Thanks for joining me at my KidMin Admin 101 Breakout session! Below you’ll find a copy of the complete notes for the breakout, links to the free downloads I mentioned, and even a few additional resources.
Administration provides the solid framework in which your ministry functions, and without it, things crumble. Whether administration is your spiritual gift or your worst nightmare, here are some tools and ideas to help you rock the administrative aspect of your role as a ministry leader.
What do you think of when I say administration? It’s the behind-the-scenes organization that helps everything run smoothly. It helps you set standards for how you want to operate as a ministry. It creates the organizational structure and culture within your ministry. Ultimately, administration allows us to be good stewards of the time, energy, and resources God has given us.
Some people may view administration as the tedious, boring tasks that limit their creativity and imagination. And while some tasks can be tedious, administration acts as a trellis for your ministry vine that gives you the structure and stability to grow rather than a straightjacket that restricts your capabilities.
We even see the Biblical importance of organization and administration when we look at Scripture:
- God’s planning and intentionality in creation (Genesis 1)
- Noah’s Ark
- Job descriptions of the priests in Exodus and Leviticus
- Abraham – God planning for the future of His people
- The organization of the tribes of Israel
- Mary and Joseph
- Parable of the talents (Matthew 25)
- Acts and the organization of the early church
- Paul and his missionary journeys
The church has a mission, and we can’t accomplish that mission apart from a coordinated effort, and anytime you get more than one person involved, administration is vital. Ministry is about people, not programs, and administration allows us to serve people more efficiently. 2 Corinthians 4:1 says:
“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.”
Our ministries are not our ministries. They are God’s that He has entrusted to us. Practicing good administration allows us to be good stewards of His ministry.
Disclaimer: Planning and good administration does not take the place of seeking God’s guidance or following the Holy Spirit. Administration is not a substitute for prayer and obedience.
Action Step: Make a list of at least 10 ways/reasons a solid administration will help your ministry.
The Why: Defining a Mission & Vision Statement
The mission and vision statement of your ministry is the driving force of everything you do, so they must each be clearly defined. While many leaders think the two are synonymous, mission statements and vision statements are two different things. Your mission statement is mostly philosophical while the vision statement is more strategic and specific. You want your mission and vision statements to be clear, concise, and memorable, and they should align with the mission and vision of the church as a whole.
For example, my previous children’s ministry had the following mission and vision statements:
- Mission: Grow & Go – (grow in their walks with Jesus & go serve others in His name)
- Vision: Through a culturally relevant but Biblical reverent ministry, RISING Kids strives to partner with parents and equip them to be the primary disciplers of their children, so kids will know Jesus, understand their place in His story, and want to follow His example of a servant’s life.
These statements act like a colander or pasta strainer for your ministry, allowing you to run all new ideas, events, and activities through that filter. 100% of the ideas and suggestions you get may be good ideas, but if they don’t fit within the overall vision of your ministry, then they aren’t worth putting your time, energy, and effort into them. So let your mission and vision statements be a filter, pour all your ideas through them, and see what sticks.
Your mission and vision statements build the foundation for the rest of your administrative tasks and ministry goals, so it’s vital you take time to define them.
When possible, use Scripture to help you craft your mission and vision. From my example above, I used 2 Peter 3:18 as a foundation/starting point: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”
Action Step: Write down the vision and mission statement of your ministry. If you don’t have one yet, take the time to craft one this week.
The How: Setting Goals & Objectives
Pirates are out for one thing: buried treasure. They plot, chase, and cheat their way to their desires until they are swimming in gold coins. And while I don’t recommend doing any of that in ministry, pirates can teach us a little something about setting and pursuing our goals. They recognize that you cannot merely point the ship in the right direction with a mission and vision statement. You have to do the jobs that make the ship move forward or it will be tossed around by the waves and end up far off course. You have to set goals and objectives for your ministry.
Goals provide incremental steps to make everything else actually happen and they are different than objectives. Goals are general, broad, long-term dreams, like “I want the children in my ministry to be comfortable with prayer and enjoy praying to God.” Objectives are more specific actions designed to accomplish a particular task within a set time-frame, like “I want to give each child the chance to pray out loud at least once over the next month”. How do the two relate? Objectives are clearly defined, measurable steps to help you achieve a larger goal.
