When directing a cm that had a director before you – what to do first

Your Question:

“I am directing a CM that has had a CM director before me. What do I do first?”

The Issues:

Directing a CM that has had a CM Director before you can either be positive thing or a challenge. Whether you step into a well-organized, healthy ministry, or you have to deal with disorganization and unrest, the first thing to do is to observe the ministry, interview current team members, and build connections. Unless children are at risk, don’t make significant changes right away.

Scripture Foundation:

“I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So, neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. He who plants and he who waters are one in purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building… By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one must be careful how he builds. For no one can lay a foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  1 Corinthians 3: 6-11

Short Answer:

Being hired to direct a CM that had a director before might be compared to shopping for a used car. A used car has had one or more previous owners. The car’s condition reflects the previous owner’s care. As you consider buying the car, you are interested in the car’s maintenance record, the mileage, and whether it has ever been in an accident. The car may look great on the outside, but you need to investigate what it has been through in the past. Stepping into a previously “owned” CM may present you with some “political” challenges.You may find programs, procedures, or people that need adjustment to suit your style of leadership or the vision that God has given you. You can be sure that the ministry has developed some “habits” that may need adjusting. On the other hand, you may “inherit” much that is good within the ministry.  

Your first “job” is to investigate what has been done in the past. This “investigation” phase is conducted by talking with those who have been involved in the CM in the past, or presently.  Tell them that you have been hired to lead the ministry, and you need to understand what has been done in the past. Try to create an “historical timeline” of the ministry from the very beginning until now.  Ask for their opinions of how things have been done, and for suggestions about what is needed.  If they are currently serving in the ministry, thank them for their faithfulness and assure them that you will do all you can, in God’s power, to support them.  If they aren’t currently serving, invite them to return to the CM team. Assure them that you will do all you can, in God’s power, to support them if they return to the team.

The next phase is the “observation” phase. In this phase, you observe what is currently being done during the service.  Find an inconspicuous place to stand or sit within view of the CM area.  Ask God to help you see, feel, and hear everything you need to understand the present condition of the ministry. As you observe, notice the “feeling tone” of the ministry as it is expressed in the faces of the parents, children, and team members.  Listen for comments that might reflect areas that need improvement.  Ask God to show you how to increase the security of the ministry.  If you have been introduced to the team by the senior pastor or an associate pastor, visit the CM rooms very briefly to observe what happens in the rooms.  Look for indicators of the team members’ “philosophy of ministry” or teaching styles.  Are the children in control, interested in the lesson, or out of control?  Does the teacher use interactive or creative teaching techniques? 

The next step in this process might be conducted during the same service that you are observing. This step is the “interaction” phase.  Interact with current CM team members, parents or grandparents, church staff, and even some children.  The goal of this interaction is to understand what people think about the CM in order to evaluate or build the structure that the ministry needs.  Ask questions like, “Tell me what you think about the children’s ministry,” or “How can I make the ministry even better?”  If you get to ask children some questions, simply ask, “What do you like the most about coming to church here?” or “What don’t you like about coming to church here?”  Ask God to help you build a clear picture of what goes on in the ministry, and how to improve it.

The next step may take some time to accomplish.  It is the “construction” phase.  This phase can take weeks! Don’t expect yourself to “construct” aspects of the ministry right away.  Ask God to help you know which aspect of the ministry is needed first.  This is usually the ministry policies. Your policies will give a strong foundation upon which to build almost everything else. During the “construction” phase you build structure in the ministry.  If there are policies and procedures already in place, consider improving them. Apply what you’ve learned to improving lines of communication/authority within the ministry.  Consider how to improve the current curriculum or begin searching for a new curriculum to use.  You should also evaluate the CM team recruiting, screening, and training process. The recruiting/screening process should reflect what you and the church believe about protecting the safety of the children. The screening process must include background checks and a detailed application. The training should include some basic principles of ministering to children, supporting parents or grandparents, using the curriculum, and teaching creatively.  The training should also include what to do in emergencies such as fire, extreme weather, active shooters, dangerous visitors, angry parents, etc. Ask to review the CM budget.  If there is a CM budget, …..In churches that are just beginning an official CM, the budget usually doesn’t exist.  Your job in “constructing” the ministry is to establish a CM budget that will reflect the CM vision and provide the church leadership with a financial “picture” of what God is doing through the ministry.  The budget will be small at the beginning, but it will grow over time. 

After you have designed some “construction” steps, build in one or two ways to evaluate the ministry’s progress.  This is the “evaluation” phase.  The purpose of this phase is to evaluate the effects of what you have been doing. You will evaluate the recruiting, screening and training of the CM team.  You will also evaluate the current curriculum, policies, and the budget.  The “evaluation” process should continue year-long and you should always be looking for ways to improve the ministry.  Depending on the current condition of the CM, you may be wise in not making any significant changes within the first 2 or 3 months of your ministry.  Be careful not to scare current volunteers off by making too many changes too soon.  For more help, click on the links below.

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