Monday, November 30, 2009

Becoming a Servant Leader

The success of your ministry to children is, more than anything else, dependent upon you — the teacher or helper. As you serve the Lord in children’s ministry, you will make the difference in the lives of the children you touch. For most people, leadership does not come naturally; it must be learned, developed and nurtured. The secular world is full of books, CDs, and DVDs to help people become successful — at least according to the standards of the world. However, as Christians, we are called to be leaders of a different kind; we are called to be servant leaders.
Learn from biblical servant leaders
The Bible gives many guidelines for effective leadership; as Christian leaders we should put these into practice in our lives and in our ministries to students.
Jesus, the Greatest Leader of all, gives us the first guideline to follow. He said, “Whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45) As Christian leaders, we are called upon to serve others as Jesus did — by ministering to them and by meeting their needs. To help us do this, we can look at the characteristics of Jesus’ leadership while He was on earth.
In Isaiah 42, in referring to the coming Messiah, the prophet says, “Behold My Servant, Who I uphold; Mine elect, in Whom My Soul delighteth; I have put My Spirit upon Him.” (Isaiah 42:1) Just as Jesus was God’s chosen servant and God placed His Spirit on Him, if God has called you to be a teacher or helper, you are God’s chosen servant and He has promised to place His Spirit on you as you serve Him.
Isaiah goes on to say, that God’s chosen servant “will not shout or cry out or raise His voice... A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.” (Isaiah 42:2-3 NIV) Jesus was a gentle, kind, and loving leader; One Who cared for the weak and struggling people around Him; One Who treated everyone fairly and with equity. This should be the standard that you try to follow as you lead or assist in your children’s ministry. Are you fair? Do you care about each of your students equally — even the underachievers, the rebels, the quiet ones; do you treat each one with love and compassion?
According to the world’s guidelines, leadership depends on cleverness, wit, humor, and talent. But Jesus’ leadership was different, and ours should be too. Jesus was available and He was vulnerable. He cared for each individual person and He showed it in the supreme way — He died the most painful and humiliating death and rose from the dead so all people may be forgiven. In so doing, the Bible says He “made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7) Jesus was no arrogant, glamorous leader, He came “not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
Apply servant leadership to your ministry
What are the qualities we should try to develop in ourselves, as leaders, as we seek to become servant leaders like Jesus?
    Servant leadership recognizes that everything is the Lord’s work — your career, your family, weekend trips, washing the dishes, mowing the lawn, watching your child’s basketball game, and even baking cookies for a Sunday school party.
    Leadership builds the confidence of those you lead; good leaders instill hope in those they lead and in those they minister alongside.
    Servant leadership trusts the work to God and allows Him to bring the results without our manipulation.
•    Jesus-style leadership produces excellence — both in yourself and in those you lead.
    Good leaders honor the time of others. They are responsible and plan ahead. They have respect for those in authority over them.
Applying servant leadership to ministry does not mean you should do everything for the child. It does mean you do the servant tasks that make it possible for your children to be a group. You seek out the tasks and give the encouragement that makes it possible for children to express their own leadership. Your Sunday school or Bible club class is not a showcase to display your programming and promotional skills — it should be a training ground where students develop their own skills and personalities under the guidance of a caring, loving leader.
When you are able to fully understand your role as a teacher, you will be freed from the terrible strain of constantly trying to have a perfectly executed program for other adults to admire. That is not your primary responsibility. Your role is to allow the students to do things for themselves and help them, when they experience failures and disappointments, to do so without feeling they are failures themselves.
Some teachers feel they must run a tight ship and have polished performances and slick promotion to be successful. To make this happen, usually the leader has to do things himself; that is not a truly successful leader. The successful leader is committed to being a servant who helps children develop their own leadership, even though the results aren’t as tidy and impressive to the outside world.
The real key to leadership is to follow Jesus’ example in leadership — follow God’s will, be filled with God’s Spirit and be a servant to all.

Monday, November 23, 2009

On a Positive Note

All children respond well to positive feedback. The key is to teach your point in a positive way, even when you feel like saying something negative. Here are a few tips:
  • State your expectations before beginning the activity. Let the children know if this is a time when they should talk, listen, raise their hands before speaking, sit, stand, or whatever you expect them to do.
  • Give complete instructions before they start the game or activity. Then ask a child to repeat the instructions. Finally, ask for questions.
  • Give positive feedback when deserved, but only as a result of student behavior. This tells children that you are aware of their performance individually and in a group. Children will begin to see that you give feedback to the best performance of every individual.
  • Give feedback to student groups whenever possible. Frequent group praise helps establish a sense of cooperation and community among your students.
  • Positive feedback should be given matter-of-factly. Flowery, emotional praise can embarrass children. Positive feedback should not imply that you are treating children any differently from the way you would treat an adult.
  • After giving positive feedback, continue your lesson or explanation without pausing for the children to comment. For example, “Thanks for reading in a loud, clear voice, Hannah. Does anyone know why King Herod wanted to find baby Jesus?”
  • Use descriptive statements that briefly tell students what was worthy of comment.
  • Positive feedback to individual students should be relatively private. Children can be embarrassed by comments that single them out as the “teacher’s pet.”
  • Be persistent. Some children feel uncomfortable with praise because they have had so little. But every student needs to learn that he or she has enough self-worth to accept recognition from someone else.
  • Give negative feedback in private. Conclude your time together by praying with and for the student.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tips for Successful Conversation with Young Children

By Carol Rogers

Combining words with actions in a relaxed atmosphere greatly increases a child’s ability to understand and respond to biblical truths. As you use Bible learning activities or interact with children as they play, remember to talk with the children to help them focus on the Bible lesson and memory verse you are teaching. Your Sunday school, children's church, or Bible club Teacher's Guides will often include suggested conversation to help direct the children to the Bible theme. Here are a few tips for using directed conversation as you teach and play with children:

  • Use a natural tone of voice. Do not talk down to the child.
  • Encourage Bible learning by talking with the child as he works and plays.
  • Use your words to focus the child back to the Bible lesson or biblical truth.
  • Relate what the child is doing to what the Bible says.
  • When referring to the Bible, hold it open in front of you.
  • Stoop down to her level and use eye contact when speaking with the child.
  • Use the child’s name frequently, especially at the beginning of your sentences.
  • Say the child’s name and make sure he is looking at you before giving instructions.
  • Use non-verbal signals of touching (if it’s okay with the child) and smiling.
  • Actively listen to how the child responds to your conversation.
  • Repeat the child's words back to him or ask a question about what he said.
  • Recognize and accept the child’s feelings. If she really does not like coloring, give her another activity to do.
  • Use praise and encouragement, focusing on the child’s strengths.