Sustainable Children’s Ministry Book: Giveaway and Review

I was surprised and excited to receive Sustainable Children’s Ministry: From Last-Minute Scrambling to Long-Term Solutions in the mail before it was released. I have spoken with Annette Safstrom a few times, but after reading her book, she has become one of my kidmin heroes. Annette is the queen of systems, plans, and procedures. Her book is full of practical ways to bring your kid’s ministry to a whole new level. Her solutions aren’t always quick and easy, but she gives you the tools you need to make them happen if you’re willing to put in the work. I’m excited to share my favorite chapters, quotes, and takeaways with you. This is not a short read that you can knock out in a day. I would recommend taking a solid month to digest every chapter individually and make notes on how you plan on implementing the ideas in your ministry. I love that Annette gives examples and samples of all the systems, forms, and checklists she mentions in the book to help you get started on creating them for your own ministry. By chapter 4, I was basically highlighting everything. Get ready to be challenged to step up your excellence in every area of your ministry.

Favorite Chapters (the ones I highlighted almost entirely):

  • Chapter 4: “Measuring Up: Knowing What It Takes”
  • Chapter 5: “Building Your Ministry with Simple Machines: The Essential Systems for a Sustainable Children’s Ministry”
  • Chapter 6: “From Pearls to a Necklace: Putting the Pieces Together”
  • Chapter 9: “Beyond Rotation: Building Your Dream Team”
  • Chapter 12: “More Than Planning: The Essential Systems of Chaos Management”

Annette is full of amazing quotes that she shares in the book. Some of them challenged me, while others had me laughing out loud because they were just so relatable. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book.

Favorite Quotes: 

  • “I’ve come to see ministry structures as a lot like housework: no one notices it unless it’s not done. Putting foundational systems in place will never be urgent, but without them, everything becomes urgent.”
  • “Like a hamster on a wheel of constant activity, what was once energizing and productive crosses the line into a spinning ministry lifestyle that begins to eat away at your soul.”
  • “While we are doing the work of the ministry, tending to the urgent and important, it becomes increasingly difficult to focus on building the systems that make delegating tasks successful.”
  • “There is no singular good idea that will transform a struggling children’s ministry into a sustainable, effective one.”
  • “One surefire way to suck the energy out of a children’s ministry is to invest at one level and expect results that are twice (or ten times) as much as the investment would merit.”
  • “Quietly and faithfully shouldering the load alone likely will not move the ministry forward.”
  • “Don’t fall into the trap of trying to put up wallpaper before pouring a strong foundation.”
  • “Stop apologizing for recruiting and training.”
  • “Every children’s ministry has some real pearls. But most are lacking the string that keeps every component of the ministry in working order.”
  • “A mission statement and goals put a ‘recipe picture’ right in front of you to help you keep the end in mind as you work the process of cooking up your ministry.”
  • “What would happen if we structured our ministry in a way that our primary job is not doing the work of ministry but equipping others to do it?”
  • “Usually, the things that give you joy are also the things you are naturally gifted at.”
  • “When it comes to accomplishing the work of the ministry, the simplest tool we have is relationships.”
  • “You can make your church a place–sometimes the only place–where parents count on hearing something good about their kids.”
  • “Remember: if we want results that normal people don’t get, we’ll need to do things that normal people don’t do.”
  • “When we give up the things we need to do this work–like sleep or sabbath or a life outside of ministry–for the sake of the work, it never works out.”
  • “There’s a lesson in every flop.”
  • “We’re trying to keep all the balls in the air at the same time, trying not to drop any of the, though more balls keep getting thrown at us all the time.”

It was definitely hard to narrow down my takeaways to just a few in this book. I managed to get it down to four very big takeaways.


