Playing Well

By Kevin Ragsdale

How many of you place value on being a part of your staff team?

I am not asking about “your” team but the staff team as a whole. Do you interact well with the preschool director and the music guy? What about your Senior Pastor? Do you care about what goes on in their world? Do you ever jump in and help in their area?

You might be thinking: “What does this have to do with my ability to do my job?

I think it has a lot to do with your success and would like to talk about the idea of “playing well.”

It is so easy to get wrapped up in the daily grind of student ministry. You have multiple environments that you are creating on a weekly basis. You have students and parents always calling. Volunteers need your guidance and vision.

You are thinking: “I don’t have enough time in the day to invest in any more relationships.”

I understand, but…. I know, there is always a “but.” BUT, how much more effective could you be at leading students to Christ if you were not only aware of what was going on down the hall, but you were partnering with the preschool and children’s directors?

Let’s be honest. The student pastor is typically looked upon as a “renegade” by the staff. Many of us relish that title while others are embarrassed and some of you are thinking: “Really, the children’s director thinks I am a renegade.

I am not saying that this perception is accurate, but there seems to be a pretty consistent thread weaving through the typical church staff. We (student pastors) do have an image problem. Our initial response might be: “Well, I am doing my job,” or “The staff doesn’t realize what I do and what it takes to be a student pastor.” Regardless, I think we need to work at changing this perception.

I don’t think for one minute that we set out to isolate ourselves from the other areas of the church. Unfortunately it happens very naturally. You are working hard to lead your staff/volunteers, create weekly environments, and plan camps and retreats. You have your nose to the grind and are being diligent and responsible with the leadership given to you. The problem is that at the end of the day you have isolated yourself. You have become an island. You have been labeled a renegade! The irony is that you were doing your job!

If I were really honest, I had a hard time with this. I love my job and my team. I love creating student environments and watching students pursue a faith of their own. As a result, it was quite natural for me to become an island. I figured out how to be fairly self-reliant. Fortunately for me, I had a boss (Reggie Joiner) who saw the value of (me) playing well with the other areas of our church. I will not lie to you. This was a pretty difficult concept for me. I like being excited and getting others excited about student ministry. Can’t the children’s ministry do the same? If they do their job and I do mine, won’t everything turn out fine? The answer was no!

What if we were intentional about not only taking the time to understand what is going on in the other area’s of the church but decided to be proactive and initiate interaction between our worlds? What if we decided to “play well?”

Here are two examples of playing well:

(1)  Family Ministry has the opportunity to play together every year as we transition children and students to the next step. The preschool to children, children to middle school, middle school to high school, and finally high school to college transitions are a huge deal. It is extremely important that our children and middle school staff are playing well as it relates to the handoff of a fifth-grade child into the middle school world. It is not just a matter of switching the names on the rolls but creating a seamless transition where a family understands what is taking place and that this is part of an overall family strategy and plan. This does not happen if everyone is operating in a silo.

Part of playing well is consistent communication between our teams. A monthly meeting of ministry heads is a must. It is important not only to know what is coming up on the calendar but what issues the different areas are facing and then working thru the issues together. It would seem very difficult to only come together once or twice a year around facility or calendar needs. Recipe for disaster!

We recently worked with our SPD team (Service Programming Division) on our spring  weekend event for high school students. SPD is responsible for the Sunday morning worship experience (big church). They allowed us to conduct the event in the main auditorium as well as partnered with us on the creative and production side of the event. We benefitted greatly from the technical (toys) side as well as from a team of highly creative people that we typically do not get to work with. The ironic thing is that they (SPD) were as excited as we were! They got to operate and use their gifts outside of the typical Sunday morning confines.

Invite staff from other areas into your meetings. We have the opportunity to gain so much from the experiences taking place down the hall. Our Children’s Ministry staff is a huge resource for Student Ministry on how to partner with parents. They do a great job of creating content that connects with the child and is reinforced by the parents. I know it is a totally different world, but brainstorming with them is invaluable as it stretches our thinking to some unique possibilities.

(2)  Look for ways to volunteer. I know we are all busy, but what would happen if you jumped in the preschool world on Easter Sunday when everyone and their brother decides to attend church? I know the thought of changing diapers is not a pleasant one, but it would sure go a long way in creating a staff that plays well with each other!

Here is the funny thing. Your first thought might be: “I don’t have time to help other teams and I know they don’t have time to come to one of my meetings!” In reality, you love it when someone else on staff in another area asks for your opinion. You know what? They do, too. So, begin conditioning yourself and your team to jump in and help when you can, and do not be afraid to ask for help.

What ways does your student ministry help other ministries in your church?

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Orange Conference 2018