I’ll admit it. I’m an organizational FREAK. I like order, I like systems, I like the process of seeing things get done. But I also love spontaneity and having a good time.
The good news is that when you have the first one down you are freed up for the second.
That’s why I love the 7 Habits so much. I have been a fan of this book since I was 12 years old and my school gifted every student with a Franklin-Covey planner. The 7 Habits were listed in the front and I committed them to memory pronto. And now, nearly 18 years later, I apply these same concepts to the world of kidmin. Let’s look at how these habits apply to our work with kids:
1. BE PROACTIVE
This habit is all about taking initiative, being proactive rather than reactive, doing the right thing, and taking responsibility instead of pushing it on to others. Here’s how that might look in kidmin:
-The supply closet is an overflowing disaster. I can either take care of it myself (either by doing it myself or recruiting a few people to help), I can leave it as is and hope someone else decides to do it, or go to whoever I report to and tell them they should take care of it. The old saying, “See the need, meet the need,” is clearly the best way to go.
– A questionable situation arose in class. I can either be proactive and approach the parents about what the situation was or I can be reactive and ignore it, hoping they don’t come to me, and deal with it only if they do approach me.
-A real situation here. One year at VBS I asked a volunteer to iron some sheets we were using in a set and she delegated the task to her 11 year-old daughter who didn’t know you couldn’t leave an iron face-down on the carpet. In the foyer. Right in front of the entrance doors. I could have make a big scene and blamed the girl or her mother but honestly, she didn’t know better and as the leader the best option was to take responsibility for what happened. I’ve heard it said that the best leaders take more than their fair share of the blame and less than their fair share of the credit. So true.
2. BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
This habit is focused on having a vision, planning ahead, setting goals, and doing meaningful things.
-First off, we know that the entire point of kidmin is to lead people to Jesus and teach them the plan of salvation.
-Ask yourself: what is the vision for your children’s ministry? Is it vague or are there specific, measurable goals?
-What are your short- and long-term goals for your children’s department?
-Do these goals add meaning to your ministry and fulfill the Great Commission or do they simply attract people who leave empty?
3. PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST
This habit is all about self-discipline. Do the important things first and leave the rest for last. Not only will the most important things get more attention but stress levels will decrease significantly making the ministry more enjoyable.
-The first and best thing we should give is our time to God. Prayer and Bible reading should be the foundation of all we do.
-Next, determine the priorities of your ministry. What are the main goals you want to accomplish this year? What are the big events? Prioritize your events and tasks into lists and work on the most important things before they come urgent. Covey has a quadrant grid in his book that lists takes under one of four categories: Important/Urgent, Important/Not Urgent, Not Important/Urgent, Not Important/Not Urgent. The goal is to get everything in the Important/Not Urgent square done first so that nothing rolls over into the Important/Urgent box (except for emergencies). If you’re on top of the Important/Not Urgent tasks you will be more successful than if you’re constantly wasting time in the other boxes or constantly racing around because everything was put off until the last minute and is now urgent.
4. THINK WIN-WIN
I love this habit. Essentially, this habit is all about wanting everyone to be successful and working well with others.
-I recently saw a comment made by singer Natalie Grant about her kids asking if she was disappointed that her husband won a Grammy but she didn’t. She responded, “No, because when one of us wins we all win.” This is the absolute best outlook on life. When good things happen to others in your church and ministry are you excited for them for jealous? When others have a down day do you encourage them or talk behind their backs about what they could’ve done better? Thinking win-win leads to happier, healthier teams.
-When conflict arises in your ministry is it a “my way or the highway” mentality or do you look for compromises? Remember that the gospel should never be compromised; programs and man-made rules should be if it means building relationship.
5. SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND AND THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD
This, I think, is the hardest habit to cultivate. It’s human nature to want to be heard and understood and that often comes at the expense of not hearing and understanding others.
-When it comes to kidmin, this habit applies to people in all walks: the children, teachers, parents, pastor, other church leaders, etc.
-I remember a situation years ago when I was going to use an object lesson in a pre-teen class that one teacher (and parent to one of those pre-teens) objected to. Truthfully, I was pretty stubborn back then and should have listened to her concerns more closely than I did. If I had done that I could have explained to her the purpose of the lesson and what the outcome would be. I didn’t do that, though. I simply left it at, “I have the authority to teach this and I’m going to do so.” In hindsight, I would have completely changed my response to her. This teacher ended up going to the pastor who did in fact support me and reassured her that I knew what I was doing and that my lessons always (ok, almost always!) ended with a learning moment for the kids. He told her that if she didn’t want her daughter to be present for the lesson then she could keep her child out for that class. Well, long story short the mom decided to leave her daughter in the class and the lesson went exactly as planned. The kids had an Aha! moment and half my class time was spent with the kids sitting all over the room praying with one another. Does that mean I was right? Not necessarily. Sure, my lesson was successful and I truly believe the kids had a major learning moment. BUT–I failed in leadership skills that week. The mom and I talked after the class and finally listened to one another that day–but oh how much could have been different if we had only done that at first!
I like to sum this one up with a Bible verse: “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17
This habit includes a list of things like this:
-Work together. We’re all good at something so when we all come together it’s like a package deal that gets the job done well.
-None of us are perfect or know everything so we can all learn something from someone else. Instead of seeing ourselves as the top dog we should see ourselves as people who have so much to learn.
-And, while not in the book, I think it’s important to remember what Jesus said about being leaders: He who wants to be a leader must first be a servant. You can never go wrong serving others.
7. SHARPEN THE SAW
This one is all about you. After all, doing all of the above would be difficult if you’re falling apart in your own personal life and/or never growing. So:
-Have an active devotional life. If you don’t have one right now don’t panic and don’t beat yourself up. God is not about condemnation but about growth. Simply start today. Even if you start with just a few minutes of prayer and Bible reading a day it’s better than nothing. You’ll find that as each day goes on you are capable of doing more and more and eventually you’ll have a thriving devotional time.
-Take care of yourself physically. Look, I’m queen of getting so busy I live off of fast food for days on end. This is so bad. Not only do you start to feel sluggish when you’re eating unhealthy and not getting exercise, but if it goes on long enough it can actually start messing with your body’s chemicals and you’ll start to feel depressed.
-Take some time for yourself. Make sure you get to go to “adult” service at times, to find hobbies or activities you enjoy, for family time, time with friends, and yes, even time with other adults. Is it just me or is it so much easier to relate to kids because they’re all you’re around all the time?!
And finally…an 8th Habit got included later in it’s own book and it is the one I love best. It says, “Find your voice and help others find theirs”.
What has God called you to do? Use your talents to serve God and then invest in other people and help them to find their calling in life. This is very much a Jesus-centered principle. It’s never been about how great we ourselves can become. It’s about what we can do to help others.
*Here’s that ever-so-necessary line that says I am in no way affiliated with Franklin, Covey, or the 7 Habits anything official. These 7 (and 8th) Habits all come from their books–I did not make them up myself (I would feel so smart if I did, though). I strongly recommend you check out their books!