Last week I celebrated my one year anniversary.

It was one year ago that I made some strategic staff shifts which placed me in the leadership seat of Preschool.

I’m a NextGen Pastor. I’ve been one for a decade now. The fun (and challenging) part of being in this role is that from time to time, you have to jump into another role when someone is transitioning. In ten years of NextGen ministry, I’ve sat in every seat.

Elementary? Done it.
High School? Yep.
Middle School? That was fun.
Preschool? Jesus take the wheel.

This is actually the longest I’ve had to sit in a ministry area seat, and it’s not been easy. I’m pretty convinced that preschool ministry might actually be the hardest ministry area. I’ll explain in a future post.

There were a lot of reasons for the staff shift, but one of them was because of needed changes in our preschool ministry. The paradigm needed to change. Adjustments to vision and execution were needed from top to bottom. Even though this year has been incredibly challenging, it’s also been very rewarding. The change has been a breath of fresh air for our church.

However, I’ve learned a few things about preschool ministry. Some of these things I’ve learned from twenty years of leading children’s ministry, but there are several things I’ve learned from my year of sitting in the preschool director role. Here’s my insight:

  • Preschool directors are usually the least qualified/experienced ministry staff. Most preschool directors I’ve met and led had never done the job before. They started as volunteers and were hired into the position. Many had education backgrounds, but most of them had little to no ministry experience. Usually, youth and children’s directors have specific education or experience in past churches.
  • Preschool ministry usually have the least dependable and least consistent volunteers. Preschool requires significantly more volunteers than any other ministry. Preschool also has far less flexibility as you can’t always just combine two groups like you might in elementary. Because of this, many preschool leaders lower the expectations for volunteers and adopt flexible schedules just to get as many volunteers as possible.
  • Preschool ministry usually has the highest volunteer turnover. Leading preschool ministry is often like trying to fill a rusty bucket. There’s never enough and as quickly as you fill the positions, volunteers resign to give you more positions to fill. Your entire preschool team can turnover in a year or two, which is exhausting.

Okay, don’t get mad at me. These observations aren’t true everywhere. There are some AMAZING, highly trained and experienced preschool directors. Also, every church has a handful of preschool volunteers who have been leading every week for decades. However, my observations tend to be true of most churches, which is unfortunate.

During my year of leading preschool, I’ve gotten a lot of help and coaching from Erin English (Westside Family Church in Kansas City) and Kelly Stockdale (Grace Hill Church in Memphis, TN). They are Preschool gurus and I owe them for their time and energy they’ve given me. This last year, I’ve been able to redefine preschool ministry at our church and we’ve made a LOT of progress. Here’s what’s happened:

  • We transitioned almost all of our volunteers from and every-other-week schedule to a weekly schedule
  • We launched 16 small groups in our 3’s and 4’s environments
  • We recruited and empowered 10 new ministry coaches who lead and care for our preschool volunteers
  • We’ve more than doubled our preschool volunteers (almost tripled)

If you were to look at the current volunteer team, you would see very dedicated and consistent volunteers who have committed to lead for the long haul. It’s a very different look and feel than a year ago. What existed before is gone and I’m convinced that what I’ve experienced could become the norm at any church.

Kelly, Erin and I have been working of a few things to help others who lead preschool. You may want to check into this or have your preschool leader get involved:

I’m excited about how we’re building into this tribe. Maybe the things that have been true of preschool don’t have to be true for most churches. Let’s do what we can and make this critical ministry area stronger than it’s ever been!