Marta-Headshot

Hi, I’m Marta Johnson.

Grove City, OH

Phone Number

(847) 951-6141

Email

[email protected]

Experience

Grove City Church of the Nazarene
Children’s Ministry Director/
Creative Director

Education

Some college

Church Affiliation

Non-Denominational

Years In Ministry

20 years

Personality

INFP

Skills

Up-front communicator, writing curriculum (small group and large group), volunteer recruitment, script writing, drama directing, video directing, video creating and editing, lyricist

Tools & Software

Church Community Builder, Microsoft Office Suite, ProPresenter, Premiere Pro Programs

Personal

Husband: Rob
Children: 3 adult children

Top 3 Strengths

Communicative0%

Artistic0%

Creative0%

Kid's Minister Questionnaire Responses
Personal Info
Please share briefly how you became a Christian.
When I was 14, I made the choice to become a follower of Christ. At that age, I’m not sure I truly understood the depth and seriousness of the commitment I was making. Maybe I was more caught up in the “feel good” moment and the excitement around the decision that the decision itself. A few years later, when I was 18, I recommitted my life to Christ. Since then, it has been quite a journey. As with any decision of that magnitude, there are ups and downs, good and bad, happy and sad. All of which have been instrumental in shaping the person I am today. Each day is a new experience in my relationship with Christ and I’m still navigating the depth and seriousness of that commitment. But each and every day God’s grace and his abundant mercies are evident as He and I continue this journey together. I love that it isn’t a perfect journey because it pushes me to face challenges and look in the mirror daily. I love the journey and I love that it’s never always easy!!!
How would you describe yourself?
  • Fun
  • Motivational
  • Flexible
  • Inspirational
  • Loving
Personality Type
INFP
Tell me about some people (i.e. authors, mentors, and ministry leaders) that have had a big impact on you.
Sue Miller (First Look) was my director at Willow Creek when I was there for the first 10 years. She was instrumental in mentoring me and shaping my early years in ministry. Another mentor was a woman named, Deanna Armentrout, who brought out the actor/director/writer side of my gift mix. I am not an overly avid reader but tend to lean into books that provide feedback and input into leading, recruiting, and growing ministry. Dan Lovaglia is one author that I gravitate toward not only because I think he has some very enlightening information to share, but also he was a co-worker during my days at Willow and I really respect him. Shauna Niequist is also an author I enjoy reading.
Parents/Volunteers
How do you plan to engage and inform parents or guardians about your ministry objectives and progress?
Open communication is huge for me. I tend to over communicate (which can be a strength and a weakness). I believe that partnering with parents and allowing them to speak into how we are spiritually raising their children is a vital tool in ministry. If we are to be successful in raising the next generation of Christ followers, we must involve and engage the parents. Written objectives are important to make sure everyone is on the same “page” so-to-speak as well as having touch points between ministry and parents on a regular basis.
Tell me about a time when you developed a new team of volunteers into a strong working group. What did you do?
My first objective when working with volunteer groups is to let them know that it is them and not me (our team) that makes ministry work. They have to know that without them, our success as a ministry would be short-lived. Regardless of who they are or how many volunteers you have, I believe it is important to help them see the value that they bring to the table. Like the body, we each have a part to play (some are thumbs, some are hands, some feet, etc.) Plugging volunteers in to their passionate area where their particular set of skills and gifts can shine will dramatically help a team become cohesive. I also believe that building community time into the schedule is a must!! Relationship is one of the key factors in establishing a strong volunteer team. When they feel connected and cared for, then they will be willing to serve whenever the need arises. I’ve seen this happen time and time again.
How would you alleviate the confusion when you are communicating with volunteers and it becomes apparent that they don’t understand what you’re saying or vice versa?
I would try approaching these situations in a number of ways (ways in which they best take in information). If they are hands on (kinesthetic), then I would find a hands on approach to help communicate better. If they learn better in a visual way, then I would find ways to communicate in a more visual way. However, I believe that when a group of volunteers or individual volunteers are part of the vision and values of the team and they understand the direction in which the ministry is headed, then they are more easily able to grasp the information that is presented. When they aren’t informed or included in dialogue along the way, then there is bound to be confusion and misunderstanding.
Spiritual Growth
Once you lead a student/child to Christ, how do you communicate their decision to their parents? Once a child accepts Christ as their Savior, how do you begin discipling them?
