by Jeff Jamba
How to do NextGen Ministry well when your church is not large enough to have a NextGen or Family Pastor:
Someone recently asked me a great question: how can we develop a NextGen ministry if we are not large enough or not ready as a church to staff that position? This is a huge area for potential development in many churches, because the vast majority are not able to dedicate a paid staff position for this role. Most churches, however, are in great need for a clear and focused strategy for how they are going to reach the next generations.
You can find plenty of evidence today of how the typical church is getting older and smaller. Often, this dynamic leads to an unfruitful debate over if bigger is better (because we are reaching more people) or smaller is better (because it helps people connect and grow better).
The debate among church leaders should not be between bigger is better (to reach more people with the Gospel) vs. deeper is better (helping people become more fully committed followers of Jesus). If you don’t think the church should be intentionally doing both of these, there are bigger problems you’ll need to sort out first before tackling a strategy for NextGen at your church.
What should concern all church leaders is the reality that many churches are not effectively seeing one or both of these goals happen in their communities. If the methods of many church ministries do not change, we all lose out on the incredible opportunities we have to reach the next generations.
Most churches do not want to continue the trend of getting older and smaller. Having a NextGen strategy for your context is a key part to reversing that trend. So where should you start?
First, identify a small team of people with that same passion to reach the younger generations that are not engaged by your church at the rate you would like to see. Those people are there in your church right now. If you want a hint on where to start, they tend to smile more than others. Go to your leadership boards (elders, deacons, ministry teams), small groups, and any other venues where people from your church meet. Ask if anyone would be interested in meeting to learn more about developing a plan to reach younger generations more effectively at your church. Be sure to get their contact information to follow up with them.
If there are not young people as part of this team, go and find some outside your church to be part of this conversation. They don’t have to even care about your church. Pay them to be there if you have to! Why? If you don’t have the voice of the young people you are trying to reach, you will build a very nice sounding plan that looks great on paper but almost certainly will not work in real life.
Next, set a time to meet. Even if you have to cancel youth group, your upcoming harvest festival, or your senior hymn sing, do it (okay, you couldn’t cancel that even if you wanted to, let’s be real). Remember, this is about the ability of your church to become committed to reaching younger generations. If you don’t clear the space, new ministry life cannot take root and grow.
Lastly, put time on your calendar that is dedicated to putting time and effort to dreaming, creating and refining a plan for your specific context of ministry. Make your goals short term (think in blocks of about 90 days or so), because you will not end up acting on a goal that is six months or more in the future. You need to make progress now. Make goals you can actually achieve in that stretch of time. Doubling your Sunday Kids Min attendance is not going to happen in 90 days. Getting rid of that weird stain in their large group room can probably be accomplished though.
Need more help in developing specific next steps that you should take in your specific ministry context? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d love to help at whatever level is the right fit for you.
In our next post we will bring you some do’s and don’ts of creating a NextGen ministry team in a church context that is too small or not ready to staff this position.