Imagine that your children’s ministry is a pirate ship and you are the pirate captain (arr, matey!). Setting goals for your ministry helps steer your ship in the direction you want it to go and gives you a map of where you are headed. But objectives are the specific tasks and actions that propel the ship forward in the intended direction. Most people set goals but stop there, never articulating the objectives that will bring the overall goal to fruition. This leaves your pirate ship pointed in the right direction but just sitting, floating in the waves.
The best advice I have ever heard on goals came from a random leader at a Catalyst Conference. He said, “Think big, start small, keep moving.” This mentality helps goals move into objectives so you can find the buried treasure of leading families and kids well. Thinking big helps you identify the goals, starting small helps you set the objectives for those goals, and keeping moving helps you persevere to the X that marks the spot.
Think Big. Goals are broad and general like a guide map, so as you set goals for yourself and your ministry, think big. This may be a task you complete on your own, or it may be one you complete with your ministry staff. As you’re sailing the seven seas of children’s ministry, the whole ocean is available to you, so don’t hold back.
- Start with prayer. (This really should be a given in our line of work.) Some of my favorite verses I pray when planning are Psalm 20:4, Psalm 33:11, Philippians 3:14, Proverbs 16:3, Proverbs 21:5, and Matthew 21:22. I like to read through and pray these verses before every big planning session, just to focus my heart and invite God into the planning. Praying also allows the time for God to speak to me about HIS goals for the ministry, so I am not limited by what my brain can come up with.
- Keep your mission and vision statements nearby and use them to create your goals. Remember that pasta strainer idea? Run all goals through the filter of your vision to make sure you’re thinking big in the right direction.
- Part of thinking big is looking back, and you have to evaluate the past to plan for the future. What went well last year? What was lacking? Where is an area you want to see growth in the ministry and in the children? What questions did you answer that may reveal a topic you need to address this year? To know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been. Talk with your team, parents, and senior pastor about these questions, and evaluate a starting point. You can also complete an internal and external scan of your ministry and its resources. An internal scan assesses your ministry’s physical, human, financial, and attitudinal resources. An external scan provides insight into the external context in which your ministry exists (community stats, economic details, etc.).
- If nothing was holding you back (not even a lack of budget or volunteers), what would you want to see happen in your ministry this year? We serve a God who specializes in doing the impossible, so dream big!
Start small. Now that you’ve got your grand plans and your guide map, it’s time for the smaller details. Here is where you start transforming your goals into objectives with specifics, time-frames, and action steps. Weigh anchor! Hoist the sail! Come about!
- One of the easiest ways to achieve your goals and make them actionable is to write them down. Studies have shown that when you write down your goals on a regular basis, you are 42% more likely to achieve them because it engages both the creative and logical parts of your brain. So write down your goals on sticky notes, in a journal, or in an email.
- As you write your goals, there are a few key elements to include that can help them become objectives. All of your goals and objectives should pass the SMART test and be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-sensitive. Objectives are time-sensitive, so give each one a deadline. This helps with accountability and follow-through. Objectives are also measurable. You will know that you have achieved your objective because there will be evidence, so make sure to think through how you will measure and record success.
- Look for the specific, next steps that will help you accomplish each objective. You can’t jump from point A to point D without going through steps B and C first. And if you were really dreaming big, you may have to go through the whole alphabet from point A to point Z. Maybe a family VBS is one of your objectives. That’s great! But if the families in your ministry are not ready for that kind of change, it’s going to backfire. Some goals require a change in the church culture, and those kinds of changes don’t happen overnight. So start small with the specifics of your goals to turn them into attainable objectives and take action steps toward the buried treasure.
Keep Moving. A pirate ship in the middle of the ocean does not have the choice to just give up and stop what it is doing when the seas get rough; it must continue on one way or another until it finds land. No matter what happens, keep moving forward. There will be storms, droughts, and winds along the way, but don’t let them bring you to a halt. Continue pressing on toward your goals by completing your objectives even if you have to take a different route than you were expecting. You may have to re-evaluate how you’re going to get there, but keep moving.
- Stay accountable by sharing your objectives with others and adopt an all hands on deck approach. Now that you’ve written them down, talk them up! Who can you invite on the adventure with you? Will it be a co-worker, your senior pastor, a friend, or even a fellow KidMin leader through Facebook? How and when will you share these goals and objectives with them? Text? Email? Singing telegram? As always, be specific. Then communicate your objectives for the ministry with your team, your volunteers, and the families you serve. This will invite them to be part of reaching those objectives and give them ownership within the ministry.
