What It Takes To Lead The Next Generation


by Nina Schmidgall

Are the ministries in your church competing? Are the various age groups working to be intentional and strategic but are actually pulling in different directions?

An increasing number of churches are realizing the importance of identifying an individual committed to developing a discipleship strategy from cradle to graduation—a NextGen pastor.

What is the Role of the NextGen Pastor?

Champion the Next Generation

The NextGen pastor is the “guardian of the DNA” for your family ministry. He or she will define and protect an overarching purpose and strategy so that all age groups are working toward a common goal.

Fight for Strategic Alignment

Competing interests within the family ministry at your church puts stress on parents and can create confusion. The efforts seem random and calendar becomes crowded. A NextGen pastor inspires staff and volunteers to avoid age-group silos. Everyone has their own area of contribution, but they all work together for the same purpose and end-result. They need to be collectively responsible for the same objective. This requires being in the same room at the same time on a regular basis to develop goals and strategies.

So, how do you know if your family ministry is aligned? Here are some indicators of strategic alignment:

  • Does everyone on the family ministry team sit around the same table regularly?
  • Do the calendars and budgets complement or do they compete?
  • Is there a clear, designated leader?
  • Have you clarified the win for parents at each stage?
  • Do you have an easy and clear transition between age groups?

Lead a Team of Leaders

Just because an individual is gifted at working with kids does not necessarily mean they have what it takes to lead as a NextGen pastor. A NextGen pastor must lead up to champion family ministry to senior leadership and cast vision down to all members of the team. They need to have a heart for leadership development and also the skills to supervise and manage people.

Create a Pro-Family Culture

The family ministry pastor is really a minister to the whole family. At National Community Church, where I serve as family ministry director, we do not host any event that is not focused, at its core, on partnering with parents.

If you have a NextGen or family ministry pastor in place or you are hoping to move in that direction, here are some steps you can take to make your NextGen pastor successful:

  • Ensure the NextGen pastor has a seat at the table of church decision-makers.
  • Ensure they can really manage teams—that they are capable and empowered.
  • Ensure they have the freedom to hire/fire and build their team.
  • Help them articulate the DNA of the ministry and a common language across age-group ministries.
  • Give them the support to meet regularly with their team leaders.
  • Help them align the calendar and budget.

When families see that your church is committed to their child at every phase and stage and have a strategic plan to maximize their investment, they will be excited to partner with you!

Nina serves as director of family ministry at National Community Church in Washington DC. During her time working for the United States Congress, Nina realized her deep passion for strengthening the family and the home. She has overseen the family ministry department at NCC since 2001, growing the children’s programs to seven marketplace locations. Nina and her husband, Joel, live on Capitol Hill with their three young kids: Eloise, Ezekiel, and Lorenza.

If you’re looking for a great leadership book, get the Summer Reading List: recommended books for leaders by topic, like “mobilize your team,” “engage parents,” and “elevate community.” You can get your copy here: http://bit.ly/OB-SRL1.

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