I have a feeling you are a lot like me. I care greatly about the program/production experience kids have at my church. Although we want every kid to connect in a relationship, the worship/teaching experience is significant. How we communicate the gospel in an age-appropriate and compelling way is critical. How we create a large group experience where it is natural to truly worship takes effort. I want kids to experience Jesus in a profound way each and every weekend and it only happens when we adequately plan and prepare.
I have the best job in the world. For the last 7 years, I’ve been a Children’s Ministry Production Director. Nearly 100% of my focus is on large group experiences. I’m responsible for all the lights, sounds, skits, games and craziness that has to be produced each and every weekend. I also have the privilege of living in one of the greatest cities in the world for what I do, Austin Texas (Live Music Capitol of the World). I can walk down 6th street listening to talented hopefuls do their best Willie Nelson covers or attend SXSW and Austin City Limits and experience the greatest performers do what they do best. Personally, I love the bigger venues that require tractor trailers full of lights and sound equipment. I love the full experience, flashing lights, massive video screens and blasting music. I love it and I dream of bringing these types of experiences to kids every weekend.
Obviously, our weekend programs are a far cry from the million dollar productions that attract thousands of fans. We do what we can though. We build creative slideshows and plan specific lighting cues (even if it’s a volunteer standing my the light switch). We want kids to learn about Jesus and that drives us to produce something awesome. But it’s not always awesome. We forget an important slide. The sound effect plays at the wrong time. The host forgets the bottom line. The worship leader doesn’t know the hand motions. From the back of the room, it’s easy to cringe our way through a service. We’ve all experienced this, but there are some very valuable lessons that took me a while to learn.
People are more important than the program. It’s easy to focus on the production and care more about what the kids are going to experience. It’s easy to forget that it is people, willing volunteers who serve each and every week that create our production experiences. Making them the priority changes everything. Here are a few things to consider:
- Very few people notice the small details (mistakes) as much as you. So relax. Seriously that singer missing a word or that bottom line slide being wrong will go right over most people’s heads. Details matter, but not more than people making it happen for you every week.
- You’re working with human beings who haven’t devoted their life to elementary production. You have to be okay with some mistakes. If more training or instruction is needed, take a note and handle that during the week.
- If at all possible, NEVER give negative feedback on the weekend. Some people have a hard time hearing critical feedback in the moment. Encourage tweaks or brainstorm ideas for what didn’t work (let them speak into what didn’t work) to improve for the next service. Just handle people with care, they’re passionate about their art (especially moody creative people like me!) The stress of Sunday morning is tough on everyone, especially performer-type people. Be gentle!
- Be intentional about giving praise. Attaboys (girls), gift cards, personal notes and specific words delivered on a weekend go a LONG WAY! We get the privilege of working with people who freely volunteer their time and energy with us, we can never really thank or encourage them enough!
- Bonus Encouragement: while I do think that children’s programming REALLY matters each and every Sunday morning, every Sunday is a win because mom and dad got to go hear about Jesus uninterrupted for an hour. Because parents have so much influence, creating a fun and exciting experience for kids while their parents grow matters even if it doesn’t feel like it!
NONE of these things come naturally to me. I’m a recovering perfectionist. It’s always so much easier to talk about what went wrong and how we could be better – but at the end of the day, we are in the people business. Always aim for excellence Monday through Saturday. Have high standards, because what we do for the next generation is extremely important, but, on the weekend, relax. Focus on loving on the people more than just executing programs, after all, that’s what ultimately matters!
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