In a previous post I wrote about 5 Reasons I Love Our Children's Ministry Network. I know many people assume it takes a lot of work for me to organize our local network. I think it's a lot easier than you might believe, and many people have asked about what it requires so they can start a network in their area. Here are 7 simple steps I used to start our network.

Starting a Ministry Network in 7 Steps

Gather Names/Emails of Potential Participants

The first step is to gather the names of churches and ministry leaders who might want to be part of this network. Contact anyone you already konw. Search for churches on Google, the Parent Cue Church Finder, Facebook Groups designed for network, and look for the staff person in the ministry you want to network with.

Make First Contact

Before you have your first gathering you'll want to reach out to each leader personally. Don't let this be a canned email. Introduce yourself, ask about their ministry, ask how you can serve them and if they would be interested in a network. Be sure to get the names and email addresses of anyone they know who might be interested. Add all names and emails to a mass email system. I use MailChimp. You'll use this to communicate about gatherings.

Plan First Gathering

Plan your first gathering once you have enough people interested. Choose a church to host it. I started by hosting the first one at our church. Decide on a date and time. We usually meet on Mondays, but with more staff taking Mondays off we're changing that up. We also meet around lunch and have people register and pay $10 online, and the $10 simply buys their lunch and maybe some small extras. However you do it, make people register. If they pay they're more likely to show.

Settle on Content and Agenda

Decide what the content and agenda will be for the gathering. This is probably the hardest part for most people as the rest is mostly administrative. Here are some ideas we've used:

Have a Q&A all together on various topics
Set 3 big topics to discuss as a group
Have table discussions around 9 topics spread out over 3 sessions
Bring in a guest speaker
Have people share ideas and resources they're using

Communicate About Gathering

Communicate about your first gathering. Include all the important details (date, time, location, food, etc.) I send a reminder email almost weekly leading up to the gathering. It's probably annoying for some, but needed for many. Early on you may want to mail something to the church about it.

Determine Your Rhythm

After your first one determine what your rhythm will be moving forward. Quarterly? Monthly? We do it 2-3 times a year now. I know other networks that are more relational and meet monthly. Our network is relational for sure, but probably based more on content than relationships. Ask a different church to host it each time, taking the burden off of you so you can focus on the rest of the planning.

Rinse & Repeat

Have your first meeting and be sure to gather contact information at the meeting. This is especially helpful for people who show up but weren't on your contact list. Often times a church will have multiple staff and I want contact info for all of them. Schedule the next gathering and repeat the process of planning, communicating and executing it.

That's about it. It's much easier than you might think. You could even recruit a few people from the network to be part of a planning team to help plan gatherings. I'd love to hear from you.

Are you part of a network? What do you like/dislike about it?