Regardless if you are a veteran children’s minister, at a new church, or a children’s ministry beginner, we have all asked the question, “Where do I start?” One of the most difficult tasks in children’s ministry is being at a new church and trying to figure out where to begin. Consider these three “steps” when getting your feet wet in a new ministry.
1. Observe the ministry.
When someone decides to become a runner, he or she doesn’t begin by buying shoes and signing up for a marathon. Runners must take the time to prepare, train, and grasp the foundational elements of running. Enrolling in a race without proper preparation would be ludicrous. One of the dangers in beginning in a new ministry is the temptation to take off running before you figure out the basics of it. Take some time to get to know your new church family and the ministry you’ve been given. Learn the atmosphere. Figure out who your key leaders are. Dig into the details of what is making your ministry successful/unsuccessful. Ask specific, intentional questions to parents and volunteers. Be sure to take notes and write down what you find.
2. Consider your areas of “first impressions.”
Everyone loves Disney World. If you search YouTube for, “We’re going to Disney World,” you will find loads of videos of parents revealing the big news that they are taking their children to Disney World. To adults, the “you’re going to be grandparents” announcement is equal to the “we’re going to Disney World” announcement to kids. Why is that? How do parents endure leading their kids into a large crowd, pumping them full of sugary candies and drinks, and standing in lines in 90 degree weather all while having a good time? One of the answers Disney gives to this question is that their customer service strives to provide positive first impressions for everyone. Lee Cockerell, former Executive Vice President of Operations at Walt Disney World Resort, writes, “…Guests were far more likely to return if they were satisfied with their previous visit…” (7).
While churches are far from Disney, we can learn from this principle. If our guests have a great first impression of what we do in our children’s ministry, they will be far more likely to return. Considering this, what is the area that will give your guests their first impressions of your ministry? For most, it will be your Sunday morning experience so we will build upon that. If your Sunday morning children’s ministry programming accumulates the majority of your first impressions, what impressions will the parents have? What impressions will the kids have? Ask those questions of these possible first impression areas:
- Appearance of the facility
- Security of the facility
- Friendliness and helpfulness of leaders
- Orderliness of the classroom
- Classroom energy level
3. Start with the most important areas.
Once you figure out what your first impression areas (or need to be) are and how your guests would perceive those areas, order the ones that need improvement from most important to least important. This can vary, depending upon your facility and specific church environment, so it will be up to you to determine this. Then begin addressing these needs from top to bottom. Work with your team of volunteers to analyze what changes need to happen in each area to cultivate positive first impressions and begin acting on the analysis.
After you have worked through your first impression areas then you will be able to begin addressing needs and issues in additional areas of your children’s ministry. We must make positive first impressions of our children’s ministries a top priority because we want people to leave wanting to return to hear the message of Jesus once again. We must commit to show everyone that children are important to us and that we are intentional about our actions speaking louder than our words.
Cockerell, Lee. Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney. New York: Doubleday. 2008.