- Also keep your objectives visible. I’m a big fan of sticky notes – even some of the notes from when I first started in children’s ministry are still above my desk, and that was 7 years ago! So whether it’s a physical place in your office or a digital space on your computer, put your objectives in a place where you’ll see them often.
- The best motivation is positive motivation, so celebrate success. As you reach milestones along the way to your goals or even complete each objective, make sure to take the time to celebrate! Do your happy dance, share the good news, and celebrate the wins. This will give you the motivation to keep moving when things get tough and allow you to invite people into the great things God is doing in your ministry. Even if the accomplishment seems small, take the time to celebrate it.
Now that you’ve read about dreaming up goals and setting objectives to make those dreams a reality, it’s your turn. Put on your eye patch (I know you have one somewhere), grab a pen, and use this free Goal Setting Guide to practice steering and sailing your ship toward the buried treasure.
The How: Policies & Procedures
While size, resources, and culture may vary from church to church, one thing that remains constant in every children’s ministry is the need to keep children safe. Leaders should be proactive in protecting children, staff, and volunteers by creating explicit policies, procedures, and protocols for their ministries. Every children’s or youth ministry should have clearly defined policies, procedures, and protocols in place to ensure the safety of their children and volunteers.
Why are they necessary? Matthew 18:5-6 spells out the necessity for policies, procedures, and protocols within children’s ministry, highlighting the importance of safety and security of children in the care of a church. This verse provides a Biblical command to keep our children and youth safe. 1 Peter 5:2-3 also encourages leaders to “shepherd [their] flock” with integrity and care, which would include doing everything they can to ensure the safety of those they lead (ESV). The example of Paul’s ministry in Acts 16 shows the importance of planning and setting up protocols for ministry, and Paul’s letters to the church show intentional thought in church-building policies and procedures.
Policies, procedures, and protocols are in place to maintain the safety and security of the children in the ministry. We must protect the children under our care from possible pain and injury that causes a loss of spirit, trust, and faith, and we must prevent as much as is possible a child becoming a victim of abuse.
Policies and procedures build trust. We cannot reach children without the trust of their parents, and establishing and communicating safety guidelines helps open more opportunities for ministry.
Protect you and your team. Pastors and churches are not exempt from legal responsibility for their actions, and well-defined protocols help protect not only the children but also the staff and volunteers. We must make sure our staff, volunteers, and elders are supported in case of a frivolous lawsuit.
Policies, procedures, and protocols also help churches pursue and achieve their goals by protecting resources. Every ministry should have clearly defined goals each year, and having policies and procedures help make reaching those goals safer and more efficient. Written policies help support ministry rather than hinder it and allow for more effective ministry to occur. Especially since ministry must happen with the reliance on so many volunteers, policies and procedures help maintain a specific set of standards, no matter who is doing the work.
Want to see sample policies and procedures for ministry? The link below includes details for key protocols for children’s ministry and includes the policies and procedures that outline them for church staff and volunteers. Each of the following protocols consists of the policy and procedures necessary to implement the protocol effectively, including details such as title or purpose of the policy, Biblical rationale, procedural steps, and identification of responsible parties.
The following link includes policies and protocols for:
- Child safety
- Child discipline
- Transportation (big for youth ministry)
- Purchasing and reimbursement protocols
The How: Ministry Calendar & Planning
Planning your calendar year ahead of time helps you see the big picture of what you’re doing in your ministry and stay on top of things (looking at you, procrastinators). When you know what’s coming 2, 3, or even 6 months down the road, you are better able to delegate, plan, focus on your goals, and use your time wisely. So grab your favorite calendar (print or digital), use the calendar planning checklist below, and plan away!
Calendar Planning Tips
Get (and keep) a calendar. You can’t plan the year ahead if you don’t know what the year looks like. Whether it’s in print (Blue sky calendars are my favorite) or use a digital calendar with Google.
Start big. Write down all the big, important, we-do-them-every-year, this-isn’t-going-to-change-unless-the-rapture-happens dates first (Easter, Christmas, church-wide events) so you can plan around those. You can host a service project any time throughout the year, but if you plan an egg hunt in October, you might get some pushback.
