For the past several months, I’ve had the opportunity to travel with the Orange Tour where I’ve enjoyed the chance to speak to ministry leaders all over the country. Week in and week out, these men and women are killing it out there in the trenches. As I’ve gotten to know them and hear their hearts for kids and families, I’ve been amazed at the themes that continued to persist regardless of size, location, or denomination. Churches are more alike than different. Each of the bullets on this list really should have a dedicated post – and hopefully that will happen – but for now, here are a few thoughts and observations from the road. These are in no particular order.

1. Ministry is hard, and we can’t shoulder it alone. We need a team who we can trust to help us do the work of the church. We must remember it is not our work but God’s work. God calls us as the body of Christ to work together to continue the work that He started. That being said, trust your staff to do the work you hired them to do. If you can’t trust them, let them go or move them around to a new department. Find someone you can trust. If there’s no one you can trust, your employees might not be the problem.

2. Children’s and Student pastors can be some of the hardest workers on your staff. Support your staff. I’m hearing more and more children’s pastors tell me they feel like they are on an island with no executive staff support. They are tired and need to feel like you have their back. No one likes to talk money, but please compensate them with their hard work in mind. They are not working with kids; they are working with growing adults.

3. Rethink your ministry strategy. The churches that are thriving in their communities have done their homework and know what their community needs. They’re not trying to do everything. They’re doing what works and what their community sees as a felt need. Families are coming to Jesus because churches have stepped out of their comfort zone to invest in and invite people who aren’t showing up at “regular churches.”

4. The best leaders understand who they are and where they’re going and how they want to get there. Know your DNA and lead from who you are. If you don’t know who you are or where you’re going, how can you expect anyone to follow.

5. I’ve seen some INCREDIBLE children’s spaces designed on a dime. It doesn’t take millions of dollars to create great church environments. It takes forethought and planning. Paint and IKEA furniture can go along way. Great environments tell kids and students that you actually like them. Create spaces that speak their language.

6. You might need to find a new church. If it’s as bad as you say it is, then it’s time to either leave or change your perspective.

7. Related to that, you might need to take a break from ministry. All churches are going to have their issues. When you choose to serve one as your job, your choice comes down to what issues are you willing to either deal with or help change. If you are unable to reconcile that, you may need to step back and reevaluate why you’re here in the first place.

8. Two things are happening:

A. Churches are over-programming and taxing their staff members.
B. Churches are filled with consumers who aren’t investing themselves in their church.

When 1 and 2 happen in the same church, you have a recipe for staff burn out. We don’t need to be all things to all people. (See #4 above) Simplify what you do and invite people to be part of your DNA. Cast vision for why being the church is a better option than going to church. 

9. Believe it or not many small churches and large churches have similar problems: money, volunteers, and space. The only thing different is scale. It could be your next solution could come form a church very opposite of your own. Network outside of your normal sphere of influence and grab a new perspective that could revolutionize the way you do ministry.

10. Family Ministry alignment is less about a position than it is about a priority. It’s about what your staff is willing to fight for. Ideally this is a dedicated NextGen pastor. But for some situations, this may not be possible. When that is the case, whoever the boss is can keep alignment a priority by how they champion conversations between departments in family ministries. Do whatever it takes to avoid ministry silos. Your families will thank you.

BONUS: You have better ideas than you think you have. Be confident enough to implement them. Stop questioning yourself and take your ministry to the next level.

That’s what I’ve noticed. Do any of these hit home with you? What have you noticed as you’ve interacted with people in your part of the world? I’d love to hear more of the trends that you’re seeing. Comment below!

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