Over the next several days I plan to post some reflections on my trip this past weekend to Atlanta, GA on the Beyond Atlanta tour of church’s children’s ministry areas and strategies.
About 5 years ago I went on a trip/tour similar to this one. We went to Southern California and visited sites like: Saddleback Church, Mariner’s Church, Skyline Wesleyan Church, The Crystal Cathedral, and a couple of others I cannot recall off the top of my head. I think I had been on staff @ Hayward Wesleyan Church about 2 years at that point, so I had much to learn. What I saw on that tour really influenced the last 5 years (and beyond) of ministry @ Hayward Wesleyan Church. Things like: facilities, decorations, secure check-in systems, curriculum, format of programming, ministry name (Main Street), and staffing. It was so overwhelming to me that it took 5 years or so to implement the things I picked up on that excursion into the culture of ministry in Hayward. I think in the years since the SoCal tour I have forgotten (or understated) the impact that 4 days had on me as well as Hayward Wesleyan Church.
This trip was different. Whereas in California I came home with hundreds of pictures of facilities, revolutionary ideas of programming and curriculum, wild ideas of decorations, etc., this trip was not that. Although I did take some pictures, the impact was different that 5 years ago. The things that stick out in my mind from this trip are:
- building a culture of volunteerism
- having enough (programming enough) spaces for people to serve
- creating a continual layer of leading leaders leading leaders
- milestones (faith, social, physical, etc.) in a child and youth’s life and connecting with families (family ministry) at those natural, stages of life
- capturing and capitalizing moments when you have a captive, parental audience
- celebrating and thanking volunteers regularly
- keeping things simple and focused and sustainable
- realizing and engaging a rhythm to ministry and life
Each of these things have more to them, but initially they spark a sense of “woah” I can’t add more to my plate. As things go in life, I’m evolving (I like to say), or maturing in my role as a children’s pastor. Over the years I’ve taken a lot of things on myself instead of releasing and trusting to others. It’s difficult for me, maybe because I’m a male. However, over the last 2 years, I have intentionally let some things go that has unleashed, not in a grand, noticeable way, but a tidal wave of broken levees that I used to hold things back. I can almost say that in my mind, I don’t own Followers anymore (although I do LEAD it). I don’t own Main Street anymore. I used to think, in my mind (erroneously) that it was all my responsibility to do and own. And while I am the leader and things/ministry do rise and fall on leadership, the more I have released that “ownership” to others, remarkably, the deeper things have gotten, simpler, focused, and just plain good!
Followers is a terrific, current example for this. The last 2 years (this one included), I have not been able to remember or account for all the names of the students from Kindergarten through grade 5. In contrast to my first 6 years where I could tell you every name of each Follower and Main Street attender and middle school student in the ministry. I prided on being able to do that and sustain that every year. Only in the last, little over a year, I can’t do it anymore. Part of it is my age and the sheer number of kids to remember (I never “lose” kids, they just get older and graduate and still pursue relationship, and there are more and more kids that come into our ministries every year). And although I cannot remember all their names, the Followers STAFF does. That to me is an incredible statement! We have 12 Followers small group leaders (one for each grade and gender) and they interact with each child and know their names! But even more than that, they get to talk and share and spend time, etc with these kids where I am engrossed in management and support for the program and staff. I could know names for 6 years, but not lives. Letting those things go personally has been challenging (old forms of behavior that are entrenched are difficult to break/change). However, I continually want others to change and grow, and I realized that I had to as well! Shocking, I know! Anyway, this sort of evolution (upon reflection) puts me in a place where I am anticipating other things, deeper things, r-evolutionary things, in my current role in my life, that doesn’t overwhelm me, rather, gives me hope and vigor that there are more things to do in my role as a children’s pastor at Hayward Wesleyan Church.