2016 Family / NextGen Ministry Survey Results


Thanks to everyone who participated in the 2016 Family / NextGen Ministry Survey. I primarily did the survey to hear from leaders in family ministry so I can understand how to best serve them. I have a couple of big projects in the works for family ministry leaders, and this survey also helped me determine if there’s a need for those projects.

Survey Results

Scroll down if you would like to download the full results of the survey along with a number of cross references to see how that impacts the responses. Here’s information about the responses as well as what stood out to me.

Survey Responses

  • 256 people completed the survey
  • 161 Women & 94 Men (1 skipped this question)
  • Role Breakdown
    • 153 are Children’s Ministry Staff (60%)
    • 46 are Student Ministry Staff (18%)
    • 40 are NextGen / Family Pastors (16%)
    • 14 are Children’s Ministry Volunteers (5%)
    • 1 Student Volunteer & 1 Volunteer not in Family Ministry (1%)
  • Church Size
    • 0-500 – 46%
    • 501-1000 – 29%
    • 1001-2000 – 15%
    • 2001-5000 – 8%
    • 5001+ – 3%
  • 17% of the churches represented are churches planted in the last 10 years
  • 22% of the churches represented are multisite

What Stood Out To Me

  • I was a bit surprised how hard it was to get student ministry input. In fact, if it weren’t for advertising this specifically to student pastors on Facebook, the response rate would have been so low it wouldn’t have been helpful. I’m not totally surprised, however, because I’m aware that my connection in the student ministry world is not what I’d like it to be.

Helpful Topics

  • The #1 topic people say would be helpful to them is Partnering with Parents. #2 was Small Groups for Kids/Students. Volunteer Recruiting and Volunteer Training came in at #3 & #4, and I was pleasantly surprised to see Partnering with Parents and Small Groups as a high priority.
  • Strategy was close at #5, and those top 5 were far and away the favorites with a big gap between them and the rest.


  • 67% listen to podcasts, which is probably higher than I thought. The bulk of that is Andy Stanley’s and Carey Nieuwhof’s.
  • 82% would listen to a podcast featuring top family ministry leaders, while another 16% said they might.
  • Only 2% said they wouldn’t listen to a podcast with family ministry leaders. People are more open learning from podcasts than I thought.


  • Not enough volunteers was by far the biggest challenge leaders are facing. That was not surprising.
  • Not enough time was the second biggest challenge.
  • Men were twice as likely to say one of their challenges was not enough clarity (32% vs 16%).
  • Children’s Ministry Staff, Student Ministry Staff, and Family / NextGen Pastors were almost identical in the topics they were interested in.
  • 75% of Children’s Ministry Staff listed Not enough volunteers as a challenge versus 42% of Student Ministry Staff and 62% of Family / NextGen Pastors.
  • Whether a church is multisite or not did not impact challenges much, with the exception of budget (far less likely to list it as a challenge).

Church Size

  • Just like you’ll find in any recent multisite report, larger churches are predominantly multisite (75% of churches 2001+).
  • Church size did not really impact people’s responses about the topics they were interested in.
  • The larger the church, the more likely the leader was to list Not enough knowledge as a challenge.
  • Not enough rest also becomes more common the larger the church size gets.
  • Not enough budget is the opposite, being the most common in the smallest churches and becoming less common as church size increases.
  • Almost 3/4 of leaders in the largest churches (5001+) listed Not enough buy-in as a challenge, far greater than any other

Survey Results Files

Use the links below to download the full survey summary along with cross-referenced versions.

What’s Next?

I’m excited about the two projects I’m working on to help family ministry leaders. I know they’ll be helpful to me and I’m hoping the same is true for you. If you’re interested in hearing more about them, be sure to subscribe to email updates.

How to Partner With Parents Without Adding More


Everyone who subscribes to my email list to get weekly updates from the blog also receives a specific email from me right after they subscribe. In that email I share the 3 things they can expect from me and 3 things I’d like their help with. One of the things I ask them to do is fill out a short, 5-question reader survey. A recent subscriber asked a great question in that survey.

How do you partner with parents without adding more?

That’s a great question. I want to offer up some ideas, but please know I am like most of you, still trying to figure this thing out. We’re experimenting all the time. Some things work and other things don’t. Here are my thoughts on how we can partner with parents more without adding more programs and events to what we already do.

Communicate Well With Parents

One of the best ways we can partner with parents is to communicate clearly and consistently with them. Just like any relationship, communication is key. What good is all the work we do if many of our parents have no idea what we do and why we do it? Come up with a simple communication plan for parents. Maybe it’s a weekly email and 2 posts on a Facebook page. Start simple and let it grow from there.

