The Unmistakable Benefits Of Longevity In Ministry

Brian 1999

Me and my daughter, Ashton, in my office at church circa April 2000

Today is October 31, 2014.  It was exactly 15 years ago that my wife, Cherith, and I came to Arkansas to be the Kids Pastors at First NLR.  What a ride it has been!  We have been blessed to serve under two incredible pastors, Dr. Alton Garrison (the first 18 months) and Rod Loy (the past 13.5 years).  To serve on such an incredible team (many of whom have been along for MOST of the ride as well) is more of a blessing than I could describe.

There’s something to be said about longevity in ministry – especially longevity in ONE place.  I am so thankful to have been able to remain in one place for this long.  Sadly, this is not the norm.

Probably all of us in ministry have heard the stats, and they are troubling.  The average Children/Youth Minister only stays at his current church for about 18 – 24 months.  Some studies have stated that it may be more like 3 years, and others I have seen say it’s more like 9-11 months.  But suffice it to say, the tenure of the average Children/Youth Minister is way too short.

When you move on too quickly, you miss out on the incredible benefits of longevity in ministry:

  • Improved Perspective – the longer you stay in one place, the greater perspective you have.  You know the history of the ministry – what worked and what didn’t work.  You know the struggles and victories of the people in your ministry.  You are able to minister from an increased awareness of their needs.
  • Deeper Relationships – it takes time to get “beyond the surface” in relationships.  The longer you stay, the more highs and lows you experience with people.  The longer you stay, the more they trust you to “stick it out” and be there for the long haul.  When they trust you, relationships go deeper.
  • Increased Wisdom – the longer you stay, the more mistakes you will make.  Hopefully, you will learn from those mistakes and grow.  Then, you will gain wisdom and not make those same mistakes again.  In addition, it seems that around the 6th or 7th year of being at a place, suddenly people begin to see you as smarter.  You may not be that much smarter, but their perception of you begins to become more of a wise mentor than a “new pastor on staff.”
  • Sharper Skills – many people claim to have “ten years of Children’s Ministry experience” when in actuality they have “2 years of Children’s Ministry experience in five different churches.”  Too many leave a church and move to the next one once they have run out of ideas.  Then, they move to the next church and put the same two years worth of ideas into that church – and so on.  When you commit to be at the same spot for the long haul, it FORCES you to develop your skills beyond your comfort zone.  Your communication skills, leadership skills, and relational skills are stretched when you choose to stay beyond the “itch” for something new.  Don’t go looking for that “something new” elsewhere, develop that “something new” right where you are!
  • Unparalleled Fulfillment – there is nothing that compares to being able to watch the children you minister to grow up and become strong leaders in the church.  I now have had the privilege to perform marriages of kids who grew up in my Kids Ministry.  My right-hand man, our other Kids Pastor here at First NLR, was a 3rd Grader when I came to the church.  In fact, three members of our Pastoral Staff were once kids in my Kids Ministry.  There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing your ministry come full-circle.

Longevity in ministry may be rare, but I believe that is slowly changing.  As Kids Ministry Leaders begin to recognize the benefits of longevity, this will begin to become the norm instead of the exception.  I am so thankful to God that I have had the opportunity to serve First NLR for the past 15 years, and I pray that I have another 15 (or more) left in me!

What about you?  What are some benefits to longevity that I may have missed?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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14 thoughts on “The Unmistakable Benefits Of Longevity In Ministry

  1. I agree wholeheartedly! I have been the kids pastor at our church for 25 years, 26 in February. I too have seen my kids church kids grow up in the church and take on leadership roles. Now I have their kids in kids church. It’s tougher to stay than it is to move around but it is so worth it!!!

  2. I am in my 36th year of kids ministry and into my 2nd generation….and that generation is now aging out into youth. I agree. Relationships are built over time. The kids I have now have parents who had me as their kids pastor then so there is an increased level of trust.

  3. I will never forget your first Sunday you were there. Micah was like maybe a month or so and Ty was 7 years old. My in-laws were visiting. My mother-in-law and I went to get Micah. I was thinking Aaron and my father-in- law was picking Ty up. We were fixing to leave and Aaron’s dad was like do y’all have Ty? We were in different cars. I started panicking. Running back inside. Knowing that Ty is always upset if I am late picking him up. To my surprise you were walking up in the hall way with Ty. Y’all were talking. Ty liked you right off the bat and wasn’t afraid. I think he helped you clean up around. Then y’all went looking for me. I know I said I was sorry several times. I was so afraid you was thinking I was one of those parents that was using you as a babysitter. Anyways, I won’t forget your first Sunday at NLR1st.