Know the seasons of busy-ness for the families in your ministry. As much as we’d love it if the families in our church only had our events on their calendar, the reality is they have commitments (a lot of them) outside of our ministries. My families have asked for no extra events past the first weekend of December until after Christmas and from the beginning of May until after school gets out. Those are two months that are jam-packed with school activities and extracurriculars, so keep your families’ other schedules in mind. This will help prevent you spending time and energy on an event that no one shows up to.
Vary the type and purpose of your events and consider all the categories. Have a healthy variety of events like outreach, family events, service projects, etc. and be sure to include events for every age group.
What big events are happening around the world this year? This will help you keep relevancy in mind when planning your calendar. For example, during the Olympics, we like to host a field day type event for families.
Don’t stress about the details yet. You don’t have to have the event actually planned to know what kind of event you want to have. Stay focused on the big picture. Say you want to do a kids service project next November – great! That’s all you need to know right now. Just pencil in service project on your calendar and start planning once the time gets closer.
Don’t overload! Keep it simple. You don’t have to have an exciting event every single weekend. One outside-of-Sunday event a month was our rule of thumb and it was the perfect amount for the families in my ministry.
Add in other ministry dates too. Remember that you’re not the only ministry in the church (even if you are the most important wink wink). Make notes of the big youth group dates so you don’t schedule a babysitting night the same weekend all of the youth are on a youth retreat.
When you’re done, look at your calendar year visually. Is there one month that has lots of events? Did you plan 3 events for your preschool families in April, but then they have nothing until October? Make sure your calendar is balanced throughout the year in both number and intended audience.
Budgeting Your Time/ Time Management
As much as I wish it were endless, time is limited. And your time as a kidmin leader is limited too. So how can you make the most of it?
Plan your time. So much time is wasted from not having a plan for your time. Even if it’s just a short list on a sticky note, at the end of each day, make a list of what you want to get done tomorrow. That way, you don’t spend a lot of time up front just figuring out what you need to do. You can jump right in, and it helps your brain focus on what needs to get done instead of where to start. (Psst – I really like using Asana as my digital to-do list, and lots of my friends enjoy using Trello).
Track your time. If you want to use your time more wisely, you have to know where your time goes. Your church may ask you to track your time or hours anyway. Mine didn’t, but I like using Toggl to keep track of my time. I categorized the different tasks I spent time on (Sunday prep, special events, meetings, etc.) and kept a log of how many hours I worked. This not only helped me analyze where my time was going and work to balance it better (spent lots of time in meetings this week, it’s OK to cut down on meetings next week), but it also helped me give myself permission to STOP working at the end of the day. My to-do list may not have been done, but when that timer said I had been productive for 8-9 hours, it was OK to stop and push those tasks to tomorrow. (The trick is really making sure you’re actually productive during the time you track!)
Block your time. Blocking your time or your days of the week can help you be more productive and help your brain focus on the tasks ahead. Think of blocking like theming your days; each day of the week could have a different theme/focus for the day. For me, Sundays were church (obviously) and administrative tasks like setting up emails, social media posts, and evaluating the morning. I liked to use Mondays for brainstorming, vision-casting, and big-picture planning. Tuesdays and Thursdays were reserved for staff meetings, outings with kids and volunteers, and other errand-type activities. Wednesdays were my days to fully prepare for and focus on Sundays. Then I could take Fridays and Saturdays off. Blocking your time or at least your days gives each day a unique purpose and breaks up a sometimes monotonous week.
Protect your time. Protect the time off you have and time with your family. They are your first ministry before your role in kidmin and you have to protect your time with them, even if it means you have to say no to something. (And it’s OK to say no to something.) Don’t tell the families in my ministry this, but at one point, I had to schedule meetings with myself on the calendar so I would actually take the time I needed to rest and recover. If someone asked to talk or meet with me during that time, I could just say I had a meeting and wasn’t available. Doing this helped me remember to take time for myself so I could be refilled and refueled. Hear this, kidmin leader: you are not obligated to be on call for the families in your ministry 24/7, and times of rest are not unproductive. God took time to rest and so should you.
Just like we have to be good stewards of the materials and resources God has gifted us, we have to be good stewards of our time too. So plan, track, block, and protect your time so you can be the most effective kidmin leader you can be.
The How: Budgeting Your Money
Full confession: budgeting is probably my least favorite thing about KidMin (yes even worse than no-show volunteers in my book) BUT it’s an important administrative task we can’t ignore. Use these ideas to build, evaluate, and stick to your ministry budget this year.