Orient New Parents

If you’re like us, you may provide resources on Sunday for parents to use at home. One trap we can fall into is giving out those resources without ever explaining them to new families. I don’t have a perfect answer for this challenge, but one thing we’re trying now is a series of on-boarding emails for new families before they’re added to our regularly weekly parent email list. The emails are designed to explain what we do, why we do it, and how they can benefit.

Tap Into The Small Group Leader

If you don’t have a small group structure for kids and students, this will look different obviously. If you do, you can read this post about my belief that the best partnership we have with parents is the small group leader. Instead of adding a new program, event, or resource, we can equip small group leaders to make a connection with parents. Draft an email for them to send to their parents individually. Text them the phone number of a parent and ask them to text the parent. Carve out time while leaders are serving in their environment to allow them to write a note to a few parents.

Use Weekly

Weekly (GoWeekly.com) is a resource created from the great folks at Orange to help family ministry leaders develop their small group leaders and partner with parents in just 2 hours/week. It’s basically a yearly plan broken down into a weekly checklist that’s emailed to you. Now, you may notice it takes 2 hours a week and that is certainly more. But, this is something you can recruit a volunteer to lead and with some work on the front-end, you can hand it off completely.

Your thoughts?

I hope those ideas are helpful, but what would really be helpful is if you would share some of your thoughts in the comments below. We’re in this together and I don’t think any of us feels like we have it figured out. So, let’s share what’s working and what’s not so we can go further, faster.

If you’re interested in Weekly, here’s a video about it.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/142171511 width=800 height=500]

6 Reasons We Should Pay Children & Student Ministry Staff More


Almost anyone who works in children’s ministry or student ministry understands what it is like to be underpaid and overworked. That comes with ministry in general, but for various reasons churches often pay children and student staff even less than other roles in the church. What we pay those people says a lot about how much we value them and the ministries they lead.

Yes, I serve in Family Ministry and this post could seem self-serving. I do not lump myself in with what I write here and my impression overall of staff who serve in my role (Family Pastor / NextGen Pastor) is that pay is not as much of an issue.

6 Reasons We Should Pay More

Instead of just focusing on all the reasons we don’t pay children and student ministry staff like we should, here are 6 reasons I believe we should pay them more.

Education Isn’t The Best Predictor Of Success

Don’t get me wrong, I value education. I believe the best leaders are life-long learners. The problem is when we put too much value on candidates having specific degrees and then pay far less to children and student ministry staff when they don’t have them. Education is valuable, but it has not proven to be a great predictor of success in ministry. Paying a little more for more education is fine. Paying $10K-$20K more is not.

They’re Pastors Too

One thing I see is children and student ministry staff not being labeled as pastors and then they’re paid far less than pastoral staff. Yes, there are roles that are not pastoral in nature and I believe it’s fine to differentiate those roles. However, I do think we’ve missed it when we have directors of Preschool, Elementary or Student Ministry and they’re not considered pastors. They pastor tons of kids, parents, and volunteers and we shouldn’t value who they pastor less than who other staff are responsible for pastoring. We should expect more and pay more.

They Must Be The Best Leaders

Children and student ministry staff are responsible for leading massive teams of volunteers. In most cases, they lead the largest number of volunteers of anyone on staff. Our job as leaders in the church is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry.” If your children and student ministry staff are thriving, then they’re leading really well and carrying out ministry through others. In church world we’ll pay the best speakers, the best artists, the most educated, and give far less to the best leaders if they lead in family ministry. That is a mistake.

Their Ministry Impacts Well Over Half The Church

In many churches, children make up about 23% of attendance and students make up about 10%, and their parents make up another 33%. Add in the volunteers they lead who don’t have kids and you’re looking at about 70% of the church being impacted by their ministry. The main services in our church impact about the same percentage, but if you compared how well we pay staff who serve in each of those departments, unfortunately, it’s usually not even close.

Home-Grown Doesn’t Mean Less Deserving

This applies more with children’s staff than students staff, but you’ll find far more home-grown ministry staff in these ministries than you will in others. What that leads to is continuing to pay them just slightly more than the terrible pay they received to start out. Conversely, when we need a worship leader or groups pastor we’ll hire from the outside and sometimes pay twice as much. Knowing someone is rooted in our church and grew as a leader in our church does not mean they are less deserving on the pay scale.

In all honesty, I could probably have written 20 reasons, but if you’re looking for some more helpful content related to this issue, check out these posts on the Vanderbloemen Blog.

3 Reasons You’re Struggling To Find A Children’s Pastor & How To Fix Them

Why High Capacity Children’s Pastors Are So Hard To Find

Has your church done this well? Comment and tell us about it.

The 6 Things We Value In Our Family Ministry Coaches


In the previous post I wrote about our plan for developing Coaches within our family ministry team. Coaches are volunteers who lead teams of leaders, as defined in our leadership pipeline. Part of our plan for developing Coaches involves meeting with them regularly throughout the year and holding up the 6 values we believe every Coach should live out.

