As I talk with children’s ministry leaders about The Gospel Project one of the most important ideas I try to convey to them is that teachers need a specific approach when teaching The Gospel Project for Kids. Unlike many other resources, The Gospel Project for Kids requires a leader to continually take a step back and keep the “big picture” in mind as he or she teaches because each session builds on the previous ones to complete the singular metanarrative of the gospel. You can’t teach a single session, unit, or even a 13-session volume and then wrap it up with a nice bow on top. It’s really not until you complete a full three-year scope and sequence of The Gospel Project that you can really connect all of the dots and fit it all together.
Paradoxically, experienced leaders probably need even more help with this than new teachers because they may already be accustomed to teaching sessions or units that wrap up in a nice and neat way. There are times in The Gospel Project where a teacher might feel the session is left unfinished or that it lacks a powerful applicational punch in the end. And that is where they need to be coached to return to the big picture – the helicopter view as I call it – of the gospel. The applicational punch for The Gospel Project is found when kids grasp the vital point that the gospel itself changes and shapes who they are and what they do.
We don’t become who we should be to experience God’s favor; we become who Christ makes us because we have experienced God’s favor.
Your leaders have to understand this if they are going to maximize the effectiveness of The Gospel Project for Kids. Sure they have to know basic teaching skills and strategies. Sure they have to be familiar with the resource. Sure they have to love kids and have a vision for partnering with parents to help kids live for Christ. But if they don’t keep the big story of the gospel in front of themselves and their kids, they won’t be nearly as effective. Leaders need to understand that every session lends itself to application on the deepest level – the gospel changing kids to live with increased joy, gratitude, and purpose.
With that in mind, here are 5 ideas for coaching your leaders to take your ministry to the next level:
- Hold Regular Team Meetings: For every ministry that holds meetings too frequently there are dozens that fail to hold them frequently enough – if ever. Sure there is a balance here. Everyone is busy and no one enjoys pointless meetings. But at the same time, your leaders are a team and getting that team together from time to time is a vital way to reenforce that idea. Maximize your attendance by scheduling your team meetings at a time when most of your leaders will be around and, it should go without saying, provide food! Consider a breakfast or a lunch on a Sunday or a dinner or a dessert on a Wednesday. Use these meetings to familiarize your team with The Gospel Project for Kids resources. Don’t assume that your leaders understand how to use the Activity Pages, Big Picture Cards, Classroom Timelines, and other materials. You may also want to hold these meetings quarterly to provide a brief overview of the upcoming volume. These meetings are also a great time to train and reinforce ministry policies, plan other ministry events and activities, and recognize and celebrate your leaders.
- Mentor a Few Key Leaders One-on-One: You cannot (and should not) mentor all of your leaders. You only have so much time and energy to give. Instead, be intentional in identifying and cultivating a few key leaders who can, in turn, identity and cultivate other leaders, and so on and so forth (see 2 Timothy 2:2). Coaching your key leaders gives you a chance to really pour your life into the lives of a few other people. Meet one-on-one in a coffee shop or comfortable environment on a weekly or monthly basis. Spend this time discipling these individuals. Read through a book of the Bible together and share what God is teaching each of you. Make sure they understand the gospel and have a biblical perspective of gospel-driven transformation. Pray for your kids ministry and for each other. Hold one another accountable. Cast vision.
- Provide On-the-Job Training: Sometimes in ministry, the need outweighs our value of training and we throw new leaders into the fray too quickly. Do everything possible to avoid this. It’s better combining a couple of groups a while longer so you can start a new leader off right than to rush him or her into action and cause frustration and confusion on day one of their ministry. Ideally, you will want to partner a new leader with an experienced one and allow the new leader to shadow the other for a season. Encourage your experienced leaders to slowly, but deliberately, hand-off ministry responsibilities under their supervision. The experienced leader might want to allow the new leader to lead an activity in the small group opening time to start and then slowly try other leadership roles as they get more comfortable and experienced. Coach your experienced leaders to provide honest but loving feedback to the new leaders.
- Use Technology: People are busy making in-person meetings quite challenging. While you don’t want to forgo in-person meetings all together, you also want to be realistic and provide alternatives for people to be trained. How they are trained is not as important as if they are trained. One way to overcome your team being too busy to attend training meetings is to use technology to deliver training videos to their computers or tablets. LifeWay provides helpful general training videos for The Gospel Project for Kids at gospelproject.com and session specific training videos at ministrygrid.com. Make sure your team knows about these free resources and takes advantage of them. In addition, you might want to consider using Ministry Grid to deliver additional training materials to your team. You can choose from thousands of videos available at Ministry Grid and even create your own. Learn more by visiting the Ministry Grid site.
- Foster a Community of Learning: Encourage your team to never stop learning. Read and discuss books as a team. Here are a few of The Gospel Project for Kids team favorites: LifeWay’s Kids Ministry 101, Gospel by J.D. Greear, and Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler. Attend a conference together such as the 2015 Kids Ministry Conference. Encourage (or if you can, consider even requiring) your leaders to be active in an adult Bible study. Remember that the best teaching comes from the overflow of the heart. When your leaders are captivated by the beauty of the gospel, that will flow out of them as they teach The Gospel Project for Kids.
There are five coaching ideas to get you started or up to the next level. What other tips and techniques have worked for you? Share your ideas in the comments below.
Brian Dembowczyk is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to LifeWay in 2014. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Brian and his wife, Tara, and their three children – Joshua, Hannah, and Caleb – live in Murfreesboro, TN, where Brian enjoys drinking coffee and teaching 1-3 graders at City Church.