Your Question:

“How can I best serve in a disorganized ministry setting?”

The Issues:

Disorganization may be a sign that the church or organization is growing. It may exist because “what used to work doesn’t anymore.”  A disorganized church may also reflect a leader or senior pastor who is a visionary, but who lacks the administrative skill to organize a large effort. Attempting to “fix” a disorganized church may not be possible for you as the CM director. Bringing organization into the CM is possible. Working at organizing a disorganized ministry will result in some people being frustrated, and others welcoming the changes.

Scripture Foundation:

“God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.”  1 Corinthians 14:33

Short Answer:

God’s character is organization! Just look at His creation for evidence. The stars, the planets, the changing seasons, and everything in our bodies reflects organization and order. If this is His character, then our ministry should reflect that as well.  Every person may define “disorganized” differently. If you feel that the ministry setting in which you are now serving is “disorganized,” it is important to take some time to identify why you perceive it to be that way.  Is it “disorganized” because of the lack of organization regarding communication or authority structure?  Is it “disorganized” because of a lack of focus on the purpose or unity of the programs or ministry efforts?  Do you feel the finances, curriculum, supplies, or facility is disorganized? Do you sense disorganization within the CM team (recruiting, training, rotation, support, etc.)?


As you sort through your own perceptions, you might consider how to “fix” those challenges to gain some organization.  Obviously, you may discover that the “disorganization” is caused by factors or people who are “above” your administrative level.  If this is true, all you can do is learn how to deal with the disorganization, while making the children’s ministry (CM) as organized as possible. 


If the “disorganization” is directly related to the CM, and the cause of the disorganization is under your supervision, then there are definitely steps you can take to improve the organization.  Here are some ideas to try if the lack of organization is within the CM. 


1) Disorganization In Communication – Organized and planned communication is a critical part of a “healthy” CM. There can never be “too much” communication to the CM team, the parents, the children, or to the church or organization leaders.  There are 12 general areas of communication that might be applicable:

a) “What’s happening?”

b) “Why is it happening?”

c) “For whom is it happening?”

d) “When is it happening?”

e) “Where is it happening?”

f) “Who is leading?”

g) “What is required?”

h) “How to prepare?”

i) How to ask questions or report problems?”

j) What good things happened?”

k) What needs to be improved?”

l) What is the next thing that is happening?”


If you consider who needs to know the answers to this information, and make sure they have the answers to these questions, you will probably clear out any hint of “disorganization.” For some of these areas, it might be good to repeat the communication, or to verify that the information was received, more than once.  If you “trust” that everyone has received the information, without verifying it, you may have a “black hole” in the communication process that leads to disorganization or frustration.  


2) Disorganization In The Authority Structure – Being confused about who’s in charge, or with whom you communicate can cause a sense of disorganization. Clarifying the administrative “flow chart” may be a challenging task, but it is very worth the effort. If there is an unclear leadership structure, it may take several “evolutionary” steps to get the “flow” right or efficient. If there isn’t an administrative flow chart already in existence, you may need to create one.  If there is no administrative flow chart for the leaders above you, you are probably not in a position to create one, but you can certainly create one for those who serve under you.  When you either create an administrative flow chart from “scratch,” or evaluate an existing one you must consider the difference between “micro-managing” and “supervising.”  Each level of the administrative flow chart should identify who is ultimately responsible for the various tasks, and who is being trusted with some level of decision-making within bounds.  This can be illustrated, for example, by the leadership position of an “Elementary Coordinator” and those who serve under him/her.  The “Elementary Coordinator” is ultimately responsible for everything that happens within the elementary age area. This doesn’t mean that the “Elementary Coordinator” decides everything and makes everything happen!  That is not a logical or “healthy” structure.  In an administrative flow chart, the “Elementary Coordinator” possibly has a curriculum “specialist,” an events/program “specialist,” and possibly others who coordinate supplies, communications, team rotation, training, etc. Each one of those sub positions must be trusted with a certain amount of decision-making responsibilities within clear boundaries.  An administrative flow chart depicts how responsibilities, communications, decisions, and problem-solving solutions “flow.” There must be freedom and respect.  This is why the flow chart “evolves” as problems arise, and adjustments need to be made.


3) Disorganization In The Ministry Focus or Program Coordination – CM programs should all focus their purpose toward the CM vision. If there are great programs, but they all seem to exist as separate “entities” apart from other programs, then this may feel “disorganized.” The CM team, the parents, and the church or organization leadership benefit greatly by understanding the “big picture” of how each CM program or effort fit together with other CM programs to satisfy the CM vision.  If your programs or efforts are “disorganized,” you need to adjust their focus, or eliminate them.  Regular (yearly?) program evaluation should be conducted to ask questions about the effectiveness of the program, its “fit” into the CM vision, and its connection with other CM programs.  If the program is viewed as a “lone wolf,” then the team and parents who are connected to the program are being robbed of benefitting from a big picture related to the CM vision. Coordinating the CM programs with each other and in light of the CM vision may also require that a program be offered at a different time, or not at all.  If there are multiple programs offered for the same age children at the same time or month, they might compete with each other in the parents’ minds.  Coordination of programs includes considering what else is happening, what season it is, and what the school expectations are.


