KidMin Insights: As you plan for 2014: Say no to say yes

It’s summer time! That means summer camp, VBS season, summer servant teams, vacation—and ministry planning for the upcoming year.  Before opening our calendars, we already know the year is full. There are the programs and events we love to do, the programs and events we have to do, and the programs we do because we’ve always done them. For most of us, that’s how we plan. Love to do, have to do, and do because we do-do.  But are we really doing what God is calling us to do and how do we know? A few years ago after frustrating attempts to make significant ministry changes to align our children’s ministry with God’s vision for our church, I developed a framework to plan a ministry that was focused on Jesus and his desire for the children and families in our church. Three books shaped my process: the Bible, Simon Sinek’s, Start with Why, and John Kotter’s Buy In: Saving Your Good Idea From Being Shot Down, Using each resource and lots of prayer, I figured out the power of saying no to say yes.

This first task was to determine why our children’s ministry existed.

 Determine why your ministry exists.

According to Sinek, your ministry’s “Why”, is the purpose, cause or belief
 drives everything you do. The “Why” is your driving motivation for action. Having a clear why in ministry helps us say no to say yes because it focuses our purpose. Everyone understands why a ministry exists. By having everyone on the same page, our efforts are not distracted by things that are not pertinent to that why or that ministry.  Our Why was to help children and families grow in their relationship with Jesus and each other. What’s yours?

Grab a piece of paper and record your children’s ministry’s “Why.”  Try to communicate it in one simple sentence. Reread what you wrote. How clear is your ministry’s “Why?”

Establish clear core values.

Having a clear why in our children’s ministry helps determine the next key to saying no. To say no to say yes in ministry, we establish clear core values.  Simon Sinek, calls core values the “”How’s’–strategies, guiding principles, or actions that direct a path to your ‘Why.’” Your core values guide people to your ministry.

Core values help you say no to say yes in ministry by identifying existing ministry programs that exemplify your core values. They also help you reveal ministry programs that need retooling to fit your core values. For example, you may have a program that fits three of your five core values. Slight adjustments can be made it to help it be better aligned with all your core values.

Core values provide a clear framework for creating new ministry programs. When people present new ideas for ministry programs, review your ministry’s “Why” and core values with them. Help them discover how their program idea fits or does not fit into this framework. Offer suggestions to align their ideas. Work together and collaborate as you capture the initiative of these individuals and direct it to where your ministry is focused. At one church I served, a few servants wanted to start a pet-grooming ministry as part of the children’s ministry. After I explained our why, the servants realized that their ministry fit better with the outreach team and their 3rd Saturday Service Day where pet owners were given free dog food and pet care. The pet-grooming ministry became great addition to what we were already doing.

Finally, core values help identify when a ministry has run its course. If a ministry program does not match your “Why” and core values, then perhaps its no longer effective.

[do action=”pullquote”]Make your “How’s” or core values active. They are the actions you want people to take or the code by which you want people to hold themselves accountable. As guiding principles, strategies or values, “How’s” are vastly more effective as verbs. “Honesty,” for example, should be “do the right thing.” It’s no longer passive; it’s an imperative.[/do]

Let ineffective ministries die.

One of the biggest problems we face in saying no to say yes is letting irrelevant or ineffective ministries die. How do we let a program or ministry die? We begin with Scripture. Ecclesiastes 1 reminds us that everything has a season—including ministry. Next we identify key factors that have caused a ministry to run its course. These include a lack of participation by children and families, lack of volunteers to serve, lack of funding, lack of relevance and lack of leadership. A dying ministry lacks much!

My friend in ministry Gary Lindsay saw firsthand a lack of leadership in one of the ministries he leads. “We had a ministry at a previous church that had a pattern of burning out leaders and volunteers every 2 years. There were a couple of passionate leaders that kept working hard, but even they were getting burned out. To address this problem, we made a decision to train and equip our leaders to multiply themselves by the end of the year, and let them know up front that if the ministry couldn’t multiply itself, it would die. We ended up letting the ministry die.” Throughout the process Gary reminded people of the why and core values for the ministry. Knowing this information in advance helped people own the decision to let the ministry die. Gary communicated for change and buy in.

Communicate for buy in.

According to author John Kotter in his book Buy In: Saving Your Good Idea From Being Shot Down, to create a change in any organization (or ministry), we need to communicate for buy in. Kotter writes, “Communicating for buy in means sharing the vision, strategies, or reason for change with everyone who needs to hear them.  This communication uses any channel and occurs relentlessly.” In the church, these channels include meetings, e-mails, one-on-one conversations, and listening sessions. As you communicate for buy in, direct your communication to both the heart and the head. Tell stories. Paint a picture with a clear vision of what could be. When enough people have bought in emotionally and intellectually the change will be easier.

Empower people for action.

After communicating for buy in, empower people for action.

Help the people who have bought into the change effort make it happen. Provide them with the tools to carefully address naysayers (and with any change—there’s lots of naysayers), training for a developing a new program and direct access to you the leader. Kotter notes that the single biggest mistake leaders make when trying to communicate a new vision of change and strategies for achieving that change, is under-communicating a great deal. By giving people direct access to us, we provide another avenue for people to communicate with us beyond scheduled meetings and e-mails. Encourage people to connect with you over coffee. Personal interaction communicates that you value others’ input as you lead through the change.

Create short-term wins.

As you make changes in your ministry, create short-term wins for the people involved in the change. Make these successes clear and unambiguous, and start them as soon as possible. Gary uses a small bell to help his team celebrate short-term wins. When someone recruits a servant for a new or existing ministry, team members ring their bell and shout, “Wah-hoo!” Another ministry uses a blossoming tree at the entrance of their children’s ministry. Each time a new child joins the children’s ministry; his or her picture is pasted onto a flower. The caption above the tree reads, “Our ministry is blossoming with kids.”

On Sundays during worship, share short term wins with your entire church by celebrating those wins. One United Methodist Church celebrates people their teams have engaged in ministry each quarter. The pastor invites the servants forward, prays for them and gives God thanks for their commitment. By acknowledging short-term wins, we show people that progress is being made and invite them to join the forward momentum.

 Keep at it.

After we create short term wins, we must keep at it. Short-term wins can create an atmosphere of complacency. For example, in one children’s ministry, team members are challenged to recruit at least 20 new servants each year. Most team members meet their goal, and consider their commitment fulfilled. At that point, they don’t feel compelled to keep recruiting. When do we ever have enough servants? As the leader, you must constantly be focusing and refocusing your team, keeping the wins coming, and pressing on until the all the necessary changes or ministry improvements have been made.

Using this process of communicating for change will allow you to say no to say yes in your ministry. As you plan the upcoming year of ministry, consider the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:14. He says, “Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” Paul gives all of us sage advice. He urges us to press on—saying no to some things in our ministries to yes to what God is calling us to do.

This summer, take time to identify your ministry’s “Why.”  Allow your “How’s” or core values to dictate ministry programming.  Identify when a ministry has run its and communicate necessary changes to your congregation.  You’ll keep your eyes on the goal God is beckoning you to—helping kids and families grow in their relationship with Jesus.

Press on, friends! Press on!

Patty Smith is the Director of Ministries with Family and Children for the TN Annual Conference, and a consultant on ministry with kids. 






Patty Smith

Patty Smith is the Director of Ministries with Family and Children for the TN Annual Conference, and a consultant on ministry with kids and church leadership.


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