Family Ministry Coach Values

Coaches in our children and student ministries can have very different responsibilities. Some lead teams of small group leaders while others lead teams that create large group experiences. One thing they all have in common is they lead teams of leaders. Here are the 6 values we created that tap into what they have in common (in no particular order). They’re written in terms of who we want Coaches to be.


Connects with kids/students and knows them. Coaches primarily lead volunteer leaders, but all of them interact with kids and students on some level. We’re interested in Coaches who value that interaction and work to develop those relationships.


Develops their team members and helps them grow. This is one of the more difficult roles of the Coach, and that is to help their team members grow individually. This requires them knowing their team and challenging them to get better.


Establishes a relationship with parents. Our entire family ministry is built on the belief that parents are the primary spiritual leaders for their children and the church’s job is to help them thrive in that role. Coaches should always seek to meet parents and build a relationship with them.


Communicates on time with great clarity. The core essential for every Coach is to communicate with their team. Communicate weekly via email to provide updates. Communicate about volunteer schedules. Communicate with their team individually to serve them best. Being a good communicator is key.


Recruits new people to the team. The best volunteer recruitment happens through an invitation. Coaches should model the importance of that by getting to know people and recruiting them to join the team.


Cares for each team member and knows their needs. We had a little fun with the wording of this one, as you can tell. Every Coach should provide great care for their team members. People might first want to serve out of a sense of mission, but they’ll love serving because of a caring community.

Those are the 6 values we came up with. The job certainly isn’t easy and Coaches will naturally be better at some values than others.

What do you value in a volunteer Coach?

Our Plan For Developing Leaders of Leaders in Family Ministry


In a previous post I wrote about the importance of establishing a volunteer leadership pipeline in our ministries. Leadership pipelines provide a clear leadership path and a structure the entire ministry can be built on. As I network and work with other churches I’m encouraged to see so many churches doing this, many for the first time. One of the key roles on the pipeline, whatever you label it, is a volunteer who leads other leaders. Often times this is the highest volunteer role without being on staff. We call them Coaches.

Our Plan to Develop Coach Level Leaders

We’ve had Coaches for a long time in our children’s ministry, but it’s fairly new in our student ministry. Recruiting the right leaders for Coach-level roles is difficult because the expectation is so high. The role might require 3-5 hours/week if done well. Another challenge I know churches have is developing these leaders. We were facing that challenge too and rolled out a new plan that I want to share with you in the hopes that it can help your ministry.

The Challenge

One of the challenges we faced is that most of our Coaches had no leadership training or experience. Some had, but most of them were not used to leading a team of leaders. They had served as Leaders (the level on our pipeline, not the generic term), but most people on that level are leading small groups of kids and students. Some lead teams of adults, but there’s just so much more required to be a Coach.

Another challenge we had is that some of our family ministry staff were not naturally gifted and wired to develop coaches. It was not one of their top 3 passions and we saw the impact of that as the ministry grew. Our Coaches led less and managed more. We needed a system, even if it wasn’t long-term, where we could train and develop coaches in some type of rhythm and hold them accountable for the role they served in.

Coach Trainings

Our first move was to start having Coach Trainings with all Coaches from our children and student ministry teams. I am passionate about developing leaders and I love to create training content, so I led them. We had them about every other month and I simply created the content based on what we felt was needed. However, we knew this wasn’t a sustainable solution.

Coach Meetings

After having a few Coach Trainings we had a good feel for what was needed going forward. We transitioned from having Coach Trainings to Coach Meetings. Three times a year we gather all family ministry Coaches and we primarily focus on these 6 things:

  • Share Wins/Stories – We do this at every staff meeting, volunteer circle up, or team training, so we do it here as well.
  • Provide Shared Accountability – One of the responsibilities every Coach has regardless of their specific role is to meet 1-on-1 with their team members throughout the year. At Coach Meetings they share who they have met with and who they still have to meet with. They track it in our church management system.
  • Listen to Feedback – We want to get feedback regularly from every volunteer on our teams, and the same is true with Coaches. They know more than we do about how well it’s working (or not).
  • Cover Our Values – We created 6 Coach Values and we cover those at each meeting. They help reinforce the culture we want to create among Coaches.
  • Teach / Train – We pick one thing to focus on from a training perspective and we teach on that. Last time we taught the details of our assimilation strategy and where they lead within that.
  • Vision – We re-cast vision because vision leaks, but also because Coaches are vision-casters themselves.

Coach Meetings aren’t everything, of course. There’s the apprenticing of new Coaches and the 1-on-1s they have with their directors, but the Coach Meetings have been a helpful supplement. My favorite part about them is the power of having them in the room together and what comes out of that.

I’m grateful for our Coaches and the significant role they play in our family ministry. We couldn’t do it without them.

How do you develop volunteers who lead other leaders?