I’m halfway through my fourth year on a NextGen team. It has been and continues to be an interesting and eventful ride, I wouldn’t trade the last few years for the world. Joining this team and helping bridge the gap between children and student ministry has been nothing short of a win for our church and the families that attend. I look forward to see the continued evolution of this family ministry team and the way it continues to partner with parents to reach the next generation with the love of God at Gateway Church.
If you cannot trust the people you work with or you feel that they cannot trust you there will always be conflict, a NextGen team is not exempt. You can learn from each other more than you know, but you must be willing to listen to one another. Because of those on our children’s ministry staff, I have become stronger in the areas of application processes, child safety, parent communication, and volunteer recruitment. Our student ministry is better because of these people. We work together, eat lunches together, dream together, set goals together, argue together, cry together and resolve conflict together. We share a giant desk together.
A few Sundays back I had a guest speaker scheduled for our middle school program. This allowed me to float into other ministry areas and troubleshoot things that I might not be able to on a Sunday in which I am teaching. I do this often. This particular Sunday I wandered into the early childhood area. I was quickly asked if I could sub as a leader for a group of kindergarten boys. It was AWESOME! These little guys were full of life, rip-roaring and ready to go. As I learned their names and we talked about teenage mutant ninja turtles, I had a thought…”These are my future 6th grade boys, future graduated seniors!” I care just as much about what is going on in pre-school and elementary as I do high school because one day I know they will land in student ministry, and I want them to be ready for that. The parents of the 7th grade girl in your ministry also have a 4th grade boy. Until you realize that you exist to bridge the gap between the church and the home AND the age groups you exist to support you will always see silos in ministry. The reason the NextGen team works is because you are not simply thinking of yourself and what’s best for your particular ministry, you are willing to dive into the weeds of your peer’s problems and help them when help is needed, and won’t hesitate to ask them to do the same for you.
Get over yourself. It’s not about you. It’s about doing your very best to love, provide spiritual care, emotional support and direction to the families and volunteers/leaders that have been entrusted to you (read the parable of the talents). You do have to stand up for the things you feel convicted about or the areas you have experience in from time to time, but it should not trump teamwork or perspective. A sour attitude because of not “winning” a debate on a ministry decision, a tshirt design, ministry name, or where resources are being allocated will only cripple your leadership. If you have a bad attitude toward someone on the team or a situation that has occurred you need to work it out! Otherwise your team will have a very difficult time moving forward as a team and you will become a silo. This defeats the whole purpose of working on a NextGen team.
To the youth pastor out there that is considering a position on a NextGen (family ministry team) or to the NextGen pastor that is seeking a youth/student pastor to join their team…you both are in for it. It takes patience, humility, willingness to learn from each other and building off the best found in each of your teammates. You both will need the backing of higher leadership, help them understand what you are trying to accomplish through this transition, make sure they are on board and keep them updated throughout the process. Trust your instinct. You are in the position you are in for a reason. If you feel convicted about something along the way, you NEED to bring that to your team, they and your church will benefit from it if implemented appropriately. Lastly, if this is new territory for your church I’d encourage you to reach out to other teams that appear to do this well. Schedule a visit, ask questions, take pictures, ask if they would be willing to share documents, etc.
What has been your experience on a NextGen team? What are your biggest wins? What are your biggest hurdles?