Feb 18, 2015

Taking a Job That Was Held by the World's Greatest Children's Ministry Director

When you take a new children's ministry role, you will inevitably be compared to the person who held the position before you.  And according to some of the kids, parents and volunteers, he or she was the greatest children's ministry director ever.

Don't sweat it, even if you feel like the arm on the left side.  It's a normal part of the process when you follow someone.  Here's how to navigate this.

Be ready to be compared to them.
You will be compared to them.  Your personality, leadership style, spiritual gifts, family and abilities will be put on the scales of people's judgement.  Be okay with this.  It's just what happens.

Don't compare yourself to them.
When you feel the tension of comparison, you will naturally begin to do the same thing.  Resist this temptation.  It will either lead you to doubting yourself or to being full of pride...both of which are slippery slopes.  You are not called to run the former person's race...you are called to run your race.  God didn't call you to be a copy of the former person...He called you to be the best version of you that you can be.
 
Expect kids and parents to miss them. 
They will be missed.  And the longer they were there, the more they will be missed.  People who were close to the person will be hurt.  You will feel it and hear it.  And at times, they will take their hurt out on you.  Accept it and give people space to work through it.

Honor them.
When you show honor for the former person, you are not diminishing your influence...you are increasing it.  People will respect you for this.  

Never speak negatively of them.
Don't blame the person for things that are not up to par when you step into the position.  A leader doesn't place blame for where things are.  They provide steps for improvement.

Display an attitude of humility.
Don't be your own press release.  Let God do the promoting. 

Be ready for some volunteers to quit.
It is natural for some volunteers to step down when a leader leaves.  This has nothing to do with you.  When a leader leaves, some people will question if it's time for them to serve somewhere else or step down from serving.  Some will decide it is.  Don't fret it.  God will bring new volunteers.

Be ready for some staff to quit.
If there are other paid or volunteer staff, some of them will usually leave.  It's the same scenario as above.

Give the former leader credit for anything that can be traced to his or her leadership. 
Instead of ignoring the former leader's success, praise them for it.  Taking credit for something you didn't build or create will erode the leadership foundation you are trying to build.  Never forget you are building on the foundation of those who have gone before you. 

For the first 6 months, be cautious about making major changes to things the former leader put in place.
Quick changes the first few months can do more harm than good.  Take the first six months and listen, listen, listen, listen, listen and listen some more.

Realize it's a process.
It takes time to establish yourself as a leader.  Usually you won't hit your full stride in a new position until year 5.  It doesn't matter how many previous years of ministry experience you have.  When you start a new position, in those people's eyes you are starting from scratch.  You have to prove yourself as a leader and that takes time.

Focus on building relationships. 
The volunteers and staff don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.  People won't follow you because of your title...they will follow you because  they love and respect you.  Win their hearts and you will win their loyalty.

Be careful about accepting a position where the former leader is still present.
If the former leader is still involved in the ministry, it will be difficult to lead effectively.  There are exceptions to this, but it is rare.  Before you step into this situation, make sure clear parameters are set.

The floor is yours.  Have you experienced this?  How did you navigate it?  What other advice do you have for someone following the world's greatest children's ministry director?  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.  

2 comments:

Dale,

I just started as the new Children's Pastor in Claremore Oklahoma, I'm not even a month in and I'm having a blast!

The Leader that I am following was here for almost 15 years and the current staff and members of the church have nothing but good things to say about her. I have not met this person but I'm sure she was a fantastic children's leader.

What my pastor keeps telling me over and over is that relationships with the kids, parents, board members, other church staff and members of the church is the biggest thing for me right now, and I agree. All these people know about me is that I'm a 24 year old husband and father that has a calling on his life for kids. And though that's a lot in a few short words, it's not enough to build an effective relationship. God's people need to see who I am off the stage and outside the church. For me to do my job effectively I need to know these people so that I know how to minister to them.

Let me finish by saying that this is a fantastic article. A very encouraging read.

Thanks,
Vince Chapman

Great to hear Vince. Praying God's richest blessings on your new ministry. Sounds like you're off to a great start. Keep in touch.

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