Almost every ministry has a mission statement in a frame on their wall or in the first paragraph of their handbook. But mission statements aren’t meant to be framed; they’re supposed to be followed.
In order to be effective as a ministry leader, you need to be able to identify and articulate a clear and compelling “why” for your ministry in your context. These statements don’t have to be long, but they do need to be specific, actionable, and relevant to your everyday decisions. If you have one, it may be time to review your “why” statement to make sure it still accurately outlines the primary purpose of your ministry.
If you do not have one, today would be a great day to begin drafting one. Here are five big benefits to help inspire you to clarify your why.
Benefit 1: Your “why” gives you a target and a filter. Understanding your “why” helps you answer the otherwise difficult question, “Should we ______?”. As a leader, you will need to fill in this blank a hundred times. Should we continue to have a kids choir? Should we host a fall festival for the community? Should we have our kids write notes to shut-ins? Should we take a group of kids to summer camp?
Every decision you make along the way will either align with your why in a way that reinforces the core mission of your ministry or divert your attention to something else. In each instance, continually looking back to your stated purpose will help you evaluate each decision with greater clarity. Then, you can make confident decisions without stress, and you can let your yes be yes and your no be no.
Benefit 2: Your “why” helps you determine your destination. The first thing your GPS asks you to do is enter your desired destination. Knowing where you are going is essential information in order to set a successful and efficient course. Your purpose is your compass. Many kids ministry leaders are actively driving and moving and steering and accelerating their ministries without really knowing where they are going. Articulating your ‘why’ is the equivalent of entering an address into your GPS. We begin with the end in mind.
Once you know what you want your kids to know, and how you want them to grow before they go, you can move forward with greater confidence that you are taking effective steps to get them there.
Benefit 3: Your “why” helps you stay focused on big problems. As we seek to connect our kids to God through growing individual relationships with Jesus, we face some pretty big opposition. Our kids are immersed in an ungodly culture within a worldly-minded kingdom that competes for the affections of their hearts.
We have a culture problem. Romans 12:2 warns us to not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but we know that the world pressures and influences our kids to conform everyday.
We have a kingdom problem. Matthew 6:25-26 contrasts the responses of those living with a worldly kingdom mindset and those who live for the kingdom of God. Those who don’t know God or the way He works are filled with worry and doubt and anxiety. Our kids’ values are being shaped daily by a worldly kingdom that denies God as ruler and king. We need to show them how to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness so they can walk in boldness and confidence.
We have a heart problem. True and lasting spiritual transformation does not come from correcting kids’ behavior. If we merely teach them how to act in ways that look good—act nice, act humble, act godly, or act like a good Christian—we are really just teaching them to be actors. In Isaiah 29:13 The Lord says, “…people approach me with their speeches to honor me with their lip-service, yet their HEARTS are far from me.” Coaching kids to change their outward behavior does not transform. True change that honors God has to start in the heart.
Benefit 4: Your “why” helps everyone know their role. Discipling children to spiritual maturity requires an intentional partnership between ministry leaders, volunteers, parents, and kids. Deuteronomy 6 reminds us that God intends for parents to be the primary disciplers of their own children. Many parents are not well equipped to do this themselves. We live in what might be referred to as an outsourcing culture. If I want my son to learn math, I hire a tutor. If I want him to learn piano, I hire a teacher. If I want to help him advance in soccer, I hire a trainer. Likewise, many parents who want their kids to grow in faith look to outsource spiritual development to the church.
While training, teaching, and tutoring kids in matters of faith directly will always be an important part of what we do, we must also be ever mindful to partner with parents to coach, equip, and resource them to disciple their own kids at home. Just as pastors are called to equip the saints for ministry (not just do it themselves), we are called to equip parents to lead their families spiritually.
Benefit 5: Your “why” helps you define success. According to research reported in the book Nothing Less by Jana Magruder, written to report the results of surveys conducted by the Lifeway Research team, Christian adults want many good things for their kids, but many of the good things families pursue are not effective in cultivating spiritual maturity in kids as they grow into adults. Of those surveyed 25% want their kids to be happy, 22% want their kids to be successful, 19% want their kids to be ‘good people,’ 17% want them to be well educated. Less than 10% of those surveyed say they want their kids to be godly. Too many of us are content to lead our ministries in a way that fosters happy, successful, educated, ‘good kids,’ without prioritizing their godliness.
Rather than teaching our kids to pursue being happy in a world within which we are meant to be set apart, may we instead teach them that they are God’s workmanship, made in His image, created on purpose, designed for purpose, known by God, highly valued, deeply loved and completely forgiven through the person and work of Jesus. Let’s define success by a different standard than the world. Let’s craft our ministries to train up kids who know they are made to be set apart.
Take time to reevaluate your mission, vision and values statement in light of these five factors. It may be time to make some edits or adjustments to clarify the “why” for your ministry.
Chuck Peters is Director of Operations for Lifeway Kids. Before his role at Lifeway, Chuck had an extensive career in television and video production. He is a 3-time Emmy Award Winning producer, director, writer and host. A graduate of Columbia Bible College, Chuck, and his wife, Cris, have served vocationally & voluntarily in Student and Children’s Ministry for many years. They have four amazing children: Tally (21), Tristen (20), Tyson (14) and Tate (11).