The Power of Community
By Ryan Frank
Ryan Frank is the CEO and Publisher at KidzMatter.
When I was a young children’s pastor, networking with the children’s ministry community looked much different than it does today. Back then, you really had only a few options.
First, you could jump on an airplane and shell out a wad of dough for a conference. Second, you could get in your car and drive to a networking lunch—if you were lucky enough to have a network in your area and your car would make it. Third, you could pick up the phone and call someone.
These are three great ways to connect with others, but the digital world that we live in—the land of iPhones, tablets, Facebook and Instagram—has changed everything. It’s easier today than ever to reach around the world and network with others.
A WEB OF RELATIONSHIPS
Networking, as I like to think of it, is about developing a “web” of relationships that makes everyone better. It creates “community.” As a young children’s pastor in the cornfields of Indiana, I learned early on that there is power in community. I learned that by partnering with others, my life and ministry went further faster.
Since those early days, God has given my wife, Beth, and I the great opportunity to champion the children’s ministry community. We have been able to publish books—and the growing magazine you’re reading now!
We’ve spoken on stages all around the world, started a school of ministry (Kidmin Academy) and much more. We wake up every morning ready to do more because we know there is power in community!
Still, I meet children’s pastors all the time who neglect the web—and I don’t mean the World Wide Web. They don’t prioritize the idea of building relationships with others in children’s ministry.
CONNECTING POINTS FROM THE BIBLE
In the familiar passage from Hebrew 10:24-25 there is an application for connecting with the Christian community on a larger scale.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, andall the more as you seethe Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV).
What are some of the good things these verses say will happen when you network with the community of children’s ministry leaders?
CONNECTING POINT 1: NETWORKING HELPS ME LOVE OTHERS
“Stir up one another to love” (v. 24).
Some people are good at stirring things up—like trouble! In this Hebrews 10 passage, God says to stir each other up so we’ll love like we should!
I remember the first time I made pudding on the stove. I was in the second grade, and my dad told me to keep that pudding stirred over the heat or it would burn.
Some of you feel like you’ve been burned. It seems at times like those of us in ministry are the most unloved and unappreciated people in the world. That’s why connecting is so important. When someone you’ve connected with is having a bad day, you can speak, or even tweet (more on that to come), words of love and encouragement to that person. And someone will probably do the same for you.
CONNECTING POINT 2: NETWORKING IMPROVES MY WORK
“Stir up one another to … good works” (v. 24).
Get out the spoon again! Christians aren’t just to stir up one another to love but also to good works. When something is being stirred, it’s constantly moving. Do you feel like you’re running on a treadmill, working your tail off, but going nowhere? One of the best ways to keep the creative juices moving in your ministry is by networking with the community.
Here’s what I mean:
1. Networking keeps you current in the world of children’s ministry.
2. It accelerates professional development.
3. Networking gets conversations rolling.
4. It’s a way to pour into others.
CONNECTING POINT 3: NETWORKING BRINGS ENCOURAGEMENT
“Encouraging one another” (v. 25).
Children’s ministers have one thing in common (besides the fact that church janitors hate us!). We all are subject to discouragement. I read a bumper sticker once that said: “Don’t let discouragement kill you. Let the church help.” Unfortunately, the church can be a place of discouragement and fatigue.
Paul knew what it was like to be discouraged. That’s why he surrounded himself with good friends in ministry such as Silas and Timothy. Who is your Silas and Timothy?
When I get discouraged and need a lift, I’ve learned to pick up the phone and call the friends I know will take my calls. You need people you can call or text when you need a little lift.
CONNECTING POINT 4: NETWORKING PREPARES ME FOR THE BIG DAY
“All the more as you see the Day drawing near” (v. 25).
The writer of Hebrews says that there couldn’t be a better time to start connecting than as you see the return of Jesus coming closer and closer. The Message calls it, “the big Day”—I love that!We don’t know when the day of His return will be, but the important thing is to be found faithful when He returns. Connecting with like-minded believers will help you be ready.
One of the biggest dangers of being a children’s pastor is that you can grow disconnected spiritually. You are so busy working for God that you forget about your relationship with God. Especially in children’s ministry, you find yourself “back with the kids” and out of fellowship and worship with other adults. Don’t be a Lone Ranger! Be committed to engaging with others in your own spiritual development.
Don’t let Christ find you discouraged, alone and going nowhere. Learn the power that comes with community.
WHEN IT'S ALL SAID AND DONE
When it’s all said and done, networking with others in ministry may be one of the most important skills you can develop. The true power of community is not what you get out of it, but what you put into it. There is power in the community—especially when you begin serving others in the community. Your mind-set must shift from “What can I get?” to “What can I give?”
Here are a few great questions to answer before the close of each week: Who did I connect with this week to expand my network? Whom did I encourage? With whom did I share some creative ideas?
If you're not already a networker, then I challenge you to become one. Community will breathe new life into your ministry, enable you to learn from others, give you a chance to lift up others who may need encouragement, open doors to new friendships and a lot more. Best of all, it’s never been easier to connect!
HOW TO HAVE COMMUNITY ONLINE
Anyone in children’s ministry with access to the internet can join in on this community thing. Here are three ways to connect online.
If you’re not using Twitter to network, here are a few reasons for giving it a try:
Twitter allows you to meet new people. Unlike Facebook, you don’t have to be accepted as a friend to start communicating. A simple “follow” is enough.
Twitter is simple. In 140 characters or less you can keep up with others and let them know what you’re doing.
Twitter gives you instant feedback. Got a question about your curriculum? Ask. Need a new game for Wednesday night? Ask.
Twitter is a creative way to learn from each other. This is the reason I joined Twitter. I wanted to hear what others had to say.
Twitter makes you think about your life. Asking yourself, “What am I doing?” and “What can I share with others?” several times a day is a healthy exercise.
If you’re not a Twitter user, check it out for yourself. If you don’t like it, you can always do something crazy like actually talk to someone in person!
Here are some tips for getting the most out of Facebook when networking.
Ask questions. Need to know how many fish crackers the average 3-year-old can inhale in five minutes? Post a question and give people a chance to reply. (The answer? 42!)
Show an interest in others. Take a few minutes and let people know you care about what’s happening in their lives.
Write on the wall. I know—you get on the kids at church when they do this, but it’s OK to do it on Facebook! Your wall is where you talk to your friends and they talk to you.
Create Facebook groups. Create a group for your volunteers or the children’s ministry leaders in your community. Use it to encourage others and share resources and ideas.
And speaking of Facebook …
“I LOVE KIDMIN” FACEBOOK PAGE
Stop reading a minute, jump on a computer, and go to ILoveKidmin.com. It will take you to our “I Love Kidmin” Facebook group! This is the perfect place to get ideas and advice and to keep your finger on the pulse of trends in children’s ministry. Here’s a sampling of some recent discussions we’ve had:
How do you get older boys excited about worship?
I need a great stage game for tonight … help!
Has anyone tried a family VBS?
Does anyone have a volunteers’ training manual they can share?
Remember, networking is a two-way street. It’s only as effective as your willingness to participate.