What should we (meaning children’s & family ministry leaders) reasonably expect from our church leadership?
1. A commitment to personal holiness & God’s Word. It goes both ways (meaning we should be committed to this also), but this is where leadership should start in the church. Leading a church is one of the most difficult “jobs” around, but no church or church staff can be adequately led if there is compromise in this area. At the same time, don’t expect perfection. Church leaders are men & women growing in their faith just as we are.
2. A clearly articulated vision for the church (which ultimately defines the vision for each department). If I were to ask you “what does a ‘win’ look like in your church?” would you be able to tell me? Understanding what’s important is all about vision clarity and communication. The direction – and successful pursuit of that direction – comes directly from the team understanding the defined vision of the church, and that is established by church leadership.
3. A minimal level of engagement & understanding with what you do. No, I’m not saying your pastor should be seen in the kids’ area every Sunday (although that would be great!). And I’m not saying he should be part of planning or implementing children’s ministry.
What I am saying is that church leadership should at least understand what you do. In working with hundreds of churches across the country, my observation is that most don’t understand (or haven’t thought about) the reality that children’s ministry:
- is one of the most, if not the most, complex departments in the church;
- presents leadership challenges unlike any other in the church because of the numbers involved, the ratios required, and the developmental range of those involved;
- includes the greatest risks in any department in the church (physical, emotional & spiritual)
- requires the greatest amount of resources, from curriculum to supplies to equipment to program needs to volunteer assimilation & development, and more;
- can significantly impact the pursuit of the overall vision since virtually everyone in the church is connected with children’s ministry in some way or another.
4. Open lines of communication. When I served under John Maxwell, I could make an appointment & see him virtually anytime. He would occasionally stop by my office just to check in. I traveled with him at least once a year primarily for the purpose of connecting. Communication freely flowed both ways.
In another church, I had exactly 4 personal, individual conversations about my area (children’s ministry) with my pastor in 4 years. We had no executive pastor (so there was no one else to communicate with or through) and it took at least 6 – 8 weeks for each of those appointments to happen (all of which I initiated). Many other times I simply gave up trying to connect & just sent an email (which was rarely replied to).
Communication is vital. I’m not advocating an open door policy (in my opinion, lead & executive pastors’ roles are way too demanding to expect that), but there should at least be availability. The lack of communication “communicates” a lack of value for you and your ministry.
5. A sincere interest in your personal well-being. Let me start by making this clear: church leadership is not responsible for your physical or spiritual health, wealth or happiness…you are. They should, however, be genuinely concerned about you as an individual. In my opinion, this is reflected in:
- fair compensation, in line with other staff leading comparable areas;
- adequate opportunity for time off (vacation, sick leave, etc.);
- expressed expectations for personal growth & spiritual health;
- regular & reasonable “check-ins” to see how you are (in ministry, family, personally, etc.);