Why Have a Budget Plan?
All of this may seem like a lot of extra, administrative work that you don’t enjoy or that doesn’t seem worth it. But it is. Budgets provide the “how” behind the “why” of your vision. Having a budget in place protects people (including you), maintains accountability, and allows ministry to happen. Especially in children’s ministry when supplies like markers, glue sticks, and Goldfish are necessities, having a budget in place for the purchase of these supplies allows you to do ministry well. Having a plan in place for developing and sticking to a budget each year allows your overall ministry plan to run smoothly because you have the resources and team members you need.
A ministry budget development plan is key for the church as a whole because every leader within the church must know the resources they have available to them. Part of developing a strategic plan for ministry includes doing an internal scan, which include an assessment of available financial resources. Having a good idea of where money is spent and who it goes to will help with this internal scan and planning for the future.
Builds trust and shows transparency. Having a budget plan can also build trust with members and encourage them to give more since they see clearly where their money is going. Presenting the budget as a large vision for a greater purpose rather than just bills to pay helps encourage people to give.
Budgeting also eliminates competition and comparison. Creating and sticking to a budget helps eliminate any competition between various ministries in the church and clearly defines resources for each one. Budget is a “group process” and allows another opportunity for the staff to meet to align their ministry practices and programs with one vision and purpose.
Building Your Budget
Pray. As always, start with prayer when approaching your budget. Ask God for the creativity to use your resources wisely. Ask for guidance Ask God to fill needs in the budget. Spend time praying individually and as a team for the financial aspects of your ministry.
Plan. Identify your ministry goals and assess the resources you already have. Think about the goals you want to accomplish this year and what resources you will need to meet those goals.
Evaluate any unnecessary expenses in your budget and eliminate those budgetary needs. If you’re hoping to grow and reach the community, 10% of your budget should go toward community outreach and evangelism. This may include budgets for entry-level events, first-time guest gifts, or even publicity resources like flyers and your website.
Avoid planning a budget based solely on past performance. Some ministry leaders tend to only look at the past years’ numbers when creating and planning a budget, but doing that does not allow for growth in the future. Plan the budget with growth in mind so that when growth happens, you’re prepared for it financially.
Propose. Submit your budget to your ministry team first, then to your senior pastor/governing committee for approval. This approval process should focus on ensuring alignment within the church as a whole and finalizing the proposed budget. You may be asked to adjust or cut back your budget depending on other areas of ministry, and you should see an overview of the entire church budget to help you gain an understanding of the big picture. Final budget details may need to go out separately to different team members, especially if salaries or other sensitive information is included.
Persevere. Just because you’ve submitted your budget for the year does not mean your budget-work is finished! You may need to re-evaluate your budget throughout the year depending on changing circumstances, and you should have at least monthly reporting to keep track of your budget. Whether using an accounting software like QuickBooks, using your own Excel sheet like the budget tracker provided below, or hiring a staff member to manage the various budgets of the church, you have to keep track of your spending and income regularly throughout the year.
Tips for Sticking to Your Budget
There is no such thing as a budget fairy to keep track of it all for me (but how awesome would that be?!), so Excel is the next best option. I created yearly and monthly spreadsheets in the Budget Tracker above with designated expense categories to help me stay on top of my ministry budget, and you can download your own copy of the budget tracker above.
- Designate one day each month to making sure your budget tracker is up to date so you don’t fall behind.
- Keep yourself accountable and create a system of checks and balances. You should not be the only one who sees the financial activity of your ministry. Whether through monthly expense reports or quarterly updates, make sure someone else knows where, how, and why your ministry spends money.
- Establish a ministry-only credit card. Using a card only for ministry expenses will help me separate personal money from ministry money, eliminating any suspicious activity or questions, and it will help be more efficient in tracking the money spent because I will not have to separate personal expenses from ministry expenses.
- Take inventory of your supplies. Especially when I was the children’s pastor at a mobile church, and all of the supplies lived in bins in my garage/dining room/spare bedroom, I was terrible at taking inventory. There were times when I just bought something new instead of digging through the bins to find it, which was not a good use of our budget resources. I eventually worked out a system for keeping all of the supplies organized, but taking inventory helps you use your budget more wisely and efficiently.
Evaluating Your Budget
As you evaluate your budget each year, ask yourself these questions:
- Does my budget allow for growth?
- Does it use my resources wisely based on my vision, mission, and core values?
