7 Surprises for New Children's Ministry Leaders

As a new children's ministry leader, director or pastor, you may think you have everything under control and know what to expect.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.  You've got some big surprises ahead of you.

Here are a few surprises that you may face and how to be prepared to deal with it. 

Surprise #1 - You will be leading adults as much or even more than children.   This is the ironic thing about being a leader in children's ministry.  Your first responsibility is to lead the adults who minister to the children.  

Spend time reading and preparing to lead adults well.  You can be great with kids, but if you can't lead adults, you will have a rough go at it.  And remember this - your success in children's ministry will rise and fall on the strength of your volunteer team. 

Focus on building a solid team and equipping them to do the work of the ministry as stated in Ephesians 4.  Remember this - it's not about what you can do - rather it's about what you can empower others to do.

Surprise #2 - People don't care about your title.  They don't care if you are a "pastor" or "director" or "leader."  They will not follow you solely based on what your title is.  Rather, people follow someone that they love and respect.  And that has to be earned.  The longer you serve with excellence, the more people will want to follow you. 

Surprise #3 -  You can't be involved in everything.  Provide vision and direction and let your team run with it.  Don't fall into the trap of micromanaging.  Don't tell everyone what to do.  Rather, trust them to make the right decisions and complete the task.  Reassure your team members that mistakes are part of the process, and that taking risks is often better than indecision.

Surprise #4 - There will be conflict.  Anytime you have various personalities serving together, there will be some conflict...even at church.  People will question your leadership.  People will question your motives.  People will question your decisions.  And sometimes it can get ugly.  Yes, sheep do bite at times. Enjoy your honeymoon stage and prepare yourself for the conflicts, disagreements and attacks that will enviably emerge.    

Read books about how to deal with difficult people. Know your own personality type and what can trigger you at times.  Learn how to have hard conversations.  Work on your emotional intelligence.

People sometimes think that church staff members live in a happy bubble, where each day is a joy.  Realize that when you lead people, there will be times you will have to walk through the valleys.  But know that no matter if you are on a mountain or in a valley, God is with you. 

Surprise #5 - You will never have enough volunteers.  Someone said you will always have about 85% of what you really need to operate at peak performance.  It's the 15% that will keep you on your knees, praying for God to send more laborers for the harvest.  

Building a volunteer team is not a twice a year deal.  It's actually an every day task of enlisting, equipping and empowering volunteers to lead well. 

Surprise #6 - You won't hear a lot of "thank you's."   Don't let your fulfillment come from what other people think about you and your ministry.  Get your "thank you's" from God.  Be a good and faithful servant whether you are thanked for it or not.  Learn to encourage yourself in the Lord as David did in the Old Testament. 

Surprise #7  -  People will walk away from you.  Volunteers that you have poured yourself into will get upset and leave the church.  Teachers will quit on you.  Families that you have heavily invested in will move to another state.  You will make a leadership mistake and have to deal with the after shock.  

Keep your eyes on Jesus.  He will never leave you.  He will never forsake you.  Lean heavily into Him for wisdom and understanding as you lead.  With Him, all things are possible.  Walk in this confidence and don't let the surprises startle you. 

p.s. Your turn.  What are some other surprises that you've had to you face when you were a new children's pastor / director?  Share them in the comment section below.