Being a really great NextGen Pastor means that you’re pretty good at a lot of things. This speaks to the need for NextGen Pastors to be generalists rather than specialists. You might have been an amazing Student Pastor back in the day, but now it’s important to be pretty good at things other than student ministry. There might even be areas you oversee that feels pretty foreign and scary. Yeah, it’s time to get over that because it’s only a matter of time before you’re leading it.
Last Fall, Nick Blevin’s and I had a conversation on his Family Ministry Podcast. The subject was your first year as a NextGen Pastor. In that podcast, I unpacked five things you really have to pay attention two when starting (or starting over) in this strategic role. I decided to take it a step further by writing about these five things here on iamnextgen.com. I kicked it off with culture, staff, and then knowing the role. In this post, we’re going to explore what is inevitably going to happen in your first year, diving into another role for a season.
DIVE INTO ANOTHER ROLE.
I was a Children’s Pastor for 12 years before I became a NextGen Pastor. I like to think that I’m pretty good at Children’s Ministry, specifically preteen elementary. It’s my sweet spot. In both of my NextGen Pastor roles, it was in elementary that I gravitated toward first. It was a natural area to fix. Interestingly, the elementary pastors were the first staff to leave after my arrival at both churches. It was pretty easy for me to step in and make adjustments before hiring new staff. However, since being a NextGen Pastor, there isn’t a role that I haven’t had to temporarily lead.
Elementary Large Group Director
Preschool Lage Group Director
Some positions were fun and came naturally. One position scared me to death (it was way more fun once I got past the initial shock). One position was really challenging and one was definitely hard and not very fun.
However, I’ve done them all. I was better at some than others, but I like to think that I was pretty good at every one of them and I’m not at all opposed to jumping in where I’m needed for a season. It comes with the job. A good NextGen Pastor is a generalist. That means you can do just about anything fairly well. Wow, there are a lot of things I’ve learned about diving into another role as a NextGen Pastor. Here are some big ideas.
Ministry Has More In Common Than It Has Different: I realized this first when I took over the youth ministry for a little over a year (that was about 9 months longer than I had planned to lead it). I was actually afraid of youth ministry. I felt out of place with the students, thinking that they would feel I was very uncool. Turns out they think everyone is very uncool, I just needed to get over it. Ha! As I dove into the job, I found that I was spending most of my time recruiting volunteers, equipping leaders and empowering others to invest in teenagers. Turns out, that is almost exactly what I did when leading children’s ministry. Obviously, there are differences with different age groups and expectations of volunteers who lead those age groups, but the core work was the same. I’ve found that one of the greatest things I can do for my staff (in every age department) is to help them recruit volunteers, help them equip leaders and help them empower volunteers to invest in the next generation. It really doesn’t matter nearly as much what your specialty age group WAS, what matters is helping your staff with the core competencies that you ARE good at and helping them develop in those areas.
Sometimes Your Staff Has To See It First: I’ve had competent staff look at me funny when I told them what I wanted to see them do in their ministry. I’ve had staff tell me that it was easier said than done. Honestly, sometimes an idea just needs a foothold to take root before it can spread. This might be one of the greatest advantages of stepping into a role for a season. When I came to MISSION 18 months ago, having coaches in our NextGen ministry had only been a conversation. At Gateway, we had some success launching coaches in youth ministry, but a lot of challenges in preschool and elementary. I decided that my primary focus at MISSION would be launching a healthy coaching team and we were going to start with elementary. In January of 2017, we launched with two elementary coaches. By August, we had eight and the youth ministry launched the new school year with 6 coaches as well. Six months later, we’d have nine more coaches in preschool. The staff just had to see the benefits of it thriving in one ministry area before they made it a priority for theirs. Sometimes ideas transfer far easier from one place to another as opposed to needing to be started from scratch.
Your Ministry Needs More Stability: Too often I’ve seen ministries implode at the loss of a prominent leader. Volunteers, parents, and kids are thrown into a tailspin – questioning everything. This is a point where many teenagers exit the church, feeling abandoned by their church or pastor. Ministries struggle for months while waiting for new leadership. This plays out in churches across the globe and this is one of the best reasons for NextGen leadership. In the midst of a transition, a NextGen Pastor can step in and lead without missing a beat. Hopefully, the NextGen Pastor already has a connection with the ministry and the transition seems minor as a result. In recent years, I’ve seen ministries thrive and grow in the midst of the transition, something that isn’t likely without strong NextGen leadership.
Identify With Your Staff: Some of the best staff transitions have been when I’ve hired staff to lead the ministry area I’m currently leading in the gap. The transition consisted of me personally passing the baton to them, introducing them to leaders and families and making new connections for them. I think it connects to the partnership I desire to have with my new staff. I didn’t hire anyone because I needed them to “save” me or “save” a ministry department, I needed them to join my team in leading this entire ministry. I fully expect to be involved in the ministry moving forward. I expect that we’ll collaborate and I’ll help wherever needed. However, I’ll probably also have opinions and expect to have a voice. I don’t want a lone ranger, I want a ministry partner. Leading the ministry and then handing it over creates a unique bond, but it also helps me to identify with my staff. Their job is hard. I know that because I had to do it for a while.
As a NextGen Pastor, you’re going to wear multiple hats. Sometimes you’ll wear a variety of hats over a period of time, other times you’ll wear multiple hats all at once. It comes with the job and is one of the advantages of this organizational arrangement. Resist the urge to be the expert (or feel like you need to be the expert). Just be pretty good at whatever you need to do as long as you’re being awesome at leading your entire team.