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Leading Up: Five Questions You Need To Answer

by Christiaan Vandenheuvel

When we first started in children’s ministry, we had a romanticized idea what we’d be doing each week. I thought that each week I would be teaching Bible stories; walking groups of children through interactive Bible adventures, giving children weekly encounters with Jesus and having their parents call me “blessed.” The last one totally happens (ha!) but I sometimes felt like my job description was way, way off!

Here’s an example: In addition to our time spent with real live children, I found myself trying to figure out how to “lead up” and get my supervisors (senior pastor, executive pastor, board of elders) to support me, understand my ministry and truly “get” what I was working toward. Like most (children’s, student, college, etc.) ministers, you often pray that those who lead you would fully get your vision, get your pain points, get your frustrations, get your values, and get your passions. Or perhaps you just wished that they knew how much passion you have. How many nights have you dealt with some form of insomnia because you’re consumed by a desire to do ministry better? To disciple kids BETTER, to disciple MORE kids, to invite and include more (volunteer) staff members . . . to do a better JOB—for GOD?

I want to challenge you to take a step forward in your leadership with your supervisor by leading up. He/she actually wants to say yes to your proposal. To that end, your responsibility is to help your senior pastor know what it means when he says YES to your Big Opportunity.

Use the fingers on our hand to memorize this: your supervisor has resources, time, money, people that he or she can use to support your ministry as it grows and improves. But he needs answers to the five questions posed below. Having these five points answered prior to your proposal will greatly increase the possibility of getting the “Yes!” that you want.

1. What resources do I need?

This is how much money it’ll take; how much time will be invested into this proposal, outside of regular responsibilities; a list of people who will be focused on the opportunity; the impact on the church staff; a list of people on the team.

2. What is the language around this idea?

This is the language that will change around church—re-purpose words you already use without hi-jacking the language of the culture.

3. How will the senior leadership be impacted?

This is explaining how senior leaders will be impacted if you move forward on the proposal—make a list of pros and cons.

4. What is the timeline or pace of this opportunity?

Give the reasons why it will go this fast, or this slow. Create a calendar that explains where you’ll be and when, along with a list of deadlines you’ve set.

5. Who is on board with this plan?

This will impact others on your church staff and they must be informed before the plan goes into motion. These people will not be asked to help. But will be in the loop to keep alignment solid.

If you answer these questions, I believe that the next time you receive an exciting vision of the next Big (ministry) Opportunity, you’ll arrive at a YES from your senior pastor, board of elders or other supervisor a lot sooner. This YES will mean increased impact, growth for your ministry, and for the children you minister to, and you will lead in that vision, fully supported by all the leaders in the church! It’s time to lead up!

Christiaan has served in full-time ministry for almost 20 years and lives to tell about it. A native of The Netherlands, he has been a frequent speaker, teacher, author and leader, helping church leaders know how they can increase their impact. His wife is a smart, beautiful, very funny Bible scholar and piano teacher. His three children are respectful, funny, rambunctious and reportedly above average in various disciplines. Christiaan’s never been a millionaire but is convinced that he’d be great at it. He claims that the two secrets of his success are: 1) Don’t reveal everything.

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