amazing to see that we really were on the same page! God had been pushing us all to the same place! We were letting the one who comes to steal, destroy, and kill keep us from seeing what God was up to. Don’t take things personally, and don’t make things personal when you’re in ministry. Take a step back and look at the root of your issues. Then grant grace, ask for grace, and move on as a team!
Written by Mistie Dennie, preschool leader at Christ Church United Methodist in Fairview Heights, Illinois.