It has always been my practice (as a curriculum writer, a creator, and a teacher (or trainer of teachers) that there is importance in giving the parents a “heads up” prior to that decision or the presentation of the Salvation message. When parents are aware that a Salvation message is planned and approaching, I’ve always tried to send home information to help them prepare their child or to encourage communication with their child prior to the message/lesson. Because of this, the parent is aware that their child will be hearing the message. Even so, I make sure that we create some type of printed card or something fun that lets the parent know that their child made the choice to accept Jesus. I’m also a big proponent of asking parents to be part of the message/lesson. I will encourage parents to “join us” that service and sit with their child so that they are the ones assisting their child with the decision. For those parents who don’t make the choice to show up, then leaders take on that role and the communication to parents after the decision confirms what took place. I truly believe that parents should take as active a role as possible in helping to guide their child to a relationship with Jesus.
As the spiritual leader of the children’s ministry, how are you going to help volunteers grow in their faith?
One of the things I love to do when writing customized curriculum, is to offer a devotional or passage of scripture in the lesson “prep.” For those volunteers serving that particular weekend, it is a great way for them to prepare their hearts as they anticipate preparing the hearts of the kids during the service. In addition, I am one to encourage volunteers to continually be growing in their faith. Often times I will suggest a book, a devotional, an article, etc. that I think might be of value or benefit to volunteers.
Ministry Growth
What is your philosophy of ministry?
First, I believe that establishing goals for the ministry (vision and values) is vital. The current goals of the ministry might be solid and strong, but I believe there is always room for adjustment and tweaking. I’m not one to “throw the baby out with the bath water,” but without flexibility and the desire to “raise the bar,” I think ministry can become stagnant. The approach of “doing the same thing because we’ve always done it that way” isn’t a good reason to stick with goals that may need to be adjusted, tweaked, or even changed. When goals are in place (the vision and the values are understood and there is an agreed direction) then that establishes a foundation and a platform from which to work from. It goes without saying that the goals must be rooted in Biblical truth, support the vision and values of the church (doctrine), and be firmly rooted in the Gospel.
What was the most creative idea you introduced in your last ministry role? What steps did you take to implement that idea with leadership, volunteers, and families if applicable?
One of the most fun and creative ideas I had the privilege of introducing and implementing (with the help of our excellent ministry team) was the 2019 VBS program here (at my current church). Not only did I get to create the theme (Camp Naz) but I wrote the entire VBS program and implemented a new registration and check-in system. We had 650 plus kids in attendance and it ended up being really awesome! Sure, we learned a lot from some areas of weakness, but overall it was just fantastic! Of course, our team was instrumental in rolling out the plans and making the week a success! I couldn’t have done it without them! The process of implementing this VBS started with vision casting to my supervisor and then sharing the idea with our management leadership team. I was responsible for casting vision, sharing the concepts, walking them through the process (registration, attendance, etc.), and setting the budget for the event. I put different team members over different aspects of the program (one staff was over volunteers, one was over communication to families, etc.) but was responsible for overseeing all the moving parts and pieces.
How would you evaluate systems and structures to see if there could be improvement?
Having been in this situation several times in different positions, the first thing I do is take time to talk to the volunteers and the staff who are in place. Since they have been in the trenches doing ministry together, they are the best resource to help guide me (or any leader) toward any next steps that will need to happen. Volunteers and staff are the “heartbeat” of the ministry and that information is invaluable for evaluation of the current systems and structures. As I said, “throwing the baby out with the bath water” can cause volunteers and staff alike to feel they have no “say” in what is going to happen or that the current systems and structures that have been in place aren’t valued or aren’t good. When in reality, the current systems and structures may be very good with only small tweaks needed here and there. Once I’d had a chance to sit with as many volunteers and staff as possible, then I would have a better sense of how and where improvements can and should be made.
Share with me what you would do to deal with a fast-paced, always changing environment. Have you had this experience in a previous position?
