Having been a pastor in the local church for going on two decades, I fear that many of our church staff are missing the point. I’ll try not become too depressing or “sky is falling” when I speak here, so let me acknowledge how much we get right first. My experience with leaders in the family ministry circle tell me that we’ve gotten pretty sharp at recruiting great leaders, setting clear expectations, and training those new leaders. We’ve grown so far when it comes to how we equip parents to lead at home, helping to make the gospel simple and clear when presenting it to children, and ensuring our environments are safe in a myriad of ways.

All of this trending upwards has seemingly hidden the thing that I find many are forgetting… the actual people.

I’ve served in more than a few key staff positions at the churches I’ve worked with, and the thing that I have to keep challenging myself to do is spend actual time with actual people. A pastor is expected to care for people, this isn’t a new idea; but somewhere in our endeavors to grow sharper, clearer, and more streamlined we can lose sight of the one-on-one knowing of the stories of the people that serve in our areas and knowing the families of the kid or student we’re investing in.

Think back to the past few months of how you’ve operated in your current role. Have you done or attempted to do any of these things?

Have you talked to a mom and dad together about the important step of baptism that their kid is about to take? We can plan elaborate baptism classes, baptism FAQ handouts, and even sparkly baptism celebrations, but are we actually hearing the stories of our families getting baptized. There has to be time for us to hear the story, answer their questions, share our own baptism experiences, and celebrate the moment…in the moment. It doesn’t have to be an either/or when it comes to your baptism systems, we should always make time for the conversations that are deeply personal and impactful.

Have you asked a leader in your areas recently how you can pray for them, and then immediately prayed for them right there at the moment? I’m as guilty as anyone; I love email and the even better text. The less conversation the better for me when I’m in an unhealthy place, but I’ve learned that a great leader makes room to let others answer this question in a safe place where prayer can follow. I’m fully convinced both through my experience at making the right and wrong response to this question, that there may be no greater investment we make in our leaders than to one-on-one spend time with them in prayer.

Are you regularly spending time with the parents of the kids at your church? This is the easiest to miss out on when leading kids and students, but maybe the most important. Making scheduled time to grab a cup of coffee before work with a parent in your ministry, buying lunch for a dad that brings his kids a few times a month, or God forbid…meeting the father of a teenager in your student ministry for some pre-dinner drinks at the sports bar in town. These are all easy to do ways of connecting with the most important voice in the lives of the kids and students you hope to minister to.

It’s honestly time for us to embrace the awkward of spending time with people outside of our normal circles of relationships. It’s worth it to know the family dynamics of someone that you are working hard to reach with the good news of Jesus Christ. It’s a great usage of the resources you’re entrusted with when you can go home at the end of the day and say that not only did you create policy and procedure handbooks, email volunteers about Sunday morning, text leaders about group questions, and sit in another staff meeting…you can say that you spent time with people. Time makes all the difference in how you lead and how God leads you to the place you’re serving.

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