- Is there a clear connection between the ministry’s goals and the ministry budget?
- Does it meet both fixed and variable needs of my ministry? (Fixed costs are things like mortgage and salaries. Variable costs include things like supplies and teaching materials that may vary from year to year.)
- Does my budget support the overall vision and mission of the church?
- Do I allocate funds for both internal growth and community outreach?
- Is my budget balanced throughout the year, depending on my ministry calendar?
- Do I have a plan in place for reporting/tracking my spending?
The How: Volunteers
This could be an entire month of breakout sessions just by itself! In fact, I used our Admin April 2019 to focus exclusively on all things volunteers: recruiting, screening, training, and retaining them.
Click here to access all of the Admin April Volunteer posts and freebies that influenced this portion of the breakout session. Note: The freebies will only be available to our weekly subscribers, and joining me for a breakout session does not automatically add you to my subscriber’s list. Learn more about joining our subscriber’s list to gain full access here.
The Next: Evaluating Your Ministry
Evaluating Your Staff
Evaluating and assessing your staff personnel is the most neglected administrative aspect of churches, but it is vital to the overall success and health of your ministry. Evaluating staff members allows open and honest conversations about improvement, and gives everyone in the conversation the opportunity to grow. It also helps ensure positive working environments.
When you evaluate your personnel, staff members see that what they do matters, and they rise to expectations set before them. Aside from the administrative and effectiveness value on evaluation, we also see a biblical basis for personnel appraisal in God’s creation, as part of the community of faith, and as part of God’s commission to the church.
Who will evaluate?
As the Children’s Ministry Director, you should evaluate your subordinate staff (interns, assistants, ministry-specific coordinators, etc.), and at least your key volunteers/leaders. If you have a large volunteer base, you may not have time to meet with each of your volunteers individually, but you can equip your key leaders to evaluate the volunteers they lead. You should also be evaluated by your senior or associate pastor.
When to evaluate?
For both staff and volunteers, meet with them at 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year of stepping into a new role. Meeting more often with a new employee/volunteer will help make sure the position is working out for both you and them.
After that, meet to evaluate at least yearly, or as needed if an issue arises. The same evaluation form can be used for each checkpoint and annually so there is consistency in expectations and evaluation. Try to hold these evaluation meetings with your staff at the beginning or end of the year, as they are setting their goals for the next year. That way, they can take your feedback and apply any necessary changes as they look to the future. With volunteers, evaluate at the end of the year as they are making decisions to recommit or step down from the position. This gives you the opportunity to encourage them for next year or help them gracefully step away.
What to evaluate?
Evaluate your team in each of the following areas…
- Successes and wins: What did the person do well this year? How were they a contributing member to the team and the overall goals of the ministry?
- Corrections for next year: What areas of their service need improvement? Did you notice a habit or re-occurring issue that needs to be addressed?
- Relational Abilities – Did they work well and effectively with others? Do they relate well to the age group they serve and lead?
- Communication – Did they communicate with you and/or their assigned leader when they couldn’t serve? Did they participate in volunteer training discussions both in person and online?
- Attendance and Punctuality – Did they show up on time for their assigned shifts? Were they reliable?
- Life Characteristics and Traits – Does their lifestyle match up with the beliefs and expectations of leaders in the church? Are they setting a good example of a Christ to the people they lead?
- Goal Completion/Performance – Did they accomplish the task(s) they were assigned? Were the tasks completed with excellence and efficiency?
Evaluating Your Programs & Procedures
Regularly evaluating your programs and procedures helps ensure your ministry is the most effective it can be, and it allows for cutting back on waste. It also helps make sure your ministry is as safe as possible for the children who attend because your policies and procedures are updated. It also helps create a culture of openness.
People want to know their voice matters, and they want to feel heard. Consistently asking for feedback from your key volunteers and parents about your leadership and the week-to-week happenings of your ministry communicates that you value their thoughts and opinions. When people know you’re open to feedback, they’re more likely to talk to you about their suggestions rather than each other (which is much healthier for everyone involved).
We have to be mentally, emotionally, and prayerfully ready to hear feedback and accept it gracefully before we even start asking the questions. Otherwise, the responses to our questions get tangled up in our own emotions and blind spots.
I’m still a work in progress when it comes to approaching feedback in a healthy way, but I do know that to receive feedback well, we have to change our mindset about what feedback is.
