Team Ministry for Children
It was once said that a man is an island unto himself. If you have seen the movieCastaway, you know that being on an island by yourself for very long makes you miss the hustle and bustle of the world we live in. It quickly gets lonely when others aren’t around. Sure, we often say that it would be nice to get away from it all, but don’t you always return? Even God knew that being alone was not good for man. After all, it is written in Ecclesiastes that if man falls down, there is someone there to pick him up. If you fall down, don’t you want someone to help you up, brush off the dirt, and help you heal? We all do. That is what a team does when a Team Ministry Philosophy is established. The team cares for and helps its members. But how do you become a team player? That is a question that everyone struggles with. People have different ideas, but I want to share a few of my own with you that have been proven through experience.
The first thing you need to do in order to become a team player is write a personal mission and vision statement for your life. Sit down and identify what God has called you to do. It might be very difficult at first. However, let me assure you, once you figure out what your mission and vision are for your life, becoming a team player will be much easier. For instance, when I first began to write my mission and vision five years ago, I had ideas of what I wanted to do with my life. I started writing those down. What soon emerged was a person that was very split and divided over what I wanted to do with my life. When I started grouping similar items into categories, I began to see a predominant area of my life emerge. But what did I do with those other areas of my life that weren’t as predominant? I set them off to the side and let God have them. I released those desires to God and if He wants me to do them, He will provide the way. So sit down and figure out what your mission and vision are for your life. When your mission and vision are the focus of your service to the team, the team is enhanced.
The next thing you need to do in order to become a team player is figure out your strengths. Do you like to be in charge, or do you like to be in the background? Do you like to do things with your hands, or does that make you want to retreat into a fetal position? Do you enjoy listening to people, or would you rather be the one talking? These and other questions help formulate what you can add to a team. This is more than just a personality test, although these can be great indicators of what your strengths are. Once you know your strengths, look for a team that you can help grow. If you are looking at a particular team and find someone with very similar strengths as yourself on it, find a different team. What I have witnessed over the years is that people with the same strengths get along fine for the short term, but it soon leads to conflicts. Find a team that needs your strengths.
Since we have talked about finding our strengths, let’s now talk about growing our weaknesses. We all have them and need to accept them. Nobody is perfect except Jesus. He is the only ministry hero. As you look for a team to be involved with, find a team that can help you grow in your weaknesses. One of the things that attracted me to come on staff with my pastor was that while we were very similar in style, many of my strengths were his weaknesses, and many of his strengths were my weaknesses. While we are very similar in personality, we are very different in the office. Since I have allowed my pastor to speak into my life, my weaknesses have grown and are becoming some of my strengths. As you see your weaknesses grow, you find areas of your life that are new territory for you and lead to new things and exciting relationships with people. Being part of a team helps you grow in your weaknesses if you allow that team to speak into your life.
Another thing you have to accept in order to be a team player is there are no mavericks. As the old analogy goes, there is no “I” in TEAM. You must learn to play well with others. When you walk into the room with your team, does the air thicken and tension rise? Do you find yourself left out when the team gets together? More likely than not, you are not submitting yourself to the team. When you isolate yourself, you isolate the blessing that God has for you. It is important that whether you are paid or not, your work is for the glory of God. I want to hear the Master say to me, “Well done!” As an individual, you are limited. There may be times when you watch someone do something differently than you. It may even be slower and more awkward, but letting others do things is not the end of the world. In fact, it is just the beginning. You will see that person grow and become as good as or better than yourself at that task. As people on the team grow in their areas of weakness, the whole team becomes more effective.
Next, as a team member, you must take up the cross of the team. Be sure that when you arrive to work with your team, your own agenda is left at home. You know your mission and vision and how it enhances the team. There is a difference between sharing ideas that help the team grow and forcing agendas so that you get your way. If you are on a team so that you can espouse your own ideas, you need to ask God for His forgiveness right now. If you joined a team because you wanted to make it your own creation, stop now. I have seen people arrive to an event and begin to take over because they didn’t like the way it was being run. Avoid being that person at all costs. Proverbs says that the fool utters all that is in his heart. If you have an agenda and you fail to take up the cross of the team, soon you will utter all that is in your heart. There isn’t a quicker way to alienate yourself from the team than to stand up on a soapbox and scream until everyone listens. You are a member of the team and as a team, whether you like what the team does or not, you go along with it and make your part the best it can be.
Finally, after you figure out your own mission and vision, strengths and weaknesses, submit to the team, and take up the cross of the team, you must realize that your team is a smaller part of a larger team. No matter which team you are on, there is always a larger team that you are part of. Remember the song that goes, “The neck bone’s connected to the shoulder bone. The shoulder bone’s connected to the arm bone.” Each and every bone in the physical body serves another part of the body. The same is true of your ministry team. The bottom line of every team should be to do its best to grow the body of Christ. Do your personal best to help your team be the best team it can be. If you are a Sunday school teacher, help the Sunday school team be the best Sunday school team in your state. If you are part of the worship team, help that worship team be the best in your city. And when you see another team struggling, help that team in the best way you can. Now be careful in this situation that your team does not take over their functions. Your team can only do what it is intended to do. Just because the worship team is the best in the city does not mean that they can now go into the preschool and do their work there. Your youth team is just as important as your children’s team. The Sunday school is as important as the senior’s ministry, etc.
