Monday, January 21, 2013

Diary of a New Campus: Discovering New Leaders

In the wild world of Children's Ministry we live or die by our leaders.  If we have a healthy, vibrant leadership culture, there's nothing we can't do, but during those lean seasons when our team gets stretched, it can be, um, interesting.  

In my last post I gave you a snapshot of our leader situation now that we are just a few weeks into this whole three campus church thing.  You can check out that post here to see the score card.

Long story short, we have a strong core of committed leaders, but also some big needs to fill.  Our new campus launch has maxed out our leader reserves and forced us to get creative on how we move forward.

So how do we  fill those needs without sounding needy?  How do we discover new leaders without settling for just anyone?

Taking our cues from the story of Nehemiah, we put together a strategy for how we will approach the next few months of building strong teams.  What would this look like in your ministry?

1.  Rely on God.
When Nehemiah heard that Jerusalem's walls were in ruins, he sat down and wept. "For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven." - Nehemiah 1:4

When was the last time you fasted for leaders?  Yeah, me too.  Of course we think we rely on God to build our teams,  but do we?  Or is it an afterthought?  How much do we really expect God to show up and send us people out of the blue?  How much do we ask?

Pray hard for God to send  the leaders you need.  Ask BIG.  Expect even BIGGER (immeasurably more than all you ask or imagine)!

2. Inspire leaders to invite their friends.    
Nehemiah never could have rebuilt the wall alone.  Once he arrived in Jerusalem he inspected the damaged wall to see how much work needed to be done.  The first thing he did after this was to invite the entire community to join him in the mission.  He said, "Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer in disgrace." - Nehemiah 2:17

Building the wall was not a one man show and neither is building a great team.  The healthiest way we can staff our ministries is to inspire and expect our leaders to invite their friends.  We need to take such good care of our current leaders (including giving them appropriate challenge) that they will tell everyone they know about what an awesome thing it is to get to serve in Children's Ministry.  

If we get leaders thinking about people in their orbits who God may be calling to ministry, and empower them to make the ask, they will become the best recruiters our ministries have ever seen. 

3. Ask people of influence for help.  
Nehemiah knew he didn't have the influence and resources to pull off rebuilding the wall so he went to someone who did, the king.  After prayer and fasting Nehemiah asked the king for everything he needed.

The question for our team asked was, "Who has influence in our church?  Who can help us identify leaders?"

  • Parents: We're starting with parents.  Next month we'll be inviting parents of the kids in our ministry to become "talent scouts" for us.  They'll sign up for an e-mail newsletter to keep them informed about new leadership opportunities so that they can pray for leaders and invite some of their friends to join us.  

  • Facebook and Blogs: We're also turning to Facebook.  As we speak, we are pushing our Facebook fan page to get as many "likes" as we can.  Just like we're doing with our network of parent talent scouts, we'll also be going to our Facebook fans to tap into their networks of relationships too.  We'll also continue to use our church's blog to highlight inspiring leader stories and invite new leaders to join us. 

  • Stage Announcements: Every spring we get a brief window of opportunity in the adult service to make a creative announcement.  We've used videos, parody songs and brought up cute, irresistible kids all in an effort to invite the congregation to give their lives to something BIG!

4. Keep the bar high on leader expectations. 
In Nehemiah’s story, they weren't just rebuilding a wall.  They were building God’s kingdom, restoring Jerusalem for the glory of God.  They got the big picture of what the wall represented. Nehemiah wouldn't settle for half-hearted commitment.  Too much was at stake.  

We expect our leaders to serve every week so that they can build relationships with a consistent small group of kids.  Without an every week commitment, they can't create the kind of deep community that our kids deserve.  What are your non-negotiables with potential leaders?

We see this as a “get to do” calling, not a "have to."   In our team meetings we remind each other, "You should be so lucky as to get to serve in Children's Ministry!"  We only want people who get the big picture and are committed to putting in the time to make it happen.  We make it clear to anyone who can't give us that that we would be happy to plug them in as temps but if they want a consistent group of kids to invest in, they have to commit.

5. Use temp leaders to fill in your gaps.  
Nehemiah knew that he'd never complete the wall if he didn't keep his people safe.  During construction he used guards to protect the uncompleted portions of the wall until they were finished.  Half of his people built.  Half of them guarded the gaps.

Discovering and placing highly committed leaders is a process.  Relying on God to send you the right people is a process.  Processes take time.

That means that for a period of time the leadership team you're building may have some gaps.  That's when you recruit some temporary leaders to serve in Children's Ministry to guard the gaps and keep things safe.

For the campus launch we recruited a launch team, by asking people to give us a short-term commitment to serving in Children's Ministry.  We NEVER ask for short-term commitments but we needed these temps to keep our kid-to-leader ratios where they needed to be.

Yes, you don't want to settle, but sometimes you need someone to fill in the gaps until your permanent leaders get placed.  That's what our launch team did for us.

So, that's it.  Over the next few months we plan to build, to guard and to rely on God to provide.  How about you?  What strategies have helped you to discover new leaders and build strong teams?  

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