Leading with Confidence through Change

Children and family ministry leaders face challenges virtually every day.  Some are big, many (quite thankfully) are small, but all are important none the less.  Ministry leaders must always possess the courage and faith, the skill and discernment to know what to do, and when, because so much is at stake.

This article is being written specifically for the children and family ministry leader that is considering TRU curriculum.  I know a little bit about what you are experiencing because I was in your shoes several years ago. I’ll tell you my story shortly.

One of the greatest tasks a leader faces is to take their team into new and unknown territory.  If you, like me, have been in leadership very long, you can understand exactly what that statement contains.  The job of the leader becomes somewhat of a hiking guide taking a group of novices to the top of Mt. Everest for the first time.

I recall the first time I made an underwater ocean dive.  I was on vacation and an opportunity came along that I could not resist.  I had often considered the idea of an underwater dive, but now the reality of actually trying one was upon me. All I needed to do was show up at a beachfront building with some cash and courage, and then one of my dreams would be realized.

The first thing that I was required to do was to participate in an instructional class.  The experience that I would soon participate in was described.  Detailed instructions on the do’s and don’ts were mapped out for our group.  Basically, all I had to do was listen to the instructor, do exactly as he taught me, and I wouldn’t die. No problem.  My trust was placed in the two guides that would carefully and methodically take us from the shore to the dive location, down into the deep, and then back to the shore where we could celebrate the experience.  They assured our nervous group that what we would experience under the water would be well worth the effort.

What compelled our group to strap on wetsuits and tanks were not the risks or the dangers, even though they existed.  We were not inspired by the boat ride or the comradery we would experience.  Rarely are people inspired when they have to sign an insurance waiver. No, what pushed us to do this activity was what we hoped to see and experience on the ocean floor.  Every person in our dive group pushed through the logistics because they were propelled by the vision of seeing things they had never seen before.  That is exactly what happened.  I went again the next day.

Ministry leaders must do much the same when we lead our teams into new projects or major restructures.

We need to function as experienced guides that can offer assurance of a better future, and then hope they trust us enough to get them there. Our reputation as a leader will largely be shaped around how well we do with high risk, vision-fueled projects.

Oh, and our description of how great the future will be needs to be accurate, or our credibility will take a huge hit. The picture we paint needs to align closely with the destination we arrive at.

So now, back to my TRU transition story with the hopes it will help you in your journey.

I started with a vision picture. My first introduction to TRU was a simple, yet compelling, paper marketing brochure that landed in my mailbox.  Remember paper? It was a small, colorful document that I could actually hold in my hands and peruse at my leisure.  I distinctly remember reading the Tru brochure from cover to cover and being captured by the values and philosophy it communicated.  That simple brochure sparked a vision picture of what our children’s ministry could be.  I was captured by the vision picture in my mind.  Was I crazy? Was my reaction just an emotional surge or was it a prompting from the Holy Spirit?

That same day I left my office and held a spontaneous meeting with my two top children’s ministry leaders.  They were seasoned leaders who held divergent perspectives, but we had built a ton of trust over many years of ministry together.  I showed them the brochure and they too liked what they were reading.  Something new, a church resource different than anything we had ever seen before and from a trusted source. But was it better?

We already knew our current Sunday school curriculum had run its course, so the idea of a new product did not alarm them.  Was this vision picture what they had imagined? Not exactly, but they kept their minds open to my excitement and growing passion.

I submitted my vision passion to objective research.  I asked my staff leaders to look at the Tru samples available online and get back to me as soon as possible.

…I was captivated by the big vision pieces; Empowering Family is Primary, Spiritual Formation for a Lifetime of Faith, Scripture is Authority, The Holy Spirit Teaches, God’s Redemptive Narrative, God is Central, and a Community of Ministry Support.  I was hooked!!

However, the next step was that the people who would actually be using the curriculum and leading a small army of volunteers needed to weigh in.  They were the ones who needed to understand exactly how TRU would work and how well it would fit in our church.

We tested TRU’s alignment.  One of the first and most important curriculum considerations is how well the philosophy aligns with your church.  We knew we could not make a switch to TRU if it in any way did not support the greater goals and vision of our church.  Not only did it pass, we believed that if we had written it ourselves it couldn’t be any closer.  I encourage you to also go through an alignment check. Always know that a switch to TRU is first a philosophy decision.

We previewed its usability. Initially, my staff was confused.  What was a “Response Time?”  What did it mean to give a ‘blessing’?  They conveyed the difficulties with understanding new language and new methods. I had to listen to their concerns.  As excited as I was about the attributes, I had to face the possibility that it was too different for our team.  I was not going to give up easily because I was unwilling to let go of the destination I had envisioned.

We went and looked for ourselves.  That same year, I booked seats for the upcoming Gathering in California.  I told my staff that the best way to address our questions was to go to the people who had created TRU.  I am so glad I made that decision.  I arrived at the conference with two skeptical staff members. I went home with two visionary allies who were “ALL IN!”  Their questions had been addressed and they had become powerful messengers of our shared vision.

We rolled out TRU to our full team of staff and volunteers.  We took the necessary calendar time to appropriately allow everyone who would be hands-on with TRU to preview it and have their questions addressed. Because of our pre-work we were able to move our team through the journey of this change with a high level of confidence.  The transition went very smoothly.

Our church has been using TRU for five fantastic years and we absolutely love it.

Everyone has grown spiritually, from our children to our families our staff and volunteers.  We have no desire to leave TRU and are committed to its values.  As with any curriculum, we adjust it to our context and change the pieces that don’t work for us.  We really do love it. We also have had the additional blessing of helping many other churches navigate the change to TRU and they stand with us in their testimonies of success.

My prayer for you is that you give TRU an honest and thorough test.  If you are planning to launch TRU, please take the time to get the answers to as many of your questions as possible and in advance.  Your team will thank you!  Your children will grow in ways you may not imagine, from childhood beliefs to lifetime faith.  Your parents and families will be forever impacted.  How well TRU is received rests on effective, trained leaders doing all they can to present this life-changing curriculum to spiritually thirsty children and families.