I give all the credit for this post to my father-in-law as he’s the one to tell me about the show wall. I tried to do a little research on the “show wall” and couldn’t find anything. I’m going to take his word for it as I trust him, but regardless it is a great principle. After talking about some conversations I had with some people at church, he introduced me to this concept. He said that sometimes in construction, builders will erect a show wall while they are concentrating their effort on the foundation. The foundation work is a tedious but necessary step in building any structure. The only problem is that during the days to weeks of building the foundation, no one can see what you’re doing. People passing by may look and wonder when anyone is going to do anything with that building. I was told that sometimes during this process, builders will erect a show wall. Perhaps this is a wall that will actually be a part of the structure, but it wasn’t put up because it was necessary. It was put up because it communicated progress and kept people’s attention.
Like I said, I couldn’t find anything in my research, but I have found similar things to be true. When I lived in IN a huge plot of land across for where I lived was going to become a Meijer shopping center. For two years we hadn’t heard a thing… but the rumor was that it was still coming. The economy was in a ditch and everything was on hold. Then one day a few “earth moving” vehicles showed up and started earthwork. Woo hoo! Development at last! Shortly after this, other things started to develop all around the Meijer plot including restaurants, shops and even a movie theatre. However, Meijer still didn’t come in. It wasn’t until over 2 years later that Mejier was actually built. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I had been told that someone hired the earthwork to be done to get the developments of the other areas moving along, creating a buzz and excitement in the commercial community.
Last story, I promise. Then I’ll get to my point. I knew of a church that was raising money for a new building. Their goal was to build it debt free. They were a few years into the campaign and giving was starting to get a little behind. Leadership was afraid that they wouldn’t meet their deadline in having enough money it to break ground. Then some genius in charge had a brilliant plan. Somebody bought the steeple that was going to go on the front of the new building and put it on display in the lobby or out in front of the building. Immediately, giving toward the project picked up and surpassed their expectations. Purchasing the steeple at this time was totally unnecessary, but it communicated what the vision was and reminded everyone of the future.
Okay, on to my point. I’ve taken positions at churches that needed a Children’s Ministry overhaul. There was a need for massive foundational work. Systems and processes needed to be implemented, training needed to be done, programs needed to by synced. All of this even before doing an event or changing the way the weekend looked. The dangerous place to be is to step into a ministry that is under-performing and everyone knows it and then burry yourself in foundational work. Although fixing foundational issues is a huge deal and absolutely necessary, you may need to take the time to build a show wall, move some dirt around and display that steeple. What are some easy “wins” you can produce with the resources currently in place? What are ways that you can create excitement and energy among your kids, parents and volunteers. Schedule these things in while you do your foundational/structural work. It keeps teams motivated, vision focused and leadership happy. Most importantly (it should be a given), communicate what you are doing to your leader. It’s like calling your shots in a game of pool. The conversation might go a little like this:
“Listen, the children’s ministry is a real mess right now. The good news is that we can totally turn this around, but it’s going to take some time. There are some foundational things that need to be changed that will support ministry health and growth. These changes take time and the payoff are results we’re not going to see until a year from now. However, here is what we’re going to do in the meantime. I’m going to do this in September which should generate some excitement, this in January which should bring in some new leaders, and we’re going to really step it up a notch with this during the summer… the parents are going to love it. Just know that during all this time, I’m working with my team to fix this, this and this. So just know that we’ve got some great things planned for this year that should be some big “wins” for the CM, but the thing to be really excited about is what we’re building right now and won’t be in place until next fall.”
Obviously this is a very short and “detail” lacking conversation. Most pastor’s want you to have this kind of conversation with them. Have a plan and give them a vision to look forward to. They’ll promote you and your vision will spill out of them as they talk about the CM. When “those” (you know what I mean when I say those) people come to share their concerns with the pastor about the state of the CM (such as why their kids aren’t being discipled or why they don’t have *insert whatever program you want* anymore), your pastor can praise what you are doing and tell them to be patient for the great things coming down the road.
So, when working on that foundation… don’t forget the show wall!
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