The story in Matthew 20 sums up all this. When James and John’s mother came and knelt at the feet of Jesus, asking if they could have the spots next to Jesus in heaven, she was asking Jesus to make them more important than any of the other disciples. Jesus goes on to say that if we want to be considered leaders, we must first serve others. As a team member, you must serve before you can lead. The same is true for your team. Your team must serve before they can lead. This is also true for your church as a whole. Your church body must serve before they can lead. Becoming a team member is not always the easiest thing to do, but it brings tremendous individual blessing and grows the body of Christ.
Considered now to be one of the greatest presidents of all time, he was once believed to be a horrible failure. A great football coach who won multiple Super Bowl titles ended up coaching a different football team years later and failed miserably. What is it that made Abraham Lincoln and George Siefert great in the eyes of people? Both were gifted leaders who had great teams surrounding them. So why were Abraham Lincoln and George Siefert considered failures during different stages of their careers? At those times, they were gifted leaders who had poor teams surrounding them. You’re only as great as the team that you build around you. It doesn’t matter how great a leader you are—or think you are. If you fail to build a winning team, you will fail to win. When we speak of building a team, we have to do two things. First, you have to admit that you aren’t the greatest children’s pastor or worker since the invention of sliced cheese. Second, you have to submit yourself to being part of the team. Too often, the greatest, most dynamic leaders in children’s ministry fail to allow themselves to become part of a team. They believe, or are led to believe, that they have to be the end to every problem, a superhero with Herculean strength that can solve all the problems of the world before they have had their morning coffee. Take, for instance, the ongoing ministry struggle of recruiting. Many children’s pastors end up in the box of believing they are the sole recruiter for the nursery, preschool, elementary, Wednesday night, etc. The fact is few children’s pastors are great recruiters. That is why we find so many articles and books on the art of recruiting. But I bet if you look around your church, you will begin to notice one or two people who are able to get anyone involved in a project. They have that personality that draws people to want to help. Get that person on your team and let them solve your recruiting problem. You build your team by looking at your weaknesses, and we all have them.
Take the example of Moses from Exodus 18. Moses, after talking with his father-in-law, Jethro, and realizing what his weakness was, found people that could do the same job he was doing, and some were better at it than he was! He wasn’t afraid that someone was going to take his place as the chief judge among the Israelites. He was the man that God wanted in that job. You are the person that God wants in your job. Once you accept this, you won’t be so threatened by someone who does a part of your job better than you. My pastor and I are a great team. While we are very similar in personality type, some of my strengths are his weaknesses and vice versa. I take on those tasks that I know he doesn’t necessarily enjoy. Our team accomplishes much more and is more effective because we work together as a team. My pastor isn’t afraid that I am going to take his job. I don’t want it. I just want to be the biggest blessing I can be. Let people help you. Get over your own insecurities and allow God to use others to make you a better person.
At my church, I don’t have hands-on control of the nursery, preschool, Wednesday night ministry, or Sunday school. I have team members that are gifted in those areas of ministry that help accomplish the vision God has given me for our ministry. The only area that I currently have my hands directly on is Sunday morning elementary children’s church. But I have been investing and equipping a team of people, and one couple in particular, to take this ministry and make it their own. So what is my job then? I am the head coach. I call the plays based on the vision God has given me. I invest and equip each of my team members to do their job to their greatest potential. My ministry is to my leaders so that they can help me reach and touch the lives of our kids. Team leaders recruit their own team. That ministry team then makes the decisions about what is going to best help the team accomplish its goals. All discussion, disagreements, and planning is handled by the team. Because I invest in my ministry team leaders, they know how I would handle situations, and if they are unsure, they know they can ask.
To adopt a team ministry philosophy is not as easy as walking into church next Sunday and doing it. You have to begin by realizing that you are not the superhero in your church. You have to allow yourself the freedom to allow others that are better than you, or have the potential to be better than you, to work with you directly. Changes have to begin with you. Then your relationship with people has to change. Remember Jesus and the feeding of the 5,000 (which was actually closer to 15,000 because of the women and children)? Jesus helped organize the people into groups as small as 50 people. Then He gathered the bread and the fish and broke it amongst the disciples, then sent them out to feed the groups. They had so much that they had leftovers. Jesus, the only superhero, could have gone to each of those groups and fed the people. Instead, He sent His team out to do the work. The disciples were the ones that took the food to the people. Jesus stood by and watched His team carry out the plan. That is team ministry.