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20/20 Vision

by Vincent Hart

1. Devotional time builds thick skin. Doing God's work is hard. Doing it alone never works. Telling kids about God's love without loving God and receiving God's love in a daily way leaves you vulnerable.

2. All adults are little kids in big people's bodies. Think about what the motivation is behind something and you'll be able to respond with grace that'll restore instead of reacting to someone in unhealthy conflict. Allowing people to be people, and handling occasional childishness with grace will build bridges.

3. Champion the kids. Be their cheerleader. At staff meeting, it isn't reasonable to expect everyone else to stick up for what's in the kids' best interests. That's your job. Learn to lead up, sideways, and down in order to build a healthy and balanced church that has reasonable expectations and plenty of resources for children's ministry.

4. Build your team. Never do ministry alone. Jesus didn't, and neither should you. Replicate yourself in others and you'll more than double your ministry potential to the community. Every adult you personally recruit to minister to kids doubles the number of kids you can reach.

5. Beware of the change trap. Don't make changes. Let your team make changes that you cast the vision for. If you're working toward a common vision, and if the team believes in it to the point that they'll sell it to others, you won't fall into the pit of oops-I-changed-it-without-bringing-anyone-else-along. It's a bummer of a place to dig out of.

6. Do what you say and say what you do. When you lead, be verbose in the communication department. If you tell folks you're going to paint the parking lot purple at 2 a.m., then you better be at the parking lot at 1:50 a.m. with a bucket of purple paint. If not, then you won't have as many on the next painting trip and when you try to tell them what's next, not as many will listen.

7. Cast vision constantly. This isn't baby-sitting; it's life change! And God rewards those who get it. If people are constantly reconnected to the purpose of ministry, then they won't get lost in the details. Tell them over and over and over and over.

8. Invest in cards, calls, and sweat equity. Ministry is all about relationships. People need to feel God's love. It can't be faked or ignored. If you love on them, they come and serve.

9. Make time for people. The people are the ministry, not the things, plans, or programs. Don't ever let the task be more important than people. If you start to hear "I'm sorry to bother you, but..." or "If you aren't too busy..." from your folks, you're in a trap.

10. Keep perspective. If you find yourself getting stressed, heading toward burnout, or losing your head because of "all the things you have to do," then stop. Building the church of Jesus Christ is more about being than doing. Be only what God called you to be and then let God do the rest. It's Christ's church; let him build it through you as you enjoy his company.

Vincent Hart is the children's pastor at a church in Round Rock, Texas. He has been a children's minister for 11 years.

by Patty Anderson

I began my ministry much like David, called to serve God, but not very equipped. But when you're clearly called, you answer.

During my first year in ministry, I learned a lot. First and foremost, it's very important that a leader keeps her priorities: God, family, and then ministry. In the beginning, I worked incessantly to prepare and lead a perfect program. In doing so, I missed out on crucial quiet time with God and fun time with family. I became so focused on my work that I forgot what's really important. If I'm obedient to God first, shepherd my family second, then, and only then, the program is God-honoring. Sure, a successful program requires adequate preparation -- but not to the point of obsession.

I also learned to delegate, delegate, and delegate in that year. Andy Stanley, in his book The Next Generation Leader, advises a leader "to focus on the three things she does best and do only that." And that's what I did. I focused on leading the large group, teaching the shepherds, and planning curriculum. No more and no less. In doing so, I allowed others to use their gifts and passions.

I learned to place people in areas of service based on their spiritual gifts. Assign task-oriented people responsibilities that include preparing lesson materials, shopping for supplies, and sorting materials. Ask your people people to serve as greeters and shepherds. Allow them to do what they do best.

Another lesson I had was to survey my target market. Each quarter I take a bunch of kids out for pizza or ice cream and we just talk. We talk about what's hot, what's not, and what's happening with them. I use this information to plan the curriculum -- to make it radical, real, and relevant to the children who attend.

During that outing, we usually stop at the Christian bookstore. I allow pairs of kids to peruse the music section and pick out one CD to purchase. On the way back to the church, we sample the CDs in the car. The kids help me select the songs we'll use. Because they've chosen the music, the kids are eager to help the other children learn the songs. Often, these same kids will choreograph the songs, too.

My last lesson is to remember that in the end, after the teaching, the cutting, the crafts, the snacks, and the sorting, the thing that matters is what God does in the lives of children. All the glory goes to God.

Patty Anderson is the minister of children and families at a church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She has been a children's minister for three years.

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