by Collin Senka
There once was a ministry leader who had it all figured out. They knew the best way to do ministry, had not encountered any problems, and had the greatest ideas anyone in their field had ever thought of . . . until they didn’t.
Sound familiar? Sometimes it takes a couple years, sometimes a couple months, sometimes a couple minutes! But we all get to the point when we realize, “WE DON’T KNOW IT ALL!” This can be a frustrating time, and we may feel like we are in ministry all alone. But if, and when, we realize there is a whole community of people who are doing the same thing we’re doing, having the same frustrations, experiencing the same unique set of highs and lows, and desperately wanting to do what they do better, it can be extremely helpful.
I reached this point very early in my calling, and was encouraged by my pastor to reach out to some other successful ministries in the area. I am still extremely grateful to Linda, who was the first ministry leader to take me under her wing and encourage me. She offered great guidance as I learned to lead this ministry, and taught me basic how-tos of administration and praying for my ministry, as well as leading under authority—all lessons I would build on as I grew in ministry. From there, I reached out to other “kidmin”—my particular area of ministry—on the topics that I wanted to learn about.
Linda also introduced me to a local network group. This was a handful of ministers in the area that got together once a quarter to discuss ministry and help each other out in any way possible. It was a little awkward at first, as I didn’t know anybody, but I really enjoyed it. I continued meeting with the group, and eventually volunteered to host a meeting at our church. I began to develop a heart and desire to be used as “a connector,” someone who could assist others in getting the help they needed for their ministry. I was always willing to share my experiences, but the way things work at my church isn’t always applicable to every church. So, I began looking for other people who were willing to connect with and invest in others. Not to mention, I enjoy learning from all of these great people as much as anybody!
I began by signing up in some online communities and meeting with ministry leaders who lived close to me. I found people on social media who used the same curriculum and reached out to them. I started calling churches in the area to find out if they had a children’s minister. I’d ask them if they wanted to meet for a cup of coffee or lunch. I also began formulating a list of questions I wanted to ask them before I met with them, so I could learn whatever possible during our time together.
Eventually, I was asked to serve by leading the local network group. I was more than happy to do this as it had been such a benefit to me and ministry, I wanted to keep it going as an encouragement to others. I’ve learned some lessons, and am still learning what it takes to organize a local ministry leaders networking group.
Here’s some of what I’ve learned so far about networking groups:
What happens in a networking group?
A networking group should meet with the primary purpose of . . . (drumroll please?) . . . Networking! Ministry networking is different than other types of professional networking in that we are not competing businesspeople, or looking for a competitive edge on other churches, or looking to prop ourselves up by touting our numbers and results. Ministry networking is all about serving, encouraging, and sharpening each other. The main purpose is to allow people to share with each other what is going on in their ministry, and get questions answered!
How often should a networking group meet?
Well, that depends. Once a month may seem like a lot, and once every three months, easily turns into four to six months or longer without a meeting (I know from experience). Our group met quarterly, but if someone missed, we didn’t see them for six months or even longer. For the sake of creating a rhythm, it is good for a networking group to have a monthly meeting. Not everyone in the area is going to make it each month, but some will. If someone misses, they have the opportunity to come next month. Our group has begun meeting once a month and alternating meeting sites, moving around to make it close to different people each month. We have started meeting at a local restaurant for lunch or coffee, which makes it great for conversation.
Many denominations or curriculum publishers have local networking groups, you can usually find this by contacting your denomination or publisher. Our group is non-denominational and we have people from big churches, small churches, traditional and modern churches, Orange churches and purple churches!* But we all come together and find common ground. It is cool to see how God orchestrates each meeting and has the people attend who need to be there that month.
Want to start a group?
Great! The ministry leadership world needs more opportunities for us to encourage and learn from each other. First of all, see if a group exists locally. If it does, join it! If not, you can start by contacting other churches in your area. Odds are, their ministry leaders would love someone to meet with to share ideas. Try and meet individually with as many local folks as you can. As you’re meeting with them, invite them to be part of the group you are forming. Set a time, date, and location and invite them. Tell them to invite anyone they know that should be a part of it. The broader you cast your net, the more people you’re likely to get involved. Don’t base the value of your group on the size of it! We have had large meetings, but honestly some of the better ones have been when we’ve had five to eight people and the interaction was great. (Small groups always work!)
Whatever you choose to do in forming a networking group, know that your efforts are not wasted. As leaders in ministry, we all need help. We all need encouragement and fellowship. And we can all learn something from anyone else we meet! We are all a part of the body, and need each other. So go ahead and pick up that phone. Make the first phone call, take the first step. You (and someone else) will be glad you did!
*We don’t really have any purple churches involved in our group. But if you know of one, let me know. I’m sure they have some great ideas!
Collin is a husband to Gaynel and dad of three incredible kids! He is the Pastor of Children’s Ministries at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks in Largo, Fla., and organizes the “Kidmin Tampa Bay” networking group. You can connect with Collin at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @collinsenka and Instagram: collinsenka. You can connect with the Tampa Bay networking group on Facebook at “Kidmin Tampa Bay.”