It was a pastor’s dream come true. Our kids ministry was okay but struggling, and a former Kids Pastor stepped up and volunteered to lead the program. Praise The Lord!! I can’t tell you how excited I was. After years of a good kids ministry we were poised to go to a whole new level. We passed everything over to her and she ran with it. Our parents were happy, the kids were happy and we were happy. It was great. It felt like a beautiful day in paradise but then the storm clouds moved in.
It was at this point that we came to the realization that we had made a huge mistake in our Kids Ministry. She and her children were the Kids Ministry and when she left we had no one to lead. Please do not think for a second that I am blaming her for this. It was our responsibility and we were negligent. We were so happy to have someone leading our kids we basically delegated and forgot about it. We were so confident in her abilities that we missed encouraging leadership development.
When she moved on, we realized we had no teachers and we had to move to the “One Room School House” curriculum. There is nothing wrong with the material but it was not where we expected to be or should have been at this point in the life of our church. It was so bad that as a staff on a Sunday if we weren’t preaching we taught Sunday School.
“Insanity – Doing the same thing over and over again while hoping to achieve a different result.” Albert Einstein
In order to avoid insanity this is what we learned from our mistake.
1) Delegating and Walking Away is A Sin
“He appointed twelve that they might be with him…” (Mark 3:14)
In my early years of ministry I was very guilty of this. The reason being when I had confidence in the leader, I wanted to step back and let them run with it without interfering. I knew they would do a much better job than I could so I wanted to stay out of their way. While I thought I was communicating confidence, I was really communicating indifference. That was certainly not my intention.
Throughout Scripture we see when God gave/asked/delegated a task He promised to be with them. To Gideon he said, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” (Of course we are not suggesting the same result for youth ministry or the church board.) After giving the disciples the task of the Great Commission Jesus said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Our volunteer leaders need us to be with them in many ways; a) training, b) clear expectations repeated regularly, c) consistent communication and feedback, d) opportunity to be heard and shared vision.
2) Insist On Leadership Development
“Your best expression of your ministry is what happens when you leave.” (Brad Lomenick)
The truth is that sometimes it’s easier to do it yourself than to train someone. This happens for a number of reasons:
- You have a strong leader who literally can do it on their own.
- You have a leader who is a control freak.
- You have a leader who feels guilty asking for help because they know how busy their volunteers already are.
I was reading an article about a large church in the South and how they hire staff and the expectation they have for them. I was taken back when I read that Staff bonuses are based in part on the Pastor training people for ministry and developing volunteers. Wow!! I was struck by the idea this value was so front and center for the whole staff. If this had been a value we had instilled, encouraged and expected then we would not have had a vacuum when our Kids Pastor left. This was a responsibility we failed to uphold.
How About You?
Are you in contact with your volunteer leaders on a regular basis? Do you know what is happening in their ministries? Do they know what you are expecting from them? Do they have the resources for the task you have given them? Do they know how what they are doing is tied to the vision of the church? Have you communicated that leadership development is a priority? Have you taught them how to identify, recruit and train volunteers? I understand this takes a lot of time and you are already busier than you would like to be. Remember, this investment will pay off in the long run. It’s either invest in your people now or invest in the “One Room Schoolhouse” later.