31 Things I've Learned From 31 Years in Children's Ministry

I have been serving in full-time children's ministry for over 31 years.  In those 31 years, I have learned a lot of life and ministry lessons.  Most of what I have learned comes from mistakes I made.
I tell people that my book Lead Well in Children's Ministry contains over 300 pages of mistakes I've made in my years serving in children's ministry. 

I thought I'd share some of the things I've learned with you.  My prayer is that these things will help you avoid the mistakes I've made and empower you to lead well. 

1. People don't follow you because of a title. They follow someone they love and respect.
2. Love and respect have to be earned.
3. It's not what you can do, it's what you can empower others to do.
4. Be a thermostat (sets temp) instead of a thermometer (measures temp).
5. Good leaders are stars.  Great leaders create stars.
6. You can do a lot of things mediocre or you can do a few things with excellence.
7. Be an equipper more than a doer.
8. Who you are is more important than what you do.
9.  The greatest ability is availability.
10. Take care of the backstage areas of your life and God will take care of the front-stage areas. 
11. Every child matters to God.  
12. The smartest person in the room is the room.
13. Be a life-long learner.
14. Don't believe your press reports...either way.

15. Do your best and let God take care of the rest.
16. Go the second mile. There is always plenty of room there.

17. Use the ministry to build people instead of using people to build the ministry.

18. The best way to be successful in children's ministry is to stay in children's ministry.

19. Reaching children and families for Jesus is the most important thing we can do.

20. Invest your time, treasure and talent into what really matters.
21. Your first ministry priority needs to be your own family.

22. Greatness in ministry is not measured in years. It is measured in decades.

23. When you show a child that you really care about him, he will open his heart and receive what you are sharing.

24. Make sure you say "thank you" to every volunteer every time they serve.

25. Change takes time.  Don't run over people.  Instead, make it a process.

26. Don't jump to the front of the food line.  Let others go before you.

27. Have 3 mentors in your life. One that is younger than you (they will help you navigate new trends).  One that is the same age as you (they are going through some of the same things you are going through). And one that is older than you (they've been down the road farther than you have). 

28. Put the spotlight on other people instead of on yourself all the time.

29. Serve for the outcome...not for the income.

30. Always do the most loving thing.

31. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Your turn. What are some things you have learned? Share it with us in the comment section below.