  1. Foundational systems need to be in place. (Chapters 4-5)I definitely lean towards spending more time on curriculum, services, events, and set designs in my ministry. Those are the things I consider the “fun” parts of ministry. This year, I am beginning to focus on putting more foundational systems in place (that I probably should have worked on a couple years ago). Annette gives you ideas for all the major systems you should have in place in your ministry and how to implement them. All of the other things we do in our ministries are probably suffering if they are being built on a shaky foundation. 
  2. Personal touches matter. (Chapters 5-6)This concept applies to every area of our ministries. If we want more volunteers, we have to start making the “ask” personal. If we want parents and kids to return to our ministries, we have to make a personal connection with them. People don’t respond well to mass communication. It doesn’t mean that we stop communicating that way, but it means we don’t stop there. I have recently started making a personal call to the guest families who come to our church the following week. I simply let them know we are glad they visited and offer to answer any questions they might have about our kid’s ministry. This is an easy and personal way for our ministry to make a connection with those families.
  3. Have a Volunteer Recruiting Process in place. (Chapter 9)I have found that just hoping I will run into someone on a Sunday morning and they will magically volunteer to serve in kid’s ministry almost never happens. I need to start creating a process for who, when, and how I’m going to recruit more volunteers for my ministry. Chapter 9 is all about creating a volunteer recruiting process. Annette outlines seven steps to successfully recruit volunteers on a regular basis.
  4. Make room for balcony time. (Chapter 12)Annette suggests taking a set amount of time a week for what she calls “balcony time”. “You take a step back from this week’s or this month’s tasks and look at the bigger picture of the ministry from a higher level. This is time for you to invest in the future of the ministry by strategizing, refining processes, and planning for the next few months or the next year. This is a time when you don’t answer your phone or email, or work on this week’s lessons or volunteers list.” It’s important to make time for balcony time and protect it each week. If not, we get so caught up in the weekly “urgent” items that we never take time to plan for the future or our ministries.

If you are a children’s ministry leader, you need to pick up this book and read it this year. You can grab your own copy on Amazon today for only $12.95.

I’m giving away a copy for free to one amazing kidmin leader. All you have to do to enter is comment on this post with one of your ministry goals for 2018. The winner will be announced Monday, February 5th. Make sure you are subscribed to to stay updated on all things kid’s ministry!

And the winner is… Brooke, “My goal is to be more intentional about one on one discipleship with students AND volunteer”. Please send your mailing address to to receive your free book. Thanks to everyone who participated in this contest. Even if you didn’t win I would encourage you to pick up this awesome book today. 



  1. David Jacola February 4, 2018 at 8:13 pm - Reply

    I want to thoroughly equip our KidMin volunteers to develop relationship that reveal Christ and use age-appropriate activities to guide in understanding the Bible.

  2. Jen February 4, 2018 at 7:11 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much for hosting this giveaway! My goal for this year would be to use every minute I’m given with kids to the glory of God. I want to be pointing them to Christ in all I do.

  3. Frank February 4, 2018 at 7:22 am - Reply

    My goal would be to recruit people to be part of the children’s ministry leadership team. The long term goal is to build up a lay leadership team and equipping them to handle the ministry without mw.

  4. Sharayah February 4, 2018 at 12:29 am - Reply

    What an amazing resource, thanks for the opportunity to win! One of my goals for 2018 is to be more intentional with equipping more leaders and not feel like I’m always drowning.

  5. Cayce February 3, 2018 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    My goal this year is to be intentional and not just survive. We have been in our building for a year and have exploded with growth. It has been amazing to watch God work, but has me running to keep up!

  6. Lorie February 3, 2018 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    Sounds like a great book! My goals for this year is to support our weekly volunteers throughout the month and be very intentional about moving toward building up parents to raise their kids in their faith.

  7. Brooke February 3, 2018 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    My goal is to be more intentional about one on one discipleship with students AND volunteers.

    • Corinne Noble February 15, 2018 at 8:43 pm - Reply

      Hi Brooke! I just wanted to let you know that you are the winner of the contest. Please message me with your address so I can send you your free book.

  8. Kathleen Jarboe Cantwell February 3, 2018 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    I plan to visit with every family our ministry serves throughout the year in order to build stronger connections.

  9. Annie February 3, 2018 at 6:46 am - Reply

    Goals this year –
    Learn as much as i can to help empower the teachers who will see the impact they have on the children. And to get parents more involved as well.

  10. AndrewMaddox February 3, 2018 at 4:23 am - Reply

    Would like to see a new check in/ check out system and station!!!

  11. Liz February 3, 2018 at 4:03 am - Reply

    Working on keeping a better calendar so I work ahead and not last minute when I turn the page to a fresh month!