Church leaders often avoid evaluation because it is so often presented as criticism. But we have to understand that feedback comes in not just two forms (positive or negative), but in three. In their book Thanks for the Feedback, Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen discuss three kinds of feedback: appreciation, coaching, and evaluation.
1) Appreciation – Everyone knows (and loves) this kind of feedback. It’s the kind when someone lets us know what an awesome job we’re doing and how much our hard work is impacting their children. It’s the kind that makes us feel accomplished and encouraged and motivated to keep going. This feedback is often labeled “positive feedback,” and it points out the strengths of our ministry and our leadership.
2) Coaching – Coaching is feedback given to help us expand our knowledge, grow as a leader, and improve the ministry. In the church world, words like “mentorship” and “accountability” fall into this category. Coaching can also help show us our blind spots. All leaders have them. To deny our blind spots is the very affirmation that they exist. We have to be aware of our own weaknesses so we can more graciously accept feedback when others see things we might miss.
3) Evaluation – Evaluation ranks or rates our performance according to a set of personal or communal standards. This kind of feedback is the typically the most difficult to hear, especially when the evaluation ranks us below the desired expectations, although it can include positive feedback too.
The kind of feedback we hear may be different than the kind that is being given. The negative voices tend to be the loudest, and most negative feedback feels like evaluation when it’s really just coaching. This disconnect causes us to misinterpret and even miss out on an opportunity to grow. Both coaching and evaluation are often lumped together as “negative feedback” when actually, coaching is positive feedback in disguise.
Most of the time, people’s intentions are good even if their words or tones aren’t. When we learn to recognize the type of feedback we are hearing, we can better position our hearts and responses in a posture of learning rather than defense. So if we can hear their hearts first and their words second, what sounds like a demand for our ministry turns into a dream for our ministry.
When we receive feedback, we shouldn’t immediately decide to either take or dismiss their thoughts and ideas. Let’s try it on and see how it fits. You wouldn’t buy a new pair of shoes at first sight without trying them on and walking around in them a little. We can do the same with the feedback we hear. Check it against our ministry values and mission. Imagine ourselves taking their feedback and running with it. Then imagine ignoring it completely. Usually, there’s a middle ground that is healthier for everyone.
Receiving feedback well does not mean you always take the feedback given. It means you engage in a conversation about how those ideas can help you improve a ministry that influences generations in the name of Jesus.
Who will evaluate?
You and your team should evaluate together, but you should also include your volunteers and participants in evaluations too, so invite children and their parents into the evaluation process.
When to evaluate?
Always. Evaluate as you see ministry happening, as you talk with parents and children, and at regularly scheduled intervals (after Sunday services, after big events, monthly quarterly, and annually). Set up a volunteer or parent council that meets at least twice a year for evaluation of overall programming and specific events.
Also, plan ahead. Especially for event-specific feedback, make a plan for gathering feedback before the event even starts so it doesn’t slip your mind in the post-event exhaustion. Host a post-event lunch with your key leadership team to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the event, favorite moments, etc. They feel appreciated with a free meal, and you get the feedback you need. Win-win. Also, if people know you want feedback at the end, they are often more intentional about taking mental notes while the event is happening.
Finally, be intentional with every interaction. Evaluation conversations don’t have to happen only at sanctioned meetings and through formal surveys. Make it a goal to ask parents, volunteers, and kids about their thoughts and opinions on the ministry every time you meet with them. Ask about a specific event or a general ministry practice. When you’re taking a volunteer out for coffee, ask about one thing the ministry could do to help them succeed as a leader. On a Sunday morning, ask a child about their favorite activity from that day. Both simple questions can reveal strengths and weaknesses of your ministry.
What to evaluate?
All aspects of your ministry should fall within at least one of the following categories…
- Leadership – Does the ministry have clearly defined leadership roles? Are the right people in those roles?
- Accomplishment of Vision, Mission, and Goals – Are we meeting our goals and accomplishing our vision?
- Volunteer training – Do our volunteers know what’s expected of them? Are they equipped to complete their jobs with excellence?
- Family Impact and Parent Partnerships – Are we effectively reaching families? Do parents feel equipped to be the primary disciplers of their own children?
- Administration & Efficiency – Are we the most efficient we could be? What administrative tasks should be eliminated or implemented to help improve the ministry?
- Outreach & Special Events – Are we scheduling events that reach the community outside of our church? Are our special events well-attended and well-received?
