The role of Family Pastor / NextGen Pastor is somewhat new in the church. I'm referring to a staff person who is responsible for leading a staff team of people that oversee children and student ministries, from birth through high school (or college). Because the role is somewhat new and is rapidly becoming more popular, there is a question that is often raised about the position. In fact, it's the question asked after you answer What is Family Ministry?
What should a Family Pastor do?
This question is asked by some people who are interested in the role, but more often it's asked by those who serve in it. They're trying to figure out exactly what it is they should be doing and how they can best use their time and talent. Here is my take on what a Family Pastor should do in order to best serve their church.
Lead & Unify The Team
Ultimately, a Family Pastor is tasked with leading the family ministry staff team. The goal is to not have silos and instead of one team that's unified. In talking with another NextGen Pastor recently he mentioned how his team felt really unified. Specifically, he said he could probably ask his Student Pastor to fill in and lead Preschool for a year and he'd say yes. Not because he'd like it, but because the team is what's most important.
What does this look like?
As Reggie Joiner says, “you can't be on the same page if you're not in the same room”. A Family Pastor should be in meetings. A lot. Not meetings that are a waste of time. Meetings that unify the team where you celebrate, learn, and grow together.
Coach & Develop Team Members
This is true of all leaders, but Family Pastors should make their team members better. It's our job to coach and develop the family ministry staff team so they can reach their potential.
What does this look like?
This, too, involves meetings. Here we're meeting with individual team members to encourage, evaluate and challenge them to get better. Outside of meetings we're giving them opportunities to step up and lead in big ways. We're holding them accountable to goals they set regularly. A Family Pastor is doing their job well if everyone on their team gets better and gets the credit.
The Family Pastor should be the biggest champion of family ministry to the rest of the staff team, including their boss and/or the leadership team of the church. Ideally, a Family Pastor sits on the executive leadership of a church but granted, I'm biased.
What does this look like?
This looks like hard conversations with whoever leads us. Sometimes we're bringing up something that was overlooked as it relates to family ministry and it's not an easy conversation to have. Sometimes we're fighting for something because of the family ministry impact and there will be conflict. Hopefully, healthy conflict. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that our first team should be the one we serve on, not the one we lead.
Champion the Key Principles
The book Think Orange outlines a framework for creating and leading a great family ministry. Orange has tweaked the language some since the book was written, landing on the following 5 phrases:
- Align Leaders
- Refine the Message
- Engage Parents
- Elevate Community
- Influence Service
I believe the Family Pastor should be the biggest champion of those 5 principles and they should work to ensure their ministry does them well.
What does this look like?
As Family Pastors we should cast vision for the importance of each of those principles. Small groups for kids and students should be central. We must regularly evaluate how we're partnering with parents and seek to do better. One way a Family Pastor does this is by monitoring the transitions and milestones because they are important times where parents can re-engage. In a given month a Family Pastor is probably working specifically in making sure one or more of those principles is being strengthened.
My Family Pastor Observations
The Orange Conference is the best way to connect with other people who serve in the same role as you, so you can learn from each other. Here are some things I have learned about this newer role from my time at the Orange Conference.
It's a very new role
Some people have been in the role for over a decade, but that is very rare. Any time there are a bunch of people gathered at Orange who serve in this role, the average experience the group has in the role is about 2-3 years.
It's a confusing title
The titles can be confusing because churches can have a Family Pastor and they just lead Children's Ministry. They can have a NextGen Pastor and they just lead college. “Family” can sometimes be part of some job descriptions, but only to emphasize partnering with parents, like Children's & Family Pastor. If you're really just looking for people who lead the charge for birth through high school or college, you have to state that since the title alone is not common enough, like Executive Pastor.
There are similarities across all church sizes and structures
Like all roles on church staffs, people who serve in this role come from churches of various shapes and sizes. One person may lead a team of part-time and/or volunteer ministry leaders (preschool, elementary, students), while another leads a staff of 30 across multiple sites. All of them have similar responsibilities and challenges, however. Responsibilities such as leading and organizing great ministries for children and students. Ensuring the church partners with parents well. Making the transitions between age groups seamless. Championing family ministry in leadership conversations.
They all face challenges too, such as the hiring, training, and firing of staff. Balancing their time across multiple ministries and needs. While there are plenty of differences between two people in those roles who serve in very different contexts, there are also some big similarities and we can all learn from each other.
These people are big time leaders of leaders (or should be)
For most people in this role, they're leading staff and they must be a leader of leaders if they hope to succeed. Children and student ministries are a HUGE aspect of every church and usually have the largest team of volunteers. Tony Morgan has a helpful post on the 4 Stages of Leadership. People who serve in this role, in my opinion, must at least be on the 3rd stage: Lead Other Leaders.
What else should a Family Pastor do?
Love this post, keep these kind a coming. That is my personal request. Would love to hear more on the monitoring the transitions and milestones. What are you hearing is being successful? Tools being used? Systems and processes developed?
Thanks, Todd. Those are good questions. For us it’s about the specific plays we run for each transition and milestone. I’ll plan on sharing some of that here in the future.
What about a post about what a family pastor shouldn’t do. I recently changed my job description from Children’s Director to Family Pastor but I think in practice I still don’t know how to make the jump.
Good question, Liz. I think interviews I’ve done with other Family Pastors / NextGen Pastors would be a great source of information. In addition, you can email me at nick at nickblevins.com if you would like to talk more.
Thank you, Nick! I am a longtime listener of your podcast (at least four years) and just came across this article in a Family Ministry search. Thank you for bringing up the challenges and how to practically navigate them. I am a missionary in a country that has less than 4% evangelical Christians, so we are praying for the gospel and deep discipleship to reach every family!