Sep 21, 2016

7 Steps to Bring Your Children's Ministry Out of a Slump

Is your children's ministry in a slump?  Perhaps attendance is dipping or volunteers are tired or there is a lack of energy and excitement?

If that's the case, then be encouraged.  You can bring your ministry out of the slump.  Here's 7 steps that will help you get back up to full speed. 

Step #1 - Acknowledge it.  You're not alone.  Ministry has it's ups and downs.  We've all been there.  The Bible even talks about being faithful "in season and out of season."

But sometimes our insecurities will cause us to stick our head in the sand and ignore the slump.  We tell ourselves that the ministry is fine and nothing needs fixed...while in our hearts we know it's not doing well.  I think we all struggle at some level with our self-worth being tied to how healthy the ministry is and the temptation is to tell ourselves it's not in a slump to preserve our self-esteem.

First of all, resist the temptation of your self-worth be determined by how the ministry is doing.  Remember your self-worth is not based on what you do, but on whose you are.  You are priceless because you are a child of king Jesus.  Your standing with Christ is not based on the health of the ministry you lead.

When you realize this, it gives you the freedom to be open about the health of the ministry and acknowledge when it is not doing well.

So the first step to getting out of a slump is having the courage to say, "The ministry is in a slump.  It is not as healthy as it should be.  I see it and acknowledge it and want to lead us out of it."

Step #2 - Talk about it.  This doesn't mean you go around whining to everyone about how bad things are or discourage everyone by acting like Chicken Little.  What it does mean is you gather some key leaders around you and get their perspective on the situation.  Approach these conversations with a positive, pro-active attitude.  You can't fix this alone.  You will need others around who can help bring you bring the ministry out of the slump.

Step #3 - Find out why.  Step 2 leads us into step 3.  Access the situation.  Find out what is causing the ministry to be in a slump.  Identifying the why allows you to fix it.  Write down the reasons.  Some may be out of your control.  But usually most of the reasons can be fixed if you identify them.

Here's an example.  A few years ago at one of our campuses, the children's ministry attendance was flat.  We simply weren't growing.  We acknowledged it and sat down to talk about why this was happening.  We soon realized that we were simply maxed out at one of the service hours.  There was no more room to grow.  This allowed us to make the decision to add an additional service hour.  Once we did that, we were able to get out of the slump and start growing again.  We were able to fix it because we identified it. 

Step #4 - Have the courage to change what is causing the slump.  It may mean changing an ineffective program that is draining the ministry.  It may mean letting a volunteer go who is negatively impacting the ministry culture.  It may mean replacing an event that you've always done with something else.  Tradition is good...unless it is causing a slump.  Mission must always trump methods.

I have found that some of the hardest things to change are not things that someone else started, but things that I started.  Are you the same way?  We like change...unless it effects our pet idea or program.  But we must hold the ministry with open hands and be willing to change anything that is causing the ministry to slump...including our own ideas.  Just because something worked yesterday doesn't mean it will work today, right?

Step #5 - Find a way to bring the excitement back.  What can you do to bring back the energy and excitement?  Several months ago, we began to sense that our children's ministry was in a slump.  It started with some of our campus pastors noticing that the children's ministry's energy level at their campus was down.  As we talked with them, we realized they were right.  In recent months, the children's ministry had kind of fallen under the radar and wasn't the life-giving, momentum-bringing force that it had been in the past.

So we decided to find a way to change that.  We decided to have a big weekend where we would highlight the children's ministry church-wide.  The kids lead worship in the adult service, prayed for the offering, we showed videos about what was coming up in children's ministry and much more.  A few weeks later, we had a big day for children's ministry where our kids went all out to invite their unchurched friends.  It was a big success with over 220 first-time families coming that weekend.  You can read more about that here.  We also upped our social media presence big-time with more posts on Instagram and Facebook.  We also began to be more intentional about sharing the stories of kids and families whose lives are being impacted.  We have felt the excitement and energy level shift back up and there's a buzz in the air.

Step #6 - Go back to your primary motivation.  We talked last week about how the natural tendency is to shift our focus to the what instead of the why.  If the focus remains on the what and the why is marginalized, people will begin to just go through the motions.

The why is your mission statement.  It's why you do what you do.  Keeping people's attention on the why will help keep you out of a slump. 

Step #7 - Bring new volunteers on board.  I have found that new volunteers bring fresh energy, excitement and passion.  Think about your ministry like a football team.  You need the veterans.  But you also need the rookies.  They not only breathe new life into the team, but they help keep the veterans on their toes as well.

My wife works as a heart monitor tech in a local hospital.  A big part of her job is watching the patients' pulse rates.  When someone's pulse rate drops she has to bring it to the nurse's and doctor's attention so the person can be stabilized.  As a children's ministry leader, think of yourself as the heart rate monitor for the ministry.  Your job is to monitor the pulse of the ministry and when it starts to drop, be there to help stabilize it and get it back on track.

Happy monitoring! 

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