This post was written by Melissa Hendrickson, an INCM Blog Team member.
If you’re like me, you’ve worked in environments where your ministry is in a silo. Each one is working for the mission but has little to do with the other’s plans, goals, or dreams.
However, the best churches, the communities that value every person – kids from birth to 101, do their best to find connections from one ministry age group to the next.
Collaboration between ministries is the best way to achieve a greater long-term impact in the lives of the kids and families you serve.
I understand it first-hand.
For many years the children’s ministry, youth ministry, and adult ministry were all separated at my church.
Each was run by a different pastor and very little collaboration happened.
About a decade ago we began a paradigm shift that would shake this whole system up and lead us into a space of healthy collaboration.
When the pastors of various ministries are working solo to achieve their particular goals within an age group, they can lose sight of the larger picture of the community within the church.
We recognized that our community goals for intergenerational relationships couldn’t be realized unless we began to work with one another and dream together about programming, community engagement, and more.
To say this paradigm shift was an easy switch would not be true.
It has taken the better part of a decade, repeated conversations about why it matters, and a lot of intentional work to settle into a space where collaboration is welcome and wanted.
A Community of Collaboration
The first step that we took was to create a Next Gen Pastor role. We called it something different, but it was essentially the same thing.
With this addition, we began to have conversations about how the children’s ministry and youth ministry could be more effective if they worked together in establishing long-term faith formation goals.
The children’s ministry had clear goals about what they were working to accomplish during the time babies to fifth graders were in their ministry, but once those students moved into the youth group the goals became less clear.
As we began to discuss what it looked like to plan from birth to graduation we pinpointed several key areas we needed to work on.
One thing we knew was that we wanted intergenerational relationships to grow within the church. This meant that people of different ages needed opportunities to interact with one another.
We needed to work with other departments in the church to think about how we could connect the generations in ways that would be enjoyable for everyone.
Here are a few examples of what we did:
- Outreach Events: We began to plan outreaches where everyone could participate. Adults, teens, and children could work side-by-side serving the community and getting to know each other.
- Special Events: We made changes to our annual Christmas program. Instead of it being something that the children did alone, we adapted our program to include participants of all ages.
- Change Up Sunday: We decided to have Family Sunday once a quarter. These services would include all ages worshipping together, adapted sermons, and teen volunteers helping greet people at the doors and collecting the offering.
- Whole Family Events: We also began to plan events for the whole family. This helped decrease the number of events on the church calendar, while at the same time providing opportunities for people of all ages to get to know each other better.
Previously, our children’s ministry and youth ministry teams had followed different training schedules, but as we began to collaborate we realized having our teams meet together for training would help get everyone on the same page.
We began regularly sharing a meal and hanging out, and then we would enter a time of training on specific topics that were applicable to all of our volunteers.
For the last 30 minutes of our meetings, we would break up into smaller training groups to cover anything specific about the classrooms where these volunteers served.
In combining our training times we had the opportunity to get to know each other more deeply.
This helped us with communication within our larger team, but also within the church.
Our time together afforded us a deeper understanding of the work happening in each department and made it easier to champion one another when problems arose.
It takes time to work in collaboration with other leaders in your community. It can feel faster to make decisions on your own, but it is worth the time and energy spent developing these partnerships.
If you aren’t sure where to begin, I’d invite you to spend some time prayerfully considering the first step for your community to move toward a more collaborative dialogue.
- Who can you talk to that might be open to collaboration?
- What would it look like for your community to think beyond individual departments to partnerships?
Moving to a model of collaboration doesn’t happen overnight and there will likely be bumps along the way, but if you and others in your community are willing to invest the time and energy it will be wildly worthwhile.
Melissa Hendrickson has served children and their families for the past 26 years. She recently founded holyformed.org and is writing and teaching on Spiritual Formation. Melissa has been married for 21 years and has two sons. The oldest is in college, and the youngest is in high school. Melissa loves to read a good book, enjoys a nice cup of Rooibos tea, and always looks forward to traveling with her family.