Why it isn't all about natural creativity.

Kids’ ministry (kidmin for short) is an awesome place to serve. I’m a little biased, seeing as how that was my first role in full-time vocational ministry. But, here’s what I know. Most kidmin leaders have to wear many different hats. Pastor, leader, communicator, counselor, friend, comedian, host, storyteller, administrator, assistant, and countless others as well. If you like variety, kidmin is for you.

Children’s ministry is also an exciting place to serve because innovation is usually championed, compared to other areas within a church where innovation is sometimes fought at every turn in hopes of keeping things “the way they were.” Kids don’t complain about that. In fact, they don’t even remember. This allows a kidmin pastor more freedom to adjust, tweak, change, discard, restart or birth something new. The state of the family continues to change so fast it’s practically a requirement to innovate as a kidmin leader.

So, what does it take to innovate well? Is it about natural creativity?

Actually, I don’t think it is. I think there are some key qualities you’ll find in innovative kidmin pastors and all of them are choices, not natural gifts.

Innovative Kidmin Pastors…

Have a learning plan

You’ve heard it before, leaders are learners. I completely agree with that sentiment. Innovative kidmin pastors are lifelong learners. More than that, they have a plan for how to learn regularly. That learning can take different forms such as reading books (10 Books Every Kids’ Pastor Should Read), listening to kids’ and family ministry podcasts, attending conferences, reading blogs, seeking out mentors, or pursuing higher education. Regardless of the format, great leaders have a habit of learning regularly. Innovation is often sparked by a challenging thought or a new perspective we never thought of before.

Hunt for feedback

Without feedback, many of us wouldn’t change anything because we would assume it’s perfect as it is. Hopefully, we regularly evaluate our ministries with an eye for improvement ourselves, but there are too many things we miss if we’re not getting feedback from others. The vast majority of people will not give you feedback on their own. In fact, the ones that do often times do it selfishly, not with the best interest of the ministry in mind. Therefore, innovative kidmin pastors know they have to hunt for feedback. They ask the right questions, implement weekly evaluation processes, and carry out surveys to get as much input as they can. Knowing what’s not working sets the stage for innovation and raises the urgency.

Seek out mentors

Hunting for feedback is critical, though it will usually be about the ministry. Innovative kidmin and family ministry pastors seek out mentors who can push, challenge and guide them to become better personally. Sometimes we’re too close to the ground to see the bigger picture and great mentors have a way of drawing our eyes up to a higher perspective.

Are okay with failure

Bren√© Brown says “There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.” I completely agree. Most of us have a fear of failure at some level. Maybe because we’re perfectionists or maybe we’re afraid of what our boss will think if something fails. Innovative kidmin pastors understand that failure is almost a requirement if significant change or progress is desired.

Will prune effectively

Innovation rarely comes by continually adding on to what you do. Yes, adding something new is what innovation is all about. However, if all we do is add then we dilute the effectiveness of everything with each new addition. At some point, we must prune away some of what we do to make new growth sustainable. Innovative leaders realize that not only should we prune things that are not working, but we should also prune good things in order to make room for great things.

Develop younger leaders

In the book Focus, Al Ries says “The next generation product almost never comes from the previous generation.” One way kidmin pastors continually innovate is by having younger leaders around them who will think differently. The key, however, is not to simply have young leaders around to use them. Innovative kidmin pastors understand their responsibility is to develop and empower young leaders. By doing that, young leaders will be more committed to the mission and more confident in sharing their voice around the table.
Innovation isn’t a gift. It’s not a natural talent. It’s the mindset that improvement is always possible and the understanding that it comes down to choice. Will we choose to innovate and do the hard work that’s required or will we settle for status quo?

I hope you’ll innovate. An innovative kidmin pastor and an innovative children’s ministry have an impact far beyond just the one department. I believe it can push the entire church to make the changes necessary to have a greater impact.