Here’s something to think about. Progress usually leads to innovation. Innovation then leads to complexity. With complexity then comes a revision of systems. Inevitably, the revision of systems leads to the elimination of things that are no longer necessary or helpful. Therefore, innovation leads to extinction.

I remember the first time I flew out of the airport of my hometown of Valdosta, GA. The ticketing agent warmly greeted me with his thick southern draw as he transferred my suitcase to a bin behind him. Twenty minutes later, I looked out the window and actually saw the same man driving a small John Deer tractor pulling the two luggage carts to the small plane that would take me to Atlanta, the only destination from this tiny rural airport. Once it was time to board the plane, the same guy took my ticket as I walked down to the tarmac for boarding. If only he had been the pilot as well, it would have been perfect. Many rural airports continue this process, where a few people do everything. What you might experience in a small community airport is really a look into the past. At the modern bustling city airports, thousands of people are required to perform the jobs one or two people did in the small town. At the big airport, the woman who welcomes me at the check-in counter welcomes everyone at the check-in counter – all day – every day. The job has become even more specialized. Advancements in aviation have made it easier for more people to fly requiring the further specialization of jobs. The person who can do it all isn’t as valuable anymore. I could even say something about how further advancement is edging out many of the specialized jobs. The introduction of self check-in kiosks we now enjoy at check-in has replaced tens of thousands of jobs. A recent study said that by 2020, 80 percent of flyers will experience a nearly complete self-service airport that will save the airport industry over 2 billion dollars.

The building/construction industry has a similar story. There was a time where the most critical job was that of the Master Builder. The Master Builder was responsible for every aspect of a building process. They designed, engineered and oversaw construction from the beginning to the end. Master Builders were responsible for architectural marvels such as Notre Dame, St. Peter’s Basilica and even the US Capitol Building. However, the Master Builder role is all but extinct. Buildings have become more complicated than any one person can manage. Architects, engineers, designers and contractors each own various parts of the building process, relying on intricate steps, checklists and communication to complete the amazing structures of today. It’s a complex system, but it works. A 2003 Ohio State University study found that there are about 20 serious building failures per year, which is an annual avoidable failure rate of less than .00002 percent.

Innovation leads to complexity which leads to extinction.

Let’s take a look at Children’s Ministry real quick. Those of you who have been doing kidmin for only a few years may not know this, but kidmin used to be a lot simpler. Most churches just had Sunday School and maybe a 3-5 minute portion of the adult service where the kids came up front and heard a story/teaching at their level. When it came to curriculum, your choices were limited. Your denomination provided it and that was the only option. Today’s Children’s Ministry looks very different. There is no longer one way to execute ministry to kids. Every church has their own space to innovate with hundreds of options for curriculum. Between camps, retreats, outreaches, large group, small group, parenting resources – Kidmin has advanced. It’s not what it was 50 years ago. It’s not what it was just 5 years ago. But with all this advancement, Kidmin has become complex.

This leads to a very interesting question. If innovation leads to complexity and complexity to extinction – what does that say about the traditional Children’s Pastor? The man or woman who seems to be doing it all? Kidmin leaders have to be a jack-of-all-trades, but is that really a good thing? Should we really be known for our ability to do everything or should we be known for how we have specialized and have become amazing at coordinating with other specialists to lead a complex and dynamic ministry?


This post is part of a larger series on moving your ministry forward using the often neglected tool - the checklist. In this series, we unpack how a system of checklists can actually help us take our ministry to new levels. Plus, we want to share dozens of actual ministry checklists you and your team can implement right away. Click on the link below to explore this topic and pick up some helpful resources!