by Kim Vaught
Would most church leaders describe the next generation as one that has potential, or as one that has problems? The answer is yes, both.
Montgomery Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, has always been an advocate for the next generation. Last year we decided that our ministry to this age group needed to be restructured. Two separate ministries coming together as one.
Crosstown Children’s Ministry (birth-sixth grade) is a thriving ministry to kids and their families. It had been located in the main church building, which had undergone a huge renovation in 2006 to update the facility and technology to be more relevant. EPIC Student Ministries (seventh-twelfth grade) is the larger of the two ministries. It had undergone, within the past five years, changes in leadership for two different student pastors. Their offices were located across the parking lot in the office building. There was a great need to create space that this age group and its leadership could call their own.
Both ministries were working independently. It was very evident that the leadership had created some great silos. We sensed a pressing need to strengthen these areas and the family, to bring them together for seamless transition. So a new vision emerged. In December of 2009, Children’s and Student Ministries merged to become Next Gen Ministries (birth-eighteen years old). I became the senior staff overseer of this ministry with four directors, one for each area-early childhood, elementary, junior high and senior high-along with support staff.
I am all about team, and I have experienced the synergy and energy that comes from a group of people working closely together to impact the Kingdom. As the Next Gen Pastor, how could I bring these programs and personalities together to become an effective ministry? How could the leadership team begin to break down the silos?
I have been a children’s pastor for seventeen years. The students now in the junior and senior high ministry have gone through my department, but they are much different people now and living in a culture that is one of the biggest mission fields in the church. Boy, did I get on my knees and pray for God to lead and guide! I must say, as anxious and excited as I was going into this new venture, I knew that as the vision came together, it was going to be something that would make us better, make us stronger and make us more effective for families. In the next few paragraphs, I share my journey over this past year and how God has and is continuing to work.
Step One: Prayer
I love waking up every day and doing what I do! God is my Rock, and daily I lean on Him for wisdom and guidance. As a leader, I have to daily self-talk and keep myself in check to make sure Kim is not running the show. My mind is constantly dreaming and strategizing, but I need a time when I am just quiet before the Lord so I can get clear direction on next steps for this new journey. I began truly praying James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to you.”
Step Two: Relationships
I believe chemistry is huge when talking team and the leader must have competent people helping drive the ship. I was inheriting a student ministry leadership of two people: a worship guy and a junior high guy. Two positions were open: an administrator and a senior high pastor. As the hiring process began, we saw that we needed to bring the teams together in one area, one space. Having the children’s ministry team in one building and the student ministry team in another was not optimal. So we designed a plan, opened up some other spaces and brought both teams in one central area in the main building.
I am happy to say that as of July 2010, we complete the team! Having offices next to each other and spending time with each other every day has definitely helped us grow closer. We meet weekly, eat lunch together, go on retreats, have our times of laughter and our times of “scaring each other to death” (you can ask me more about that one). We pray together and have activities outside of the work environment where our families can join us. I am very intentional about the balance of work and play. It makes for a much more enjoyable and tension-free environment. Being single, I am overly sensitive to the rest of my staff who have family, holding them accountable for time with their spouse and children.
Step Three: Understanding Each Other’s Cultures
The children’s ministry staff thinks student ministry staff do not plan or work much. The student ministry staff thinks children’s ministry staff babysits and have it easy. These ideas are not true representations of either group, but they are perceived as reality. So we had to begin educating ourselves on each other’s culture with the objectives of being able to appreciate one another, see how we are going to work together seamlessly and be able to speak up for one another and be supportive.
Weekly staff meetings provided informative communication, but we also wanted to read up on research from professionals. The children’s ministry staff was given the book by Chap Clark, Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenager. The student ministry staff was given George Barna’s book, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions. During the next several months, we would read these books and discuss them during our staff meetings. It was amazing how the chapters in these books overlapped and the discussion was so rich! This kind of communication began opening up a world of understanding that is bringing us closer as a team. Another way we are educating ourselves is by going to seminars and conferences together and attending breakout sessions pertaining to ministries outside of our own.
Step Four: Visioning and Strategizing Individually and as a Team
Learning each other’s personalities and educating ourselves on culture is a continuous process as times are always changing. As we moved forward as a Next Gen Team, we needed to know and understand the purpose of our individual lives, and see how aspects of our lives fit into the larger picture of the team’s and church’s vision. Our goal is to not only make disciples of children and students, but to strengthen the family unit. We want to be able to say to a parent when a newborn is dropped off into the nursery, “Here is the spiritual growth path we will be taking your child on for the next eighteen years.” Through retreats, meetings, side conversations and prayer, we are formulating what we want Next Gen’s mission to be. We have a calendar already set and have scheduled our events to where we are not competing for resources, budget or building. We are doing some events together, and some we are running separately, but we are aware of what the other team members are doing and supporting anyway we can.
Step Five: Fine Tuning
After a year of being Next Gen, we have many accomplishments. We are on the same page as far as processes, calendaring, goals and desires. God truly has called each one on this team for such a time as this. We are loving life and Kingdom work! We do not have it all figured out, but we are willing to be risk-takers and we desire to learn and continue to grow ourselves. Networking is huge for us, so we would love to be able to talk with those of you who are doing what we are doing with Next Gen or have a desire to develop this model of ministry in your own church.
Kim oversees birth through high school ministry as the Next Gen Pastor at Montgomery Community Church. Kim has over nineteen years of experience with a BA and MA in Religion. She has an easy going style, sense of humor, and deep love for children and students.