Last month, I celebrated twenty years of vocational ministry. The first four years consisted of part time ministry while still in college followed by 16 years of full time ministry that took me to Indiana, Texas and now Arizona. It’s amazing to think of how quickly the time has passed. I thought I’d celebrate twenty years of ministry by simply sharing twenty things I’ve learned in the two decades of ministry.

  1. It’s impossible to get everything done every week. Don’t kill yourself or you family to “make it happen.” Sometimes things just take a little longer than we’d like.
  2. Just because you can do it yourself doesn’t mean you should. Doing everything yourself robs a volunteer of an opportunity to use their gifts.
  3. Always target the oldest kids in the room. If your content is best suited for the younger kids, you’ll lose the oldest kids and most kids will follow suit. If your content is best suited for the older kids, you’ll hold their attention and most of the other kids will follow suit.
  4. Rules without a relationship often exasperate kids. The best way to explain rules and dole out consequences is in the context of a relationship. Calling out a kid in the audience might be “right” but it can also shame.
  5. I’ve seen kids get just as excited about a five cent sucker as a dollar candy bar. Don’t go big unless you really need to, it’s all in the presentation.
  6. There are volunteers who are capable to handle almost every aspect of your job. Get creative in how you had off different aspects of your job.
  7. Just because you can lead a child to Christ doesn’t mean your should. Do everything in your power to invite parents into that moment. No one is better suited to lead a child to faith (or baptize them for that matter) than that child’s parents.
  8. Some of the best opportunities to disciple come through discipline. When walking a child through a consequence, dig deeper as there are often real things lurking beneath the surface.
  9. As a children’s minister, you are replaceable. Someone else can and will do your job. As a husband and parent, you are irreplaceable. No one else can do your job. Set healthy boundaries and prioritize your spouse and kids.
  10. Most people will volunteer every week if you cast vision for it. Managing scores of volunteers on multiple schedules is exhausting and shouldn’t be what you spend your time doing. Create opportunities for people with limited availability and build a weekly volunteer culture for everyone else.
  11. Most parents who say “no” to serving will say “yes” to a subbing role. Never underestimate a strong substitute list and try to turn a no to a yes to something else.
  12. Raise the bar for your volunteers. When you expect little from your volunteers, that is what you’ll get. People want to be a part of something amazing and most of them understand that sacrifice is required to experience true success.
  13.  Volunteers can show up on time. They can even show up early. Create a culture to arriving at a specific time and they’ll do it. You don’t have to live at the mercy of your tardy volunteers.
  14. Parents will sign up for your camp/event the day before if you allow them. Parents will also sign up for your camp/event months before if you create a culture where that is expected or even rewarded (discounts). You don’t have to live at the mercy of last-minute parents.
  15. Your primary job is to support/serve your pastor/supervisor. Before you get frustrated at all they aren’t doing for you, consider what you should be doing for them.
  16. It’s easy to spend your entire day behind a computer screen – day after day. Purposely scheduled time every day to spend time with volunteers, parents or even kids. Make this a priority.
  17. Find a mentor and someone you can mentor. Everyone needs a Paul as well as a Timothy.
  18. Go to the hospital. Attend the funeral. Be present when your presence is needed. Nothing you do will ever impact someone more than being present when life throws a curve ball.
  19. Never build a ministry that will fall apart if you leave. It should never be about you.
  20. Your primary job is to help your staff and volunteers LOVE doing what they get to do. Create environments where staff and volunteers thrive and your ministry will thrive.