Children are the future
If change is inevitable, then knowing how to lead through change is essential, and driving real change in children’s ministry must start first with the transformation of leadership; everything else will follow, according to Ricardo Miller, host of “Ask the Children’s Ministry Guy Talk Radio Show” — a weekly broadcast that highlights the value of reaching the next generation on Fishbowl Radio Network.
“We are at a critical junction in The Bahamas when it comes to ministry to young people,” said Miller who is gearing up to host National Children’s Ministry Day activities, October 10-14 under the theme Leading for a Lasting Legacy. “The vast majority of churches across The Bahamas are experiencing a massive decline in the number of children coming through their doors. Something is wrong with that.”
While the number of children continues to decrease, he said it is painfully evident that church attendance is on the decline.
Miller, who resides in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, returns home frequently to speak on the topic of reaching children, is a sought after game-changing, idea generating fireball who blends humor, substance, style and a unique personality in getting people on the edge of their seat during his messages.
He said 12 urgent changes must be implemented in order to raise the standard in children’s ministry in The Bahamas — the way departments are led; the way volunteers are recruited; the way volunteers are retained; the way events are marketed; the way children are related to; the way social media is used; the way to conduct training; the way volunteers are released; the way workers are celebrated; the way the Bible is taught; the way ministry is viewed; and the way the future is observed.
“The days of the one-man show are over, when it comes to the way we lead our departments,” said Miller. “Micromanaging will suffocate a children’s ministry department”
The children’s ministry pastor said a ministry grows and prospers when people are invested in.
“Most often, it’s not about what you can do, rather what you can empower others to do. They key is being an equipper more than a doer.”
Recruiting volunteers to do the job he said requires more than standing at the podium and net fishing. He said that is no longer the most effective way to recruit volunteers.
“Net fishing is making a general congregational announcement that volunteers are needed. You have to be willing to spend time, and build quality relationships with people. You have to be willing to put people in their sweet spot and not just fill a space. You must be willing to ask for help directly. When God gives you a vision, he assigns people to help you fulfill it. Believing that people have to serve in ministry is the wrong philosophy to have as a leader. Individuals volunteering in ministry want relationship. They want to be valued, and they don’t want to feel as though they are being used. Be willing to ask for help when needed.”
Retaining volunteers he said is just as important. And he said their routine must be “spiced up” often.
“Routine gets boring — and boring means you lose volunteers. Spice it up a bit and increase variety in what your volunteers do. Volunteers need to see themselves tied to the greater good, rather than just the task they perform,” said the children’s minister pastor. “Encourage more connections to increase the likelihood that volunteers will stick around. When they feel like there’s a friendship they are less likely to walk away. Build relationships that last. Honor and celebrate those who have served faithfully and your reputation as a great leader will attract others to want to serve with you. We need to identify the right people, place them into the right roles and keep them there as long as they remain passionate about serving there.”
The way events are marketed he said are also important. He also stated that establishing a history of excellence when staging these events remains the best way to market, especially as people are more engaged in social media and other easy-access tools. He added that posting updates using a personal Facebook/Twitter or Instagram account to promote the event and doing a live video while being informative about the details is beneficial. Finally, he encourages the creation of business cards designed for people to hand out as invitations.
Miller encouraged adults to take a look at the way they relate to children. He said that the present time is most important to many children, especially those 10 years and younger.
“Do not lose sight of that as you spend time with them and teach them. Watch them, talk to them, know what they know, and most importantly, be real.
“The unfortunate truth is social media has given us the ability to paint a picture that often does not line up with reality. This generation is looking and longing for authenticity on-screen and off-screen. We relate to them by being as authentic as possible. The days of talking the talk, but not walking the walk are over. The fastest way to bring them in is by being as transparent as possible and ensuring the life we live lines up with the confession we profess.”
And while he encourages churches to make use of social media, he describes it as “the elephant in the room” as he said it is much more powerful than church leaders often give it credit for.
“The truth is so many children are finding their truth through social media. What better way to allow social media to be used [to] highlight the truth of the gospel and allow it to start with children’s ministry. We can leverage social media to establish relationships, get to know others, encourage them, inspire them, and give them real-time information. However, we must keep in mind that every post must be conversational, informational, promotional, and inspirational to engage and invest in people.”
He said this would affect children’s ministry’s growth because people will see their space as a place of empowerment and purpose.
In conducting training Miller encouraged the enlistment of the best, and their continual training.
“Let’s be honest — unless a person is called to next generation ministry, it’s likely not the first area of ministry folks sign up for — which means training the wonderful individuals who do volunteer in children’s ministry is absolutely paramount. Willingness to serve does not automatically equal ability to serve, so ongoing training and equipping is critical.”
Miller said once-a-year training is not enough and that a monthly or quarterly refresher helps the team to be up to date and current on trends, vital information and opportunities for improvement. He also stated that training moments don’t have to take place in a building. There are programs such as Zoom and Skype, in addition to conference calls which are resourceful tools that enable a team to carry on with their daily lives without disturbing their schedule. He said leaders should keep in mind different tools that allow them to pour into their team while also being mindful of their commitments.
The children’s ministry pastor reminds leaders that no one is forever, and to be willing to release volunteers.
“My pastor often says people come into our lives for a reason, a season or for a lifetime. Those who are for a reason, appreciate them. Those who are for a season — celebrate and honor the season; and when you are blessed to have an individual serve in the children’s ministry for a lifetime, be grateful, rejoice and engage them wisely. It is very important to know who’s who and for what purpose and plan a person is serving. Then when a person’s time is up, and they are no longer serving in your department, that does not mean they can no longer serve in the kingdom. Don’t shun them. Rather release them with grace and the blessing. Their season may have been temporary — whether it is mutual departure or not.”
Miller said people will often forget the things you say to them, but they will never forget the way you make them feel. He added that when someone leaves their department they should have felt that they experienced the love of God.
The youth pastor says workers should also be celebrated for a job well done, and that leaders should find a nice way to thank their workers and show them how they make a difference through what they do.
The way the Bible is taught should also be looked at. He said it should be made to come to life today and that Bible stories should be relatable and inspirational for children to take home and use in their daily lives.
“The Bible is the living, breathing, inspired Word of God. Make it practical. Make it make sense,” he said.
To be called by God to serve in ministry should be viewed as an honor, according to Miller.
“This is the perspective and position we must take in viewing how we serve in ministry. If you find yourself losing the joy of your call, it’s time to take a step back. Listen and tune in to God to see what is amiss. If our view as servants in God’s kingdom is not vibrant and filled with joy, how can we expect to transfer it to others and recruit them to serve as well?”
Miller said the future depends heavily on today’s investment in children.
“In the words of the late, great Whitney Houston’s song ‘The Greatest Love of All’ — I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside.
“When we see children from this perspective, it should inspire us to invest in them. The future depends heavily on today’s investment in our children,” he said.