I’ve been doing this a for a while now. While I got my degree in Christian Education, there were so many things I simply wasn’t learning that would help me in the day to day experiences of leading a children’s ministry. The best teachers for me have been through experiences and mentors who were further down the road than I was. When I think of the things I had wish I had know, two things immediately come to mind. Two things I’ve learned through years of experience, things that my friend and mentor Jim Wideman taught me about. Both ideas have to do with time.

Having a Long-Term View of Ministry

When I was still in college, I remember frequently visiting the facilities of Church on the Move where, Jim Wideman was the pioneering children’s ministry leader there. The environments were years ahead of their time. Very few places were investing in irresistible environments for kids like they were at Church on the Move. Many years later, I was visiting Jim at his new church in Tennessee. He had been there for several years and I was a little surprised by the lack of “wow.” I made a comment and I’ll never forget Jim’s response. He said, “I’ll get this place to where I want it to be in about 7 or 8 years.”

7 or 8 years? That’s an eternity in the world of kidmin. The average children’s pastor will have worked at two or three churches in that time frame. Some things you can only do over the course of years. Jim served as the Children’s Pastor at Church on the Move for over 15 years. The amazing things he created there took time.

I think of the NextGen ministry I created in Austin, TX. I’ve never been more proud of something, but it took six years to get the team in place. I enjoyed two amazingly fruitful years of ministry after six very hard years of development. I’ve learned that the best things take time. It means that the kids in my ministry right now won’t experience what I really want them to experience, but that’s okay. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon and getting to the finish line means seeing your current ministry as a long-term effort.

Deciding What I’m Not Going to Do

I’m a list guy. I make a list of the things I need to do and word that list throughout the day. It feels really productive to cross things off that list, but I’ve learned that it really isn’t. Tasks can be a little misleading.

I remember being on a retreat with Jim where he said something interesting. He said that when you sit down to make out your list for the day, that list is probably what you’ll accomplish that week. We can be over optimistic about what we can do in a day. We can also be a little overwhelmed by the amount of things that have to be done each and every day.

So heres something critical to understand.

You will NEVER get it all done. NEVER. It’s too much. It’s a never-ending list. The ministry beast can never be satisfied. 

When I start my day, the most important decision that I make is what I’m not going to do. Eliminating things from my list helps me clarify what is most important. On my list of 10 things (it’s never a list of 10 things by the way) usually has 2 or 3 things that will make the biggest impact on my ministry, staff and volunteers. I have to make a conscious decision to say no to the 7-8 things on the list and pour my attention into the 2 or 3 things that matter most.

These two things drive me now. I’m more effective and decisive (and probably a lot more realistic) because of this knowledge. Take note of these things now and invest your time in the things that matter most.