I LOVE fast-paced! I tend to be a highly energetic person and I tend to enjoy a little craziness. It’s not something I desire on a consistent basis, but I do love a good fast-paced environment from time-to-time. With COVID, there has been nothing that isn’t “always changing.” Are we “in-person?” Are we virtual? Are we both? That has been the “norm” here since March. When COVID wasn’t a “thing,” I found that having an open mind and a flexible nature helped me deal with those fast-paced moments in ministry. In ministry, more than anywhere else, I believe a “go-with-the-flow” mentality is a definite plus. Is it always easy…NO. Is it always exciting…YES. I sort of look at it as “God is shaking things up to keep us on our toes.”
What goals have you set in the past for your ministry area. Did you accomplish them and if so, how did you accomplish them?
When I was hired for this position, the Elementary area was floundering. The main desire of leadership was for there to be “stability” and “growth” in the ministry. Since late 2018, our attendance has doubled and the ministry is thriving. I’d love to take credit for the success, but the team I work with dedicated themselves to “raising the level of excellence” and working hard to grow and develop in different areas of ministry. The biggest thing I did was simply empower people to take responsibility and believe in themselves. I work with a young 20-something young lady who is absolutely amazing but hadn’t been given much of a chance to lead under past directors. All I did was simply support her and encourage her to try new things, find that there is freedom in boundaries, and believe in who God made her to be. She is now the director over Elementary and I am overseeing both that area and preschool. Our preschool ministry is thriving as well. Again, simply because I have been empowering staff and volunteers to lead in their gifted area (puppet ministry, drama ministry, worship ministry, etc.).
What would it take to grow a kid’s ministry program?
Much of my answer (above) covers that. When people are empowered and supported, they can do incredible things. When they are given a chance to grow and discover their gifted areas, it’s amazing what can happen. My Elementary and Preschool Directors have very good relationship with a majority of our parents. Because of that, our parents are totally “bought in” to both ministries. In addition, both directors invest–BIG TIME–into the kids. When we were shut down because of COVID, we were afraid that our numbers might not rebound. However, we are starting to track at our regular numbers and are starting to see some new families as well. I believe this is because our kids and our parents have experienced the investment and love the kids and our families receive from both our directors.
Your members/guests and their families come to church with specialized needs, different learning styles, and family stresses. Do you have a strategy to provide significant ministry to meet these needs?
Because I have the luxury of writing our curriculum lesson (customized) I incorporate a variety of learning styles in the lessons. Not that other curriculums don’t take this into account, but our ministry has the luxury of my ability to tweak a lesson to fit the different learning styles, mental capacity levels, and age levels. The place where community and connection truly happens is within the small groups with a designated leader. It is through that smaller grouping that kids are able to express themselves and respond to questions (which connect to the lesson). Again, part of my writing style is to put discussion questions (at age appropriate levels) into the small group curriculum that allows a leader to connect with the kids in their group on a deeper level. For instance, if we are talking about Daniel in the Lion’s Den, then I can create small group questions/discussions that connect to that feeling of being in a “scary” situation or a challenging situation. With training, the small group leader can then be ready to dig deeper should a child express a fear or challenge that needs more focus. This isn’t to say that leaders become counselors, but trained volunteers can be aware of those instances where more care needs to be taken or information needs to be advanced (to the parent, to another trusted adult, to leadership, etc.) In addition, when there is a strong connect between parents and the ministry staff, there is a trust and a “give-and-take” that happens between staff and parents. My current Elementary Director has amazing relationships with our parents and because of that, she keeps in close contact with families and is “tuned in” to changes and issues that arise. Parents often come to her and share information about their kids and challenges they may be facing at home or even challenges they themselves may be facing. They often ask her to come along side them in figuring out the best way to handle the issue. Again, she isn’t counseling or taking the role of a counselor…she is simply being available and open to helping when invited to do so by the parent or guardian of a child. Again, it all comes down to communication, partnering with parents, and investing.
Describe the diversity of some of the ministries with which you’ve worked. How did you go about learning and educating yourself in order to effectively reach your community?
