This is a guest post by First Look Friend, Cass Brannan. Cass has led several Orange breakouts, currently works at Buckhead Church in Atlanta, and has written extensively about this topic on his personal blog.
Do you want to take your preschool ministry to the next level?
Do you have volunteers who are resistant to change?
Do you want to create an environment that truly partners with the parents?
Guess what? YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Change can be hard. Change can be long. Change can be tiring.
But, with a little effort, a lot of prayer, your passion, and your willingness to see change happen, YOU can make it happen.
There are three BIG areas you must address in order to make this change: yourself, your volunteers and your leadership.
YOURSELF – It has to start with YOU.
This might seem obvious, or maybe not. But, you are the one who carries this passion for change. This is not necessarily about your ability, but about your passion and desire. And, that comes from God.
You have to understand why this is important. You have to understand why doing ministry with and investing in our preschoolers is not only foundational for their understanding of God and Jesus, but it is CRITICAL!
There is too much at stake for us not to partner with parents.
There is too much at stake to not have a place where preschoolers can worship as preschoolers.
There is too much at stake to not teach the Bible to preschoolers as preschoolers.
There is too much at stake to not help them memorize Scripture like preschoolers.
There is too much at stake to not teach them the importance of giving as a preschooler.
There is too much at stake to not teach them how to serve other people as preschoolers.
There is too much at stake to not give them a place that is fun, loving, and safe where they can get a closer look at Jesus!
And don’t ever waiver from your passion for your preschooler. Don’t let anyone tell you that it is not that important. (I have heard this.) Don’t let anyone tell you they are just preschoolers. (I have heard this, too.)
You will be the catalyst to see the change happen in your church and in this ministry. You will carry the weight of it, so you better fully believe in it.
Volunteers can be a really difficult and challenging area to manage and lead, especially for those volunteers who have been serving in your ministry for years and years. Change can be hard. No one really likes it, unless they can see the importance of it. Just remember that you are already 50 steps ahead of your volunteers in your thinking, your passion and your love for that ministry.
Do not just show up one Sunday and expect for your volunteers to be on board with any change that you are making or are about to make.
You have to sell them on it.
You have to show them the importance of it.
You have to leak vision and ministry into their hearts and minds (and attitudes).
You need to set up training events where you can simply cast vision for the ministry. If you have your senior leadership on board with this, then have them come and share, and speak life into what is going on in your ministry.
Side note on getting volunteers to show up: do not call it a meeting. No one likes a meeting. Call it a gathering or an event. AND, feed them good food. It will show them that you really do care about them and they will be more likely to listen. Also, if you can, hold the gathering or the event on a Sunday morning, when you know they are already going to be there. Don’t expect them to show up on another night of the week, but gather them on a Sunday, feed them, and begin casting vision for them.
Your volunteers need to know that they are not providing childcare while the parents attend big church, but that they are making a lasting impression on the heart of a child that will give them a better picture of who God and Jesus are.
Regularly remind your volunteers of the why behind the what. The what is really important but doesn’t mean a whole lot if you don’t understand the why.
Remind your volunteers of the vision in emails, blogs, on Facebook, through a letter, or through other training materials provided for you through your curriculum. Remind them with stories from children and families. Remind them that they are important to what is taking place in the ministry. You have to keep the vision alive for them. You are constantly thinking about it. They are not. Don’t let your passion and your ownership of this ministry ever die. As soon as the vision dies with you, it will die with every other person.
Whether you are changing the music, how you tell the story, what you are asking volunteers to do inside the classroom or outside, be consistent. Be persistent. Be challenging but loving. And be gracious in the process.
Maybe you are in a church where the leadership supports the changes you want to make. Maybe you are not. Either way, change can still happen. And either way, change can make a big difference. Maybe you need to sit down with your leader and pour out your heart to him or her and express your heart, thoughts and vision. It might be hard. It might be awkward. But, it is necessary. A cup of coffee and a conversation can go a long way with them. Don’t assume that your leadership is not on board if you have never sat down with them, face to face, and had a conversation.
Remember to be gracious and smart with how you communicate with those who lead you. Leaders love details, so the more you can bring to the table to help you cast vision, the better.
However, what if they are not on board? What if they don’t see your vision? Unfortunately, there are churches all over where the leadership in the church is not ready or even willing to give any thought to the preschool ministry at their church. If that is where you find yourself, you can still do something. Don’t think that just because the leadership is not behind your full vision that you should just sit and do nothing. Do something! Be obedient to the leadership of the church, but do something. It might be a smaller step than you were planning to take. But, multiple baby steps can get you the same place as a giant leap. It just takes a little longer.
ONE LAST THING
I know that it can be frustrating. I know that you can (and will) feel like just giving up. But, God has given you a heart and passion for your ministry, and He will honor that. It is not going to happen over night! Take small steps and KEEP PRESSING ON! It will be a process and sometimes it will take a lot longer than you thought! Don’t get down, keep your LOVE for what you do at the forefront of your mind, and don’t stop, no matter what!
This post is part of our series answering questions that were asked of the First Look team at Orange Conference 2012. For more answers to more questions, click here.