  12. Julia February 3, 2018 at 2:48 am - Reply

    I can’t wait to get my hands on this book, I’ve been anticipating it’s release for months. One of my
    goals in Kidmin this year is to create a more sustainable, reliable volunteer base that is being empowered to lead and serve. Seeing your notes on this book made me want to get my hands in it for that section alone!

  13. Jill February 3, 2018 at 1:40 am - Reply

    I’m changing to more intergenerational systems!! Sounds like I need a copy!!?

  14. Tammie Jones February 3, 2018 at 12:25 am - Reply

    One of my goals this year is to control my calendar instead if it controlling me. If I’m on top of my calendar, I have more time for interaction, I’m less stressed and I also get time to refresh! So far, so good! This book sounds right up my alley!

  15. Rosie February 2, 2018 at 11:48 pm - Reply

    Wow this is exactly the book I need! I want to be in it for the long haul, but I know I can’t sustain it with the way I’m currently doing things. Being in my mid twenties and what I’d consider feeling early on in the world of kid min, I want to set things I place now so that I can not just sustain it but thrive long term!

  16. Karissa February 2, 2018 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    Goals for this year are to develop stronger, more consistent volunteers, and to work on connecting more with parents.

  17. Christy Mayfield February 2, 2018 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    One of my goals is to eat lunch with one of my students once a week.

  18. John February 2, 2018 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    Communicate better with families and to connect more with the volunteers

  19. Natalie February 2, 2018 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    One of my goals is to make better use of social media to communicate the happenings in the ministry.

  20. Ronnie February 2, 2018 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    In 2018, I want to find and develop a few people to become the core leaders of our main activities/groups

  21. Lois Hart February 2, 2018 at 7:31 pm - Reply

    This sounds good. I need more information about recruiting and balcony time. I have been a childrens minister since 1998 but what worked before doesn’t seem to work with the kids I have now. Lotss of behavioral problems.. I new to get a fresh approach

  22. Sally Martin February 2, 2018 at 7:25 pm - Reply

    One of my goals is to finish my policy & procedures manual for my church as well as our sister churches abroad

  23. Michele February 2, 2018 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    So many goals…so little time : ) but I guess my main goal would be to get more people involved, which means more organization and ahead-of-time planning on my part!!

  24. Stetson McElhaney February 2, 2018 at 7:11 pm - Reply

    One my my ministry goals is to have teachers sending weekly encouragement cards to students!!

  25. Karen Penalva February 2, 2018 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    Hey there. Thanks for this opportunity!
    I would love to increase the number of volunteers that have a love for Jesus and for sharing that with our children! I would also love to find another name for my volunteers! Volunteer sounds like they are "filling in" Servants is sometimes so negative. Participants sounds temporary and childish. I’m open to any and all suggestions!
    Blessings! Not sure where you are, stay warm this weekend. Here in Central VA is a very windy and they are calling for freezing rain/snow Sunday morning.
    Karen Penalva,
    HUMC, Lynchburg, VA

  26. Sherli Morgan February 2, 2018 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    One of my goals for 2018 is to be intentional in pouring into volunteers and letting them know how much they are appreciated.

    Sherli Morgan

  27. Nate February 2, 2018 at 7:04 pm - Reply

    Well I would say that building a solid foundation is mine. That stems mainly because I start my new position at a new church this Sunday (2/4). Taking all I have learned but using a completely different approach is required. I can’t do what I have done at my previous church and expect anything positive to happen here. I must think completely differently and I am excited for the challenge.

  28. Shauna February 2, 2018 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    My goal for 2018 is to make children’s ministry my career. So I’ve decided to appply for 2 jobs per month 🙂

  29. Angel February 2, 2018 at 6:59 pm - Reply

    This book looks exactly what I need right now!
    My main goal right now is to get a handbook and policies established for our department. I haven’t seen one since I came in 2008! Yikes!
    I also want to have a team training this year (besides our own in-house stuff).
    If I don’t win the book I’m definitely ordering it.

  30. Chris February 2, 2018 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    Love the sound of this book! One of my goals for this year is to reach out more into our community

  31. Lana February 2, 2018 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    I NEED this book! Just added it to my Amazon cart. Thanks for the heads up Corinne! 🙂

  32. Amber Blake February 2, 2018 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    One of my goals is to start sending out notes/cards to my volunteers, showing my appreciation!

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