4) Disorganization In The Financial Process – A ministry that is financially disorganized is potentially costly to the church or organization. If expenditures are made without any plan or organization then it might be that there is some financial waste occurring. If there is a CM budget, then the expenditures should be monitored or “organized” by the financial categories and their approved budget figures. If there isn’t a CM budget, then spending can be very disorganized and too prone to the interests of just a few people on the CM team. A financially “organized” CM is one that operates within an approved budget. Expenditures are made by a select few people who propose purchases and then are approved to make those purchases. Receipts are submitted and a running total of the amount spent for each sub category of the budget is monitored and controlled. An excellent way to organize a CM financially is to create a process for making expenditures.  This process includes a clear identification of who makes the purchases, and how proposals for expenditures are submitted.  The process also includes clear requirements for submitting receipts and tracking total expenditures throughout the year.  


5) Disorganization In The Curriculum – A disorganized curriculum may mean that there isn’t one “core” curriculum used throughout the ministry, or that there isn’t a clear process for using the curriculum in each grade or area. This process includes how the curriculum is chosen, purchased, downloaded, printed, distributed, taught, and evaluated. If a curriculum is provided to those who are defined as “teachers,” then training those team members in basic teaching techniques is also a requirement.  


6) Disorganization In The Supplies – Good people need the tools to do what they do best. It is true that God doesn’t need any of our craft supplies to lead people to Himself, or to disciple them, but having the right supplies definitely makes the CM team happier and more efficient. Providing the supplies needed to carry out the CM vision and effectively use the curriculum is also a team development enhancer. If the CM team members have to purchase their own supplies, they will either not do it or get tired of doing it and quit. Good people flourish when given the tools they need to do what they do well! Simply budgeting for and purchasing the supplies is only part of the process of organizing the supplies.  Getting the supplies to the CM team members who need them is also an important challenge.  The best way to organize and distribute supplies is through the establishment of a supply room that is supervised by a “Supply Coordinator.” The Supply Coordinator is responsible for purchasing the supplies, within budgetary boundaries, distributing them to the CM team, and organizing the storage of the supplies in a specific area. Having a supply room with a clear process for accessing and storing the supplies will prevent the individual rooms having to store supplies on their own.  A supply room system lets CM team members request the supplies they need, pick them up from the supply room, and return them after they are finished using them.  Organizing the supply system might include having a set amount of certain supplies in each room, and providing a clear process for getting specific supplies needed for creative lessons each week.  


7) Disorganization In The Facility – Whether you have a small facility or a mega facility, organizing its use is basically the same process. Someone needs to see the “big picture” of how each room or area is used, what age group of children is using it, and how to prepare and “reset” the areas after use.  Visible “clutter” is never good for the CM team morale or for the perceptions of the parents. If the rooms or ministry areas don’t have cabinets with cabinet doors, this is a great first step toward organizing a facility. If the various areas of the CM facility are not clearly identified with signs, then parents may not know where to find their children. If some areas of the CM facility are sparsely populated, while other areas are packed to capacity, then adjustments need to be made in how the children are distributed or what age groups use each area. Cleanliness is a significant factor in organizing a facility. Training the CM team to keep their areas clean, neat, and resetting their areas after service are all excellent ways to keep the facility organized. Organizing “lost and found” items and regularly cleaning out the “clutter” that may happen periodically is vital. Training the CM team to care for their own area will help you maintain an organized CM facility.


8) Disorganization In The CM Team – Just as supplies, curriculum, and facility use require a certain “flow,” so does the CM team. Organizing the CM team may mean improving the specific recruitment, communication, training, placement, and rotation. Small or struggling ministries may simply “throw” people into areas to “fill the holes”; but this is never a good practice.  Each CM team member has certain talents, fears, needs, and interests. An organized CM team means that each CM team member is trained, placed, and supported according to his/her own personality and interests. An organized CM team requires excellent communication and accessible supervisors.  If a CM team has only one leader, then that leader may or may not be able to understand and support each member of the team adequately. As a CM team grows, so does the leadership needs. An organized CM team must have leadership “levels.” A CM director needs “coordinators” under him/her who assist in recruiting, training, supervising, communicating, and supporting the team who serve in that specific area. New CM team members should be offered opportunities to observe the ministry before choosing what area best suits them.  New CM team members should be apprenticed under “veteran” team members for a specific period of time.  CM team members should never serve alone!  The CM team should consist of screened, trained, and supervised groups of team members serving together.  These groups can be organized by function or age group.  You might have a group of team members who serve the fourth graders, produce drama, or organize guests or field trips. An organized CM team has regular meetings, social gatherings, and enjoys a sense of “family.” See the section of this website that deals with team development.  


For more help in understanding the setting of the children’s ministry, click on the APPENDIX link below.

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