Monday, April 18, 2011

Creating and Communicating a Ministry Culture

Children’s ministry teams by their nature draw together a wide range of volunteers. These volunteers come with a variety of experiences which shape their expectations and often direct their methods.

They have a mental picture of what Children’s Ministry is and what it ought to be. A teenager can tend to favour a fun environment being a “mate’ to the kids and may struggle with the leadership aspect. Someone who has worked with kids for a while, will want to draw on the methodology of the past and as a result may struggle to adapt to new methods.

Some volunteers value recall answers, others discussion and others craft. The more volunteers we have, the more diverse their expectations, therefore the clearer you must be in determining your culture.

A clearly defined culture
·         Gets everyone on the same page.
Visitors, Volunteers, parents and children all know what your ministry is about. Every week there is one consistent message going home and a clear plan on how parents can be involved in helping children take the next steps.
·         Gives consistency and continuity for our kids.
Most of us have teams that rotate, so the same team does not serve together every week. We need to present consistency in presentation, language, and expectation across our ministry.
·         Ignites passion.
Nothing is more inspiring to a team than working together to see goals achieved. Knowing and feeling like you are part of something bigger, and more significant than just you!

Vision and values can be recorded for people to read, but culture defines what actually happens. It’s what people see, feel and hear when they are in your ministry area as a visitor, volunteer, parent or child. It can be heard by the language that is used, the rituals (programming) that you engage in and in the dynamics of your team.

Communicate your culture
·         Speak it!
Remind your team of the things that matter most and why they are important, what would be lost if we did not pay attention to them? These characteristics not only form the vision piece, but link to the process (eg. “when you give kids time to share, they feel we value them”), and evaluation as well. Don’t say it once, but over and over again in different ways.
·         Show it!
Use non verbal ways of communicating your message through signage, decor, atmosphere, and procedure/ritual. Our words become even more powerful when they are backed up by consistent actions. eg If your ministry area is truly targeted for the kids, it will look age appropriate. This can be done on a week by week set up, it does not have to be permanent. If we say we are relevant and prepared and then to quickly write a bible verse on a white board or a scrappy piece of paper shows something different.
·         Feel it!
Atmosphere is one of the first things that registers for me when I walk into a ministry area. A collaboration of visual messages reinforced by the personal approach of the team and reflected in the kids response. Ownership is a value that can be felt. When every person on the team knows what their contribution is and how it helps the overall team, you can feel it. There is an atmosphere of encouragement and support—we play as team!!
·         Live it!
These characteristics become part of the fabric of being team, it’s like breathing, we just do it!

To change any aspect of your existing culture takes time and intentional effort.

What are the characteristics that define the culture of your ministry?
·        How do you demonstrate these on a weekly basis?
·         If you were to evaluate your ministry this week based on these characteristics,
how would you score?
·        Ask your parents, volunteers and children questions to determine if you are actually communicating clearly.

Margaret Spicer
Children and Families Pastor
Crossway Baptist Church, Melbourne