A little over a year ago I made the transition from a small church in coastal Maine to my current church just outside of Philadelphia. In my old church, it was just me and the senior pastor. I was the youth pastor, children’s ministry director, small groups coordinator, adult education leader, and the janitor—they wanted to make sure I would have enough to do to fill my full-time position!
Now I’m working in a church with dozens of employees, overseeing a student ministry program with weekly attendance about the same size as my entire previous church. We’re certainly not a mega-church, but it’s a completely different environment than any church I’ve ever worked in or attended. In hindsight, there are a few things I wished I had done differently in my transition between these two very different positions; here are a few of the biggies:
• I wish I had delegated more right from the beginning. I have assistants that I didn’t rely on nearly enough. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to use them, I just did what I’ve always done out of habit. I made phone calls for events, tried to do all the paperwork, made my own flyers and photocopies, and so forth. For almost a decade my only administrative help was my wife. The problem is, all that busy work took time away from what the church actually needed me to do. When I finally realized I was letting my past habits take away from my current ministry I made a list of everything that needs to happen on a monthly basis, from parent letters to lesson plans to clean up after an event—every type of work that falls under my responsibility and the student ministry here. Then I took that page full of tasks and programming and went through and assigned as much of it as I could to my staff and left only the tasks and ministry responsibilities that have to be me.
• I didn’t let the volunteers do enough ministry! I was so used to being the speaker, the teacher, the games leader—you name it, I was used to being the one doing it! In a large program, it turns out that it’s okay if I’m not at every meeting, every group, every activity, and every event—in fact, it’s essential, otherwise we won’t be able to minister to all the students! Let the volunteers lead programs, let them lead meetings, let them exercise their gifts—don’t hold back the ministry because there aren’t enough hours in the day for you to do it all.
• I’m learning more and more that my volunteers ARE my ministry now. Six months into my position here it hit me that my volunteer team is larger than my old youth group. That group of kids in Maine that was my entire life, that took so much of my time, and that I barely had enough time to minister to is smaller than my volunteer crew. Letting go of time with kids is one of the hardest transitions moving from a small church to a large church; it’s a strange paradox in that my job description is for the first time in my life 100% youth ministry, yet to live that out it means I need to focus on the adults. I counsel, equip, and lead the adults so they in turn can minister to the teens.
Transition is never easy, and moving between two churches that are significantly different from each other can add exponentially to the challenge of it all—yet it’s also an exciting time of growth and development for us as we lean on God and follow his calling!