I’ve had the luxury of working for some of the smaller churches and biggest churches in the country. That has offered me the experience of ministering to a wide range of families, ethnicities, cultures, financial levels, etc. When I was at Lakewood Church, the diversity was amazingly abundant. The same goes for my time at Willow Creek. With attendance in the thousands, you have a wide variety of people attending. I also worked for a small church in my hometown (very depressed area and culturally diverse). Each of these churches (both large and small) were wonderful training grounds for me. Simply immersing yourself in the diversity is an amazing way to learn and grow. It is through that learning and growing that you begin to formulate an effective way of reaching the needs of the community. Another area that I’ve been fortunate to have a great deal of experience is in a special needs ministry at a church in California (I wrote their special needs curriculum for four years). Several times I had the opportunity to go out to the church and spend time with the staff and volunteers. Just the time I spent with their team and the kids in the ministry helped me learn and grow when it comes to working with special needs kids and families. God has been so, so good in putting me in positions and places where He has allowed a wide-range of opportunities and growth.
Is there a process that you go through when choosing a platform for screening volunteers, curriculum choices?
To be honest, this is probably the area where I have the least “hands on” experience. In all my roles and positions, there was a designated volunteer coordinator who was in charge of setting the platform and screen process. I have been involved on the “fringes,” but not directly involved. Although I’ve not been directly involved, I’ve still obtained a great deal of knowledge on the best ways to recruit, process, obtain, and retain volunteers. Although I’ve worked with different curriculums (Orange, Gospel Light, Cook, Sharefaith) (and written for many different curriculum companies), most of my career, I was hired as a writer and thus, created the curriculum for the different churches I worked for. For the past two years and in the position prior to coming to Ohio, I’ve been in a leadership capacity. Although I believe there are some great curriculums out there, if given the opportunity, I’ll choose to create a customized curriculum rather than purchase a curriculum. That’s not to say I’m not willing to do so, but I love being able to create and write something that can be customized for the ministry I’m working for. If choosing a curriculum, my biggest requirement is that it is Bible driven versus virtue driven. What I loved about my time at Willow Creek is that we always started with a Bible story and then we chose a virtue from that story. Most stories will have more than one virtue so we would choose one to focus on one ministry year and another one in a different ministry year.
What have you done in the past to ensure your church has a safe environment, including emergency procedures.
Our team works together to formulate and implement the safety plan for all the NextGen ministries. It’s important to have the procedures in writing, posted, and available for all volunteers and staff to have access to. In addition, training and drills are important. We try to walk our volunteers through the emergency procedures a few times a year
How would you describe the ideal relationship between senior/lead pastor and kids pastor?
I believe this is one of the most important relationships in the church. When children’s ministry is healthy, strong, and being supported by leadership, everyone benefits. I’ve worked in churches where children’s ministry was considered “babysitting” and in churches where it was one of the top priorities. The churches that saw children’s ministry as a priority were the churches where growth was happening and families were involved and engaged. One of the hardest things in my current position is the feeling that leadership doesn’t necessarily see the value. I would say to this…”actions speak louder than words.” We are told that our area is important but actions say differently. It is hard because I see it affect the staff and it is discouraging. They get discouraged and feel undervalued. There is very little communication between leadership (senior/lead pastor) and myself (our team) and we all feel it. We often feel “forgotten” and ignored. The one-on-one meetings that are to take place once a week are non-existent. We are basically “doing our thing” with very little input or communication from leadership. I know how I as well as our team feels and it’s not an encouraging feeling. My belief is there is value and encouragement when the senior pastor/lead pastor takes the time to connect with the children’s director/pastor (or all ministries, for that matter). It sends a message (via this connection/communication with the director/pastor) to the team that they matter and what they are doing is important. We’ve seen through COVID that when children’s didn’t have in-person services, attendance went way down. When we opened back up, attendance climbed. In fact, we closed down for the month of December (due to rising numbers) and just reopened January 3rd. The gentleman who takes the church attendance (for all ministries) said that he was “glad that children’s had opened back up because attendance went way up.” The NextGen ministry truly is the future of the church and a senior/lead pastor who invests in the NextGen ministry realizes that fact.

References

Deanna Armentrout || (224) 563-7581 || [email protected]
Marie Robinette || (614) 648-5563 ||  [email protected]
Karen Morris || (740) 648-5651 || [email protected]
Kellie Bartley || (224) 623-2004 || [email protected]

Favorite Bible Story

The story of Esther

Favorite Scripture

Philippians 4:13