MaryAnn Sibley: The Final, Rare Facet of Healthy Ministry Leadership

That’s the bigger thing, not to be available. So then that’s when the really cool things happen. And there will always be, what are the things that only I can and should be doing on Sunday? And everything else should be delegated.

Scott from ServeHQ:
What would that be? So if you’ve got all of your direct directing to the volunteers that are doing the handshaking, that are filling the urns, that are answering the questions at the info desk. If you have team leaders that are handling that and you have directors that are helping the team leaders to make sure that the team leaders know all the information what’s going on and coaching the team leaders, if that all is happening under you, what do you do on a Sunday morning? What else is there? If it were me, I’d be like, well, I probably wouldn’t do the director thing. I would just lead the team leaders, because what else would I do on a Sunday morning besides walk around with my coffee cup and yeah, like that.

MaryAnn Sibley:
So we developed what was crunch time. So five minutes before the start of service through the first 15 minutes to start of service was crunch time. People coming in late, trying to get them moved in, get them going. So I would always just be available for that. I’d go in the parking lot if you need me to. I’m just available. Just available. Because there’s a lot of things happening at that time, so you just want to be available.

MaryAnn Sibley:
But I also had to disappear a lot. Because what I learned is my mere presence would be like, she’s watching us, she’s judging us. And they were trying to make a decision and they kept coming to me. I said, “You decide.” And they were like, “But what would you do?” I said, “I’m not going to tell you.” So I literally went to my office. I said, “Y’all got this.” That was a beautiful thing, because that really told them I did trust them. And when I taught I’ll have your back, it’s kind of like I had to prove it to them. Whatever decision you make, I’ll have your back. And so here’s a crazy idea. Because we have two services-

Scott from ServeHQ:
I like crazy ideas. Let’s hear it.

MaryAnn Sibley:
One of the services, I would go to one with my husband. During the other service, I had nothing to do. I would go to my office, get work to do, so I actually could be home with my family. You know what I mean? Instead of around doing all… Because what’s the thing only I can do? Only I can be the mom to my kids. Only I can be the wife to my husband. And I know being on church deb, a lot of my meetings were after work, because that’s when volunteers. So if there was some time that I could get back by taking a Sunday, an hour service, be in my office, trusting my leaders to do their thing and I am working unseen, but God sees, then I’m honoring my family. So there were little pieces that I could get done and could leave Sunday behind when Sunday was over, and know that I could hit Monday refreshed. And then hit it, hit it, hit is.

Scott from ServeHQ:
So that’s really good. That’s one of the things that I’ve heard a lot of, especially children’s ministry leaders. Greeters, first impressions teams, leaders, yes. But it’s really heavily a problem in children’s ministry, because the children’s ministry director or staff person or whatever, always is in the children’s wing or whatever that wing is for your children’s building. So rarely gets to attend and just worship with their family because they are the one answering the questions. They’re the one walking the kid that’s screaming so that two adults can stay in the room. They’re on every Sunday morning, not just that every Sunday morning, not just that Sunday morning’s coming every week, but every Sunday morning is a work day for them.

MaryAnn Sibley:
Right.

Scott from ServeHQ:
They put five miles on their step counter every Sunday morning because they’re working, working, working.

MaryAnn Sibley:
Exactly.

Scott from ServeHQ:
I’m a part of a lot of Facebook groups, and even just having my own conversations with children’s ministry leaders, it’s so common amongst that group that they approach burnout, especially by the end of the summer. And going into a new school year, they get that July, August, is a real stressful and anxious time for them. And also, they’re the ones that are most likely to need to go to another church to have a sabbatical, to be able to attend a church, to get refreshed.

Scott from ServeHQ:
In fact, there was a question yesterday or day before in a 22,000 member Facebook group just for children’s ministry leaders. And the question was, where do you go to refresh on a Sunday morning when you need a Sunday morning to just worship? Which that question alone is sad. Shows that they need to listen to this. But secondarily, the answers were also sad. Because there were, I don’t know, 500 or 600 answers to the question. And it was a poll, it was a Facebook poll. And almost everybody, by far almost everybody said there’s another church in town that I attend anonymously. I just go to and I just sing and I listen and I just get refreshed, and I’m not on the clock.

