I only know two NextGen Pastors who are in their second NextGen gig. That means that MOST NextGen Pastors are in a new role. The role is usually new to them and new to their church. Since most NextGen Pastors are fairly new to their role, that means there are a lot of unknowns. What an exciting time to be in family ministry, it’s like the Wild West of ministry, right?
Several months ago, I had the opportunity to record a podcast with Nick Blevins on his Family Ministry Podcast. We talked about your first year as a NextGen Pastor. To go into greater detail, I decided to write about the five things every NextGen Pastor needs to consider in his/her first year here on iamnextgen.com. I started with culture and then with staff. In this post, I feel it’s important to talk about your role.
LEARN YOUR ROLE.
Let’s not be naive.
Leading NextGen is going to be different from what you expect. Most NextGen Pastors have been youth or kidmin leaders who are now leading all age group ministry. What made them successful in their specific age group will greatly help them in their new role. However, most NextGen pastors are a little surprised by how expansive their new job is. Quite frankly, it can be more than a little overwhelming.
It’s important to resist the temptation to just dive in and start changing things and launching initiatives. It’s possible that the new projects will not be sustainable. You don’t know what you don’t know, so take some time to get to know the new role.
You probably have a job description. If you don’t, I have a few you can borrow (see examples at bottom of this post). Most NextGen job descriptions are the same, containing similar responsibilities and functions. However, don’t think that your job is limited to this digital piece of paper. A few years ago, I lead a breakout called “The Secret Job Description of the NextGen Pastor.” Personally, I found that the things I spent SIGNIFICANT time working on and the most challenging pieces of my job were not specifically described in my job description. Here are a few things you can expect in your new job:
Meetings: Everyone loves a good meeting, right? Get ready, because you’re going to spend a lot more time in meetings than ever before. First of all, you have a lot more responsibility. You’ll have more staff, more leaders and more volunteers to inspire, manage and lead. Between one and ones, small and large gatherings, you’ll spend both a lot of time leading meetings as well as preparing for these meetings. This shouldn’t be a surprise. What might not be expected is the amount of time you’ll spend in someone else’s meeting. Welcome to middle management. I find that I’m regularly in as many meetings outside of NextGen as I am leading in my own area. Get ready, this comes with the territory.
Expanded Responsibility: This is closely connected to your new (heavy) meeting schedule. With this new role, you have more responsibility than ever before. You now oversee more staff, more volunteers and more programs than ever before. However, that’s just the beginning. Because of your seat at the table (welcome to the leadership team), you can expect responsibilities that you didn’t ask for. You might find yourself leading church-wide volunteer initiatives, overseeing a strategic re-boot or some other executive cross-functional team. You’ll find yourself working on your pastor’s problems that expand way past your NextGen responsibilities. There have been many seasons where I’ve found myself at the end of a crazy busy week and I hadn’t even started with any of my NextGen tasks/responsibilities.
Confusion: Welcome to the world of obscurity. No one knows what a NextGen Pastor is. It’s likely that this role is also new to your church, so 99% of everyone who attends your church (including most of the staff) thinks that you’re just the youth pastor. Most people seem to have a pretty good idea of what a youth pastor is and most seem to understand the children’s pastor role. But for whatever reason, the NextGen/Family Pastor role will stump them. In reality, it probably doesn’t matter that 99% of people don’t understand what you do. What matters most is that you are very clear on what you do, that your staff truly understand what you do, and that your staff peers/leadership understand what you do. Stepping into the NextGen Pastor role at a church that’s never had the position can be very challenging for existing staff. Your youth pastor may know what you’re supposed to do, but they’re not 100% convinced that that’s exactly what you’re going to do. Your children’s pastor may question your qualifications to oversee ministry to children. Another pastor on the executive team may not understand your hire, especially middle management position with no direct connection to volunteers, programs or events. You’re going to spend some time providing clarity, helping staff understand what you do. When you’re successful, it will be obvious how important your role is, but you’re going to have to start with casting vision and then show people with results.
I wish someone had written this post 10 years ago when I first started as a NextGen Pastor. I spent the first 3-4 years not really understanding what I was supposed to do. I think I was really surprised by some of my responsibilities and I took way too long to push forward on NextGen initiatives that would eventually impact our church in significant ways.
Enjoy your new role. Take some time to get to know it though. It’s bigger than you realize, but it’s more fulfilling than you can imagine.
Nailed it Kenny. Going into year 8 here this Summer and it easily took me 3-4 years as well to really figure out what this role needs to be (or who this role needed me to be). I owe a great deal to the fantastic leaders connected to Orange (including you) and to opportunities like the NEXT Conference for helping me see through the fog and find clarity. Keep up the good work!