- Programs – How is the scheduling, resources, and effectiveness of the program as a whole? What about ongoing or weekly programming?
- Policies – Are our policies up to date with modern requirements? Do these policies reflect our overall ministry mission? Have any circumstances changed that would require a policy to be updated or created?
How to evaluate?
Use both formal and informal processes. This may include collecting certain data over a period of time (like attendance numbers, number of salvations, etc.) as well as causal conversations.
Write things down. After every event, I write down notes for the next year that include things that went well and ideas for improvement. That way, when the event comes again the next year, I already have some reminders in place without having to try and remember them.
Be specific – with the questions, the people, and even a deadline. Have a different survey for volunteers versus families in your ministry. The two will have different experiences, and your questions should reflect that. Ask specific people, not a mass email group. Whether you’re evaluating a particular event or the ministry in general, make a list of specific people and send the questions only to them. If you let participants know you’re only asking a few select people, they’ll be more willing to take the time to give you feedback because it will feel like their answers actually matter. Just make sure your group includes different kinds of people (volunteers and parents, working moms and stay-at-home moms, nursery parents and elementary parents, etc.). Also, giving them a deadline for completing the survey typically leads to higher engagement.
Gather feedback creatively. Look for new and different ways to encourage feedback, and broaden your circle. Gather feedback from people within your ministry: Use a physical or digital form for an event-specific survey. Equip your key leaders to engage volunteers in discussions and then share those responses with you. Create a focus group and take a group of kids out for ice cream to ask them about their favorite and least favorite parts of church. Invite your preteens to make a list of questions they have about God, the Bible, and their faith, then use those answers to guide your teachings. Next, gather feedback from people within your church: Ask your senior pastor for his or her thoughts on your ministry and leadership. Ask someone who isn’t involved in your ministry at all what they know or hear about it. Finally, gather feedback from the KidMin community: Ask a question or start a discussion in an online Facebook group like I Love KidMin and see where the conversation goes. Record yourself teaching and share the video with other children’s ministry leaders for their thoughts and opinions. Invite a friend to attend your children’s ministry as an incognito inspector and give you the perspective of a first-time guest.
Encourage transparency. If we can be transparent and vulnerable by asking for input on our leadership and ministry, the ones giving feedback should be transparent too. Ask for their name in a survey and don’t make it anonymous. Let people take ownership of their answers, and give yourself the opportunity to follow up with anyone in case something alarming comes up.
Know what to do with the answers. Asking the right questions only leads to successful changes when we know what to do with the answers. In links below, I’ve shared some of my favorite feedback questions, but these questions won’t do me any good if I don’t dig a little deeper into what the answers actually tell me. Asking a question about what a child learned isn’t just about the child. It’s a reflection of my curriculum and teaching. A question about how prepared a volunteer felt before an event shows me how I’m doing with communication and where I dropped the ball. Asking about what the families in my ministry struggle with gives me insight on how I can best support them in those struggles through resources, time, and programming.
Click the following links to download evaluation resources:
Admin Freebie Library
Click the links below to access any and every free download I mentioned in the breakout.
Want to learn more? Here are some of my favorite resources to help with Admin-related ministry tasks.
From Deeper KidMin:
- Admin Bundle (even MORE admin resources!)
- Planning Bundle (free resource!)
- More volunteer resources
- More admin resources
Favorite Admin-related books:
- Time to Update: 7 Areas to Integrate Digital Discipleship into Your Children’s Ministry Strategy by Brittany Nelson
- Beat the Clock: Successful Strategies for Effective Time Management by Jim Wideman
- The Power of a Half Hour by Tommy Barnett
- Management Essentials for Christian Ministries by Michael Anthony (editor) & James Estep (editor)
- Children’s Ministry Volunteers That Stick by Jim Wideman
- Lean In: Leverage Your Influence for Ministry Impact by KidMin Nation
- Thanks for the Feedback: The Science & Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen
- Rock Stars: Inspiring a Team of Unstoppable Volunteers by KidMin Nation
Remember, you don't have to do this alone!
Ultimately, if admin is not your thing, find someone to add to your team who is admin-oriented so you can focus on other things! And be sure to utilize the digital world to help streamline the administrative aspects of your ministry. There’s a whole chapter in this book about using technology in kidmin administration, plus gain access to a long list of digital tools and apps kidmin leaders love.
Any questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org