Over the past month or two it’s been interesting to see this little debate pop up here and there and everyone voice their opinion. I’ll be real honest, when I first saw the posts popping up, I immediately assumed it was a sensationalistic stunt to stir stuff up, get lots of comments and make a scene. Like I could start a blog post saying that Sunday School is irrelevant and dead to the modern Chidlren’s Ministry and if you’re still doing it, you’re wasting your time and church’s money. Calm down, I didn’t mean that… honest. I was just making an example. Honest. (That would get a lot of comments, wouldn’t it?) However, I’m not going to judge. I don’t know what anyones intentions were. I’m not sure I really care. However, it is a somewhat interesting conversation though and I do have thoughts/opinions on the matter.
If I had to nail it down, I’d say the tension is more about a change in the times as it is semantic confusion. Ten years ago, the family pastor was pretty much unheard of. I’m not counting the Children’s Pastor who added “& Family” between “Children’s” and “Pastor” in their title. That WAS semantics and THAT Chidlren’s Pastor usually didn’t do anything different than any other Children’s Pastor. However, I think that strategies and methodologies are changing and people currently in some of these roles are feeling confusion and tension as parts of their jobs are changing, expectations about what they’re suposed to be doing is changing and who they report to is changing. As a result, some are trying to draw lines in the sand which may or may not be helpful. It may just be denial that things are unavoidably changing. When I became a NextGen pastor almost 3 years ago, I knew of two or three others in my role specifically. Now I know a few dozen. We’re seeing this role of Family Pastor emerge as a new role (or a rebirth of the Christian Ed Pastor from years ago as Jim Wideman likes to say). Good thing I got my degree in Christian Ed, huh?
Here’s where I see this trend going. Church plants will start hiring NextGen/Family pastors as one of their early hires who will oversee both kids and students, either as part time or full time positions. From the very beginning, the family will be a primary focus rather than just kids or students. Churches with this structure will probably experience less confusion, and Children’s Pastors and Student Pastors will probably be less confused or feel the need to draw hard lines. However, churches where student and children’s ministries are independent may feel this tension. Culture around them is pushing toward family ministry yet a role specific to that is vacant in their church, requiring them to define what that looks like.
So, my take is that this debate is more about a response to this strategic change as it is a need to define the value of a Children’s Pastor versus a Family Pastor, or whether current Children’s Pastors should do both. In my situation, I bear the weight of leading our family ministry strategy where my Children’s Pastors and my Student Pastors do their part in what they’re called to do with their unique gifts. Does that make sense? Thoughts?
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