MaryAnn Sibley:
Yep, yep, yep.

Scott from ServeHQ:
And this whole conversation is… Even if just the outcome is that you can worship with your own church family on a regular basis and not feel like Sunday morning is the time that is the hardest and the most draining to you, just that one outcome would be worth listening to this conversation.

MaryAnn Sibley:
I had a pastor ask me to come out, and he had a children’s ministry. Wasn’t sure with the growth they were doing if she was going to be right for the next level. And so I like, well, let me just go spend a day with her. And one of the things, I looked and I said, when do you go to church? Because they had three services, I think. And so I let her know, “Hey, I’m going to go into this service. I’ll meet you. What service are you going to?” And she was like, “No, I don’t.” I was like, “No, no, no, no, no. That’s not good.” And she was doing what you said. And it’s like, you can’t lead people and tell them to be helping attend church if you’re not doing it.

MaryAnn Sibley:
All the people, particularly on church staff, they need to see you sit there and go, “Lord, I’m broken today.” You’re human too. We are a church. We’re not a factory. We have responsibilities and we respect levels of responsibility and top positions, what have you. But I think building leaders, it’s like, okay, sat down with one children’s director and I’m like, “Okay, in this wing, you need a wing director,” whatever you want to call it. “And their responsibility is just to walk the halls and make sure how the room’s doing, how the leaders are in there.” Just a runner, whatever you want to call them. But they’re a high capacity leader. And then you need someone in that wing, preschool, elementary. And so then you just only have three people after the service to go, “We’re good. We had a great morning,” or whatever’s happening. You can’t be in three wings. That’s crazy. That’s unhealthy. It’s like burnout.

MaryAnn Sibley:
I look at these children’s ministry directors, they’re looking at me like, it’s crazy. And I really can speak to children’s ministry from the standpoint of my husband serves in children’s ministry. And he has a big job in the real world. But when he goes to church on Sunday and he’s in charge of his wing of preschoolers, man, he owns it. And he makes sure what’s the count in every room, and he makes sure that everyone’s doing okay. And he makes sure that if there was a 911, that he had the full roster. Not a staff person, not the director. And so I agree with you. It’s like this, again, is empowering and building up leaders in that ministry as well, because there’s things that only that children’s ministry can do, but you can’t even do your job on Monday if you’re burned out.

Scott from ServeHQ:
Yeah. Yep. Yep, yep, yep. Okay, so we’re coming up against a… Nope, we just passed an hour conversation. So we didn’t get to… We got to two of the five things we wanted to get to. That’s fine. That’s totally okay. Thank you so much.

MaryAnn Sibley:
You’re welcome, Scott. When you said, “Hey, you want to talk?” This is my heart. I could talk about this all day.

Scott from ServeHQ:
So this just really just means that we have to have another conversation. I have to have you have another call.

MaryAnn Sibley:
Okay. Oh, if we have to.

Scott from ServeHQ:
And we’ll talk about the other three things. I asked the question about weekly communication and we went back into the deeper dive, back into what the team leaders do not on Sundays. Or the directors, your directors do or not on Sundays. So we need to get back into weekly communication, volunteer central room. I have a burning question of whether you do, I guess you do do a volunteer central, volunteer huddle room. What do you do on Sunday mornings before service? What does that look like? Team language vocabulary, which is one thing I really love about how you lead. But we’ll get to that in another conversation and we’ll just call it a day for now. Partially because I’ve had you for an hour and a half now and I’ve taken up enough of your time, and partially because I have to use the restroom. This Red Bull got me.

MaryAnn Sibley:
Hey, I think… is that we’re going to eat fried rice together soon.

Scott from ServeHQ:
Yes. I’m so excited about that. That’s April. When we’re in Greenville, I will make sure.

MaryAnn Sibley:
All right. Send me the dates.

Scott from ServeHQ:
Yes. I’m so excited about that.

MaryAnn Sibley:
Me too. That’s awesome, Scott. Have a great day.

Scott Magdalein

Scott is the founder of ServeHQ and has over a decade of experience as an Executive Pastor, Worship Pastor, and College Pastor. You can chat with him directly using the widget at the bottom of this page.

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