As promised, here is the summary of my visit with Ryan Frank...Let's be Frank...
Let me be Frank with you....
Ryan Frank began his ministry at Liberty Baptist Church the same year I came to my present church, 1998. However, for Ryan, it was the church he grew up in. While marrying the pastor's beautiful daughter may have helped in the job interview, sine then he has shown himself to be both a creative and resourceful children's pastor. This was not my first time to his church. Ryan has been a long time contributor to Kidology.org and has been a trainer at Kidology events. Though I wasn't able to visit on a Sunday during this visit, I did get several opportunities to sit down and 'talk shop' with Ryan.
I asked him to share some of the lessons he has learned from being faithful to one ministry for seven years. I told him to feel free to be ‘Frank’ with me...DEVELOP A LEADERSHIP TEAM
Ryan said one of the critical things he has learned is the importance of Team Building. An effective children's ministry leader has got to surround himself with qualified and dedicated people. He emphasized the need to maintain open lines of communication. When asked how to do this he said the main way was with his regularly scheduled team meetings which happen at least every other month. At these meetings there is reporting, planning of up coming events, (the whole team involved in special events), prayer both for ministry and personal needs. Ryan said that no matter how busy you are, being accessible is important, especially to those on your leadership team.
His team consists of 10 people: Nursery Director, Sunday School Director, Preschool Director, Awana Commander (and Assistant Commander), Kids Church Assistant Directors (2), Bus Ministry Director, plus he and his wife, Beth.FEATURE THE POSITIVES
Ryan would encourage you to "feature the positives." Keep the Children's Ministry in front of the people." Use as much bulletin space as possible, fill the empty bulletin boards with children's ministry info, make lots of flyers and signs and put them everywhere.
No one sleepin' during this sermon! Ryan has a GIANT inflatable dino on the stage of the worship center all month to promote the upcoming Dino Day! Sign up table in the narthexSigns around the church. These poster holders are all over the church and available to all ministries, but Ryan tries to us them for children's ministry as much as possible.SO WHAT’S NEW?
Ryan has found that that is important to always do something ‘new.’ Granted, even something you haven’t done for a few years will have a ‘new’ feel to it, such as the Dino Days
they are doing this year, which they haven’t done for a few years. Always doing something NEW adds an element of excitement to the ministry and demonstrates vision - shows you aren't in a rut.
Ryan keeps up with the world of kids and often adapts for church.RELATIONSHIPS ARE KEY
Ryan, striking close to the heartbeat of Kidology, mentioned the key is to build relationships with kids. He strives to maintain a relational ministry. “Its about relationships,” Ryan says, and seeks to make it a reality by not only sending kids birthday cards, but calling them on their birthday. His secretary emails him a list of who to call each day; it is part of her job description. Sure, he will miss a few and have to call the next day, but it means a lot to the kids. A new thing they’ve been doing is an informal “show 'n tell” during Kid’s Church where kids are encouraged to bring special things or new toys to church to ‘show and tell,’ and of course any children’s pastor can create an object lesson on the spot occasionally even getting it to fit the day's lesson! This really shows the kids your interest in their world and what is important to them. Every Sunday is ‘show n tell’ of what we
, the teachers, are interested in, why not let them also ‘show n tell’ what they like.
Since 1998 every year Ryan frames the faces of his kids!
Another creative thing Ryan does is that he provides a “question of the week” online on the kids ministry website. Kids are encouraged to go online, print and bring with the answer for a prize. (For kids without Internet, or not allowed, they simply can ask for a paper version after church, but still have to remember to bring it back the following week answered to get the prize.)
I asked Ryan how about how he partners with parents in the spiritual formation of children. For starters, the topic of Kids Church is in the bulletin each week for parents with discussion questions so that over lunch the parents are equipped to interact with their children on what they learned that day. In addition to special family events such father/son/daughters or mother/daughter/son events, their Sunday evening service is designed for the whole family to provide a balance to the Sunday morning “everyone go to your own age class and service.” Sunday mornings can be focused age appropriate teaching, and Sunday nights have more of a feel of community and family interaction through worship and learning.
One awesome ministry of Liberty Baptist is that, they provide 100% free counseling for the community in a home adjacent to the church. The center is run by volunteer counselors and the church provides the facilities. Many families who are now a part of the church were first ministered to through the counseling center over family, marriage, or other personal struggles. It occurred to me that this was much like the model of Jesus, first heal their physical and immediate needs, and then they will be more open to the message of the Gospel.BACK TO THE BASICS
At the end of our time together I asked Ryan a final question, “Of everything you actually do each week, what would you say is the most important?” (I included ‘actually do’ because I’ve heard many times of lots of things we ‘ought’ to do, but in the end, it is what we actually do that matters.) His answer was so simple it surprised me, and yet he was right on target.“Actually do? I guess I’d have to say creatively and faithfully teaching God's Word.”
I’m not sure what answer I was hoping for - maybe some secret tidbit of ministry strategy, some covert task that would slowly and steadily transform my ministry - and yet, isn’t it true that in the end, our job as children’s pastors / teachers - is to simply teach the Word. There are a lot of other good and noble things we can engage in, and there is always another program or ministry ‘focus’ we can add, but at the core of our ministry we must never forget, what will matter most in the long run, in the lives and hearts of our kids, is how well we taught them the Word. So before the week is over, spend a little extra time on that lesson for Sunday!