  4. Love this. I especially like the idea of sharper skills. I do think we reuse ideas
    From previous churches and I am nervous about starting a new year with no “new” ideas. How do you continue to do better?

  5. This is an insightful article. I totally agree. I had 17 years at my previous Church – and was a Kids Min volunteer for seven and on staff for ten. I have been at my current Church for 10 years. I agree with all the points. I find that there are some who stay too long – I don’t think it is a number as much as a changing of the guard and a ‘time and season’. This will be different for everyone – but yep 2 years, five times over is a short-termer!

  6. Agreed on all points. I’ve been at my church since 1989; volunteered in KidMin until 2000 when I came on staff as the Sr. Pastor’s secretary/Children’s Director. In 2004, he asked me to serve as Children’s Pastor. I turned him down three times, until a mother who worked with me explained that Pastor was interested in someone who was going to stay and love the kids, not someone who would be here today and on to a larger church tomorrow. I now have children of the children who were once in our KidMin. You’re right about sharpening skills and unparalleled fulfillment — it’s not easy, but it is SO rewarding!

  7. I am the Children’s Minister at CBC NLR (right down the road from you!!) I have been on staff there for 11 years and agree with everything you said!! The longer time passes the easier “keeper” events/programs become which allows you to focus on and implement new ideas. What a blessing to serve the LORD in “our” corner of NLR–I can’t imagine serving anywhere else!!!

  8. Brian,
    I congratulate you on your 15 years!! That is a wonderful thing to accomplish. I am one of those people who have moved a few times, and I need to add some differing perspective. I rarely have moved because I wanted “greener grass.” I moved because I ministered in a few churches that were truly dysfunctional at the highest leadership position or they were too small to handle multiple paid staff. or it was obvious that God was finished with me at that location and wanted me to move on. I always come into a church with the intention and goal to stay as long as God would have me stay. I appreciate your wisdom in this post and agree with you.
    I just think sometimes it’s beyond one’s control as a staff person on how long you can stay. I have always prayed that God would allow me the opportunity to stay for long periods of time an I hope this new ministry I’m involved in will me my final as a kids pastor. I would love to retire in from this ministry seeing many generations come through.
    I have approached this ministry with fresh vision and rarely to I recycle things from past ministries as what worked in one location may or may not work in the new one. I believe when God leads to a new location, he leads with fresh perspective and vision.
    Thanks for sharing with us!! May God give us all long and fruitful ministries.

    • Very good points, Tom! You are absolutely right that dysfunctionality is at times what makes it necessary to leave. I certainly was not addressing that in this post. If someone has made every attempt to overcome and fix the dysfunction, yet it persists, then leaving is the right decision. Its fair to point out, though, that often staff members leave at the first sign of difficulty. They fail to work through the problems and troubles that are part of every staff. Often, when strife and difficulty arise, they bail because working through difficulties is too hard. I pray that we ALL do everything we can to heal, learn, and grow before we pull the plug and move on. Thanks again for your perspective, bro!

      • I figured I’d gone too deep,but figured it was worth the discussion. Your heart was loud and clear. I totally agree with you that a mistake often made by those new to ministry is that they bolt at the first vibration of challenges. I know i fought that temptation several times in the past but instead chose to stay and work through the challenges. God blessed the ministry and I believe he’s blessed my family and I for those choices. I have counseled many people in ministry who are going through struggles, I’ve challenged them to stick with it as long as they can. Jim Wideman has a great resource that I’ve referenced, called “should I stay or go” Its a self test that really helps one gain some clarity. Thanks for sharing this! Again I pray that this ministry I’m in will be one for 15+ years too!

  9. I have been in ministry and at my church 8 years. I enjoy the stability for myself and for my family. I believe the congregation really builds trust with you after several years of ministry. They know what to expect and expect me to be there for their kids. This is a great blogpost.

  10. After 18 years of ministry as a Kid’s Pastor and now for the last two years, continuing in ministry with the same church as a multisite pastor, I agree wholeheartedly with Brian’s list of the benefits of longevity in ministry at the same church. Especially significant to me has been the fulfillment from being able to watch the children I ministered to grow up and become strong leaders in the church. I used to tell the Kids Ministry team, “Be careful how you treat these kids because someday they may be your co-workers or even your supervisor or boss.”
    3 John 1:4 (NLT) I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.