10 Things I Wish I Knew Earlier in Ministry

With lifelong learning, you’ll acquire wisdom as you go. Take this well-earned advice from a veteran children’s ministry worker. Discover what he wishes he had known decades earlier.

A wise old man once told me, “Experience is the best teacher. But it doesn’t have to be your experiences you learn from.” Every successful person I know has learned from a lifetime of mistakes—theirs and others’. My mom told me, “Don’t make the same mistake twice. There’s enough different ones you can make every time.”

Having done children’s ministry from my 20s through my 60s, I’ve made many different mistakes. Would I do things differently if I could start over? Sure! We all would, because hindsight is always 20/20.

Forty years ago, I couldn’t have taught you leadership. I hadn’t learned it yet. Forty years ago, I had  few workers. I had a big vision but didn’t know how to make a plan and lead. I was a hard worker but not a smart worker.

The good news is God blessed me despite myself. The dreams in my heart weren’t coming to pass. Thankfully I sought help from others. I’m so glad I decided to embrace lifelong learning years ago. In fact, I’m still learning. To do so, I have to say “no” to the know-it-all spirit.

So with this in mind, let’s look at 10 things I wish Old Jim could teach Young Jim.

Lifelong Learning Tips for KidMin Workers

1. Don’t be a one-person show.

First, build a team. When you train, empower, and release others, then you can focus on what only you should be doing. No success exists without successors, which is a byproduct of team-building. As in sports, the key to continued success is building depth at every key position.

This happens not by delegation alone but by duplicating yourself and your vision. Duplication comes through coaching and hands-on training. Young Jim did it all himself. Old Jim allows the team to develop their skills through coaching and doing. A key principle of lifelong learning is that everyone does better with a coach.

2. Watch how you think.

Next, remember that your thinking controls your actions. It moves you forward or holds you back. I was a lot more opinionated when I was younger. It took me years to admit I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s always smart to evaluate your thinking and choose to think God’s way.

I love Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

If you’re not regularly evaluating how you think, bad stuff happens. Thinking like Jesus will always work to your favor. Think in steps. That’s how God leads the righteous. Think like a parent and those you’re serving. Think like a visitor. Take every thought captive to be obedient to Christ Jesus.

3. Learn from others!

Read! Join a local kidmin network. If one doesn’t exist in your area, start one. Find a mentor or coach. Study successful leaders and learn why they do what they do. Effective leadership is a process, so learn the why behind it. Look for a model you can tweak to fit your church and children’s ministry.

Is it wrong to borrow ideas? I sure hope not. Learn how to make the copy your own. Ask questions of anyone who will let you. Also, never be afraid to experiment with what you’re learning.


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