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.
- “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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 kidmincorinne.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.