How do you develop relational leadership within children’s ministry?

What a time to be writing about relational leadership! Although there is so much that can be (and that has been) said about the current state of the world, and all that is happening with COVID- 19, I want to start off by saying two things.

Firstly, you are doing a great job. The mere fact that you clicked on this blog post to find out more about relational leadership means that you care and you’re trying. Don’t compare, don’t beat yourself up for not having a full media engagement ministry (although great if you do have that in place). God is in your corner. He is cheering you on. To him, you are nailing it purely because you’re trying.

Secondly, when it comes to relational leadership, the most important relationship you can invest in at a time like this, is your relationship with your maker. Relational leadership, whether within a children’s ministry setting, another church ministry setting, or secular setting is best outworked when you have invested in a personal and growing relationship with God. How have I come to this conclusion?

  1. We have been made by him and for him (Colossians 1:16), therefore he is the best at relational leadership. He is the source. When you’ve bought a piece of technology and maybe after a while it stops working the way it is supposed to, you can take it to a family member to fix it.

    You could even take it to a place where similar things are made and even repaired. But the best thing you can do to ensure you get it fixed to its best working condition is to take it to the place it was created, the source. There, you are guaranteed to find all the necessary pieces of equipment needed to fix it, as well as the hands and minds with knowledge to know for sure that it is perfectly fixed.

    Similarly, to know how to be our best at leading relationally, we must seek the hand and mind of our creator who created us out of relationship (Genesis 1:26), for relationship (Genesis 2:18) and who knows for sure when relationship is working at its best.
  2. Relational leadership starts with being led. There is only so many leadership books and seminars (and blogs) one can read. Knowing leadership in theory isn’t the same as outworked leadership. Jesus taught and modelled this so well. In John 5:19, Jesus says, “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing.

    He is explaining here that he is under the authority of and empowered by God the Father. Jesus was led to heal. He was led to pray. He was led to preach. But he was led through the relationship he had with the father. As he was being led, he was also able to lead those around him. So, my question to you is who or what leads you?
  3. Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘you are what you eat?’. Well this is true when it comes to leadership. If I am fed with a dictatorial style and experience, then it is highly likely that that is the type of leader I will become.

    Equally, if I am fed with compassion and kindness, challenge and a listening ear, chances are, because I’ve seen that modelled, that’s what I’ll become. That being said, time spent with God means that in life, you’ll start to looking like and acting like him.

So what is Relational Leadership and why is it important?

Relational leadership, as the name suggests, is a type of leadership that is centred around building a relationship with the person or people you are leading. It can be said that you are in a relationship with anyone you lead, but relational leadership is all about being intentional about what kind of relationship you form and leading from that place.

People in our world care more about authenticity than they do hierarchy. Mutual respect and understanding, regardless of what age you are, goes a lot further than, ‘because I said so.’

What does Relational Leadership look like practically?

  1. Showing people that you care enough about them to really listen to what they have to say. With kids, this looks like having individual conversations. Find out what they like. What sports do they play? What shows do they watch? Who or what inspires them? What do they want to be when they grow up?

    Another practical tip is to take a knee when talking to younger children. Come down to a level that is similar to the one they stand at. It instantly removes the barrier of intimidation. Learn to speak their language. If a child tells you that they love JoJo Siwa on YouTube, watch a JoJo Siwa video. It’s all about learning them and loving them. Always take the time to learn the names of the children you serve. It goes a long way.
  2. Always being willing to pray for and with the people you lead. As a Christian, one of the things that sets you apart from other people who lead, is that you have a direct line to the only one who knows more than anyone else does about the person you lead. God has generously given us access to himself.

    The Holy Spirit is our secret weapon. He can speak into things that have never been uttered out of a child’s mouth and he can use you as his mouthpiece. You just have to love them enough to take them to his throne.
  3. Having interactions outside of a formal leadership setting where you can just be i.e. socials or agender-less spaces. Spend time with the families of the children you serve. Share a meal with them or go to a park with them. A time like this, in lockdown, is a brilliant opportunity to engage with parents.

    Encourage and show them that they have an identity that isn’t just ‘’so and so’s dad’. Show them that you care about them and their children holistically. Show members of the team you lead that you care about them Monday to Saturday, and not just their whereabouts on a Sunday when they are running late (I know, it happens to the best of us).

Finally, remember that respect is earned, not given. Something that is earned takes time and investment. The reality of this age is that it doesn’t matter who you are, you need to prove to me, the person you want to lead that you are worth listening to. That takes time.

The first part of John 3:16 says, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son...’ Part of what he gave, in giving us Jesus, is time. Jesus was sent from eternity- a timeless place, to earth- a timedependent place. God, in giving us Jesus, chose to be so patient with us.

He gave us time for us to get a glimpse of heaven, time for us to choose him, time for us to grow to maturity in him. The least we can do to thank him for such a gift is to choose to give our time to the people he loves.

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