I’ve learned a lot of things over the years. After 20 years of vocational ministry, it’s easy to see your missteps and missed opportunities. I could write a book on the 10-20 things I’ve learned that I wish I had known when I started. However, there is one thing that stands out from among the rest. There is one lesson I learned that outweighs them all. Here are 20 years of experience in two sentences:

Never do ministry alone. Find your tribe.

I’ve read a lot of books on ministry. I’ve gotten two degrees. I’ve attended dozens of conferences. All of these things have pushed me, grown me and have expanded my capacity for leadership and ministry. But nothing has helped me more in ministry than my tribe.

In the past decade, my tribe has played a major role in my personal and ministry life.

  • I’ve walked out of leadership team meetings confused and frustrated. Our ministry was facing challenges we didn’t know how to overcome. On more than one occasion, I’ve been able to email my tribe and ask for their take on our problem. The next day, I was able to come back to my team with several fresh and new suggestions that helped us make better decisions.
  • I’ve experienced deep frustration and challenges in my job. I was having a hard time knowing if it was something I needed to press into or if it was something that required me to leave. Having a handful of people who knew me and knew ministry was the most important resource in the world. On more than one occasion, I had people who loved me who told me that I needed to get over myself.
  • I’ve experienced that feeling of being creatively stuck. I’ve gotten stuck writing a message, planning an event or organizing a meeting. It’s been life-giving to be able to send a text to a small group of individuals and ask for ideas and get several new perspectives. Some of my best sermons, projects, and events have been collaborative efforts.

Everyone needs a tribe. Everyone needs a network of people who know you and know your ministry. So, what’s next? I have two suggestions:

  1. Do you already have a tribe? Push into your community even more. Set aside a little extra time to connect. Schedule a couple of calls to talk through current ministry challenges. I’ve found that every investment I’ve made in my tribe has been worthwhile.
  2. Are you without a tribe? Make finding a tribe your priority. Join several online communities (facebook) and get involved in the conversation. Ask questions. Be curious. You’ll be surprised how quickly conversations will gather momentum and lead to emails and phone calls.

Where do you start? Simply search for your ministry on facebook and see what tribes come up. Your curriculum provider probably has a facebook group. There are ministry groups of every shape, size, and flavor. Join them all, begin to engage and you’ll see where the connections lead you. Let me tell you about a few groups I recommend:

If you’re a NextGen Pastor, there’s no community like the iamnextgen Facebook group. Actually, it might be the only NextGen group in existence. With nearly 500 members, the conversation is active and so helpful. Click here to request access (warning, you have to actually be a NextGen Pastor to join).

If you’re a Preschool Director, you’re going to love the preschool ministry leader Facebook group. A few of my favorite preschool leaders and I just created the group and we’re really excited about it. We’ve been assembling some of the best and brightest preschool leaders we can find. Click here to request access.

This group is so new, joining it is going to put you on the ground floor of something really incredible, trust me. I know of very few communities exclusively dedicated to the lower elementary and preteen ministry tribe that isn’t specific to a curriculum. I’m looking forward to some amazing conversations. Click here to request access.