You only get one first impression. I’ve heard that numerous times over the years but it’s true! One first impression. I’ve met people who have made BAD first impressions before, but I’ve never met anyone who did so intentionally.
There’s a few things I recommend when coming into an established children’s ministry for the first time:
· Observe and Listen—this is so key and often overlooked step of those who are stepping into places of leadership. Taking a month or two to simply watch how things go and who the key players are is so essential. Plus, you get to know everyone in their natural working environment doing what they’ve always done and are comfortable with.
· Build Relationships With The Kids-when I first became a children’s pastor, I did my best to take every kid out for icecream or out to eat so that we could get to know one another. What are their likes and dislikes? How close were they to your predecessor? What school do they go to, etc, etc. You’ll be amazed at what kids will tell you while they’re eating ice-cream! It will help you immensely to know each kid individually and it will also help the parents as they process the transition of leadership.
· Don’t Assume You Know Someone—there might be a specific person or couple who look and act just like a person from your old church or ministry. You will be tempted to joke with them and manage them just like that person from your old church. Don’t. The truth is, no matter what kind of relationship you had with that person at your old church, these people aren’t them. Build all relationships from the ground up.
· Get On Board With The Senior Pastor—this one is key if you’re going to survive. You’ve got to take your time and really get to know this man. Even if he never shows his face in your children’s ministry, he is essential to your success. Find out how he prefers to be communicated with (verbal, written, only at staff meetings, etc) and do it. Many children’s pastors feel like they could go so much farther if only their senior pastor didn’t stand in the way. The truth is that without the senior pastor leading the adult congregation, there would be no way for you to have a children’s ministry.
· Learn The Church Government and Employee Policy—this will be essential as you navigate the new place. Who do you directly report to? (in some churches it’s the senior pastor, in others it’s a different staff member) Who do you go to when you have a problem? Who do you go to when you have awesome news? Who are the executive decision makers of the church—every church has a policy on who gets a vote and how much their vote counts---YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS!
· Stick With Jesus Personally-I know this sounds so churchy and cliché. But it’s so essential. The roller coaster emotion and excitement of starting up this awesome hill eventually leads to having to go down that hill. It’s only a matter of time before the newness and excitement wears off. In ministry you WILL go home often feeling like you’ve had it up to your neck with “jesus stuff” and the last thing you want to do is read your Bible and pray. Fight that temptation and attitude as much as you can. Ministry can be lonely and the quicker you realize that and the more you stay close to Jesus, the better off you’ll be.