Vital Staff Relationships

Last week, I started talking about the vital staff relationships on your team. I’m focusing in on key positions, but I understand that each position is important. As a leader, though, you have to prioritize your time and focus. This is about making the most of that investment.

Two positions on your team usually seen as indispensable are the children’s pastor and student pastor. I thought I would tackle them together and group them as “next gen pastor.”

In some churches, this is a staff member who oversees all ministries from birth to high school graduation. Even if that’s not the case in your church, your children’s pastor and student pastor are responsible for the next generation of your congregation.

More than any other staff relationship, the one between the next gen pastor and lead pastor seems to have the most friction. There are lots of reasons for this. Sometimes, the next gen pastor is beginning a first staff job, and there may be a certain level of immaturity. Other times, there may be shared jealousy between the two.

Parents have a way of helping inflate a next gen pastor’s ego by asking, “When are you going to start your own church?”

It’s easy to listen to these words and either think you know better than the lead pastor or fear the next gen pastor will try to usurp your authority. But a healthy relationship between the two of you will create mutual respect.

It’s Not About You; It’s About Them

The relationship is vital because of the importance of the next gen staff position. The growth, health and future of your church depends on how well you’re preparing the next generation. Without a thriving children’s and student ministry, you’ll never see sustained growth.

First of all, it’s hard to attract young couples to your church if you have nothing solid for their kids. More importantly, if you aren’t raising up young disciples, who will take the reins of leadership in the years to come? This is all about a thriving future for your God-given vision.

It’s easy to get so caught up in leading and vision casting that you lose sight of the details. When you’re leading staff to accomplish a goal, you often stick to the big picture. And because your time on a weekend is almost exclusively spent in the adult worship environment, it’s not uncommon to lose track of what’s happening in the children’s and student environments.

But influential leaders are able to balance the big picture of vision with the minor details of mission. When you see your relationship with your next gen pastor as vital to the health, growth and future of your church, you will necessarily find ways to plug yourself into the equation and empower this leader to accomplish what’s right in front of him or her.

What You Can Expect

In every relationship, there’s give and take. It’s not too much to ask for loyalty and dedication. Your next gen pastor should show up on time and ready to go, whether for a staff meeting or a service. But you should also articulate some unique expectations for this role.

First, be clear about the goal of your next gen ministry. What do parents want to get out of it? Where do you see it going? Each church should have as part of its vision a way to prepare children, students and young adults for the real world.

When your next gen pastor succeeds, the whole church succeeds.

We may disagree on how to accomplish that, though. Some see next gen ministry as simply an attraction, a way to get kids excited and parents involved. This may mean fun games, exciting music or funny skits. On the other side are those who believe discipleship starts at a young age. They prioritize Bible teaching and worship.

But the truth is, these are not mutually exclusive. Work with your next gen pastor to find common ground between the two, making it a place where kids want to show up and learn about God.

Next, be clear about the mission of the next gen ministry. Should it mirror the overall mission of the church, or can it be unique to its area of ministry? Either way, it should never conflict with where you see your church going or how you plan to get them there.

Often, next gen ministry is accused of working in a silo, cut off from the rest of the church. Do what you can as a lead pastor to knock down those walls. Remember, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

What He or She Can Expect from You

What should you be doing for your next gen pastor? First, you need to show unwavering support. That begins in the pulpit in front of your whole church. Find ways to compliment your next gen pastor in front of all the parents.

Share wins with the entire church. That means the next gen pastor needs to share those wins with you. Open up the pipeline of communication from your next gen pastor to you to the congregation as a whole.

Here are three things you can say to your next gen pastor to communicate your support:

“You’re doing a great job!” That doesn’t mean you lie or you never criticize. It does mean you balance correction with praise, though.

“How can I help?” Recognize the roadblocks in the next gen ministry, and offer aid.

“We value you.” Show it by fairly compensating your next gen pastor for his or her work.

You can also show support by getting involved. Show up to major events. Make your presence recognizable. Ask to speak to both students and children often, stepping out of your regular weekend routine to serve as the lead pastor to all age groups. And regularly check in on how the next gen pastor is doing, even outside an annual review.

Taking your Next Gen Pastor to the Next Level

The reality is many see the next gen pastor role as a stepping stone to something greater. Fight the temptation to view this as disloyalty. Instead, begin preparing him or her for the next step as well.

Be a positive role model and mentor. And take it as a compliment if people on your staff are so effective that they want to step out into their own leadership. If they’re going to transition anyway, help them transition well.

When your next gen pastor succeeds, the whole church succeeds. The only way your church has a bright future is if you’re preparing kids, parents and staff members for that future.

Recognize the unique expertise your next gen pastor has, and lean into it. When you do, you’ll find that your church will grow in all areas.

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