Leaders: If You Miss Family…You Miss (Almost) Everything

Leaders: If You Miss Family...You Miss Almost Everything

I’m a senior pastor, and I’m passionate about “leadership” issues. But I almost missed one of the biggest of them all, all because it had to do with kids and teenagers.

While I have kids of my own, I thought kids in ministry were an issue that we programmed for.

It’s perspective many senior leaders fall into: hire or recruit some capable people to look after kids and teens so you can free up your time not to think about family.

I realize now that my old perspective was dead wrong. What’s more, it was incredibly unstrategic. And let’s add unspiritual into the mix too (I believe God has a heart for families).

My flawed perspective came into sharp focus several years ago. I had invited Reggie Joiner (who founded Orange) to speak at a conference I hosted. I wanted him to talk about leadership and give leadership talks. He agreed, on one condition: that he give one talk on the family.

I didn’t really want him to talk about family, not because I don’t like families (I love mine and many others), but because this was supposed to be about, well, leadership. I only agreed to let him do the talk because it was part of the deal.

So what happened?

I loved his leadership talks.

Almost everyone else couldn’t stop talking about his family talk.

It actually kind of frustrated me at the time. But I couldn’t deny it.

Talking about family lit up our families.

Talking about family lit up our families about their friends and neighbours and how to reach them.

I couldn’t put the genie back in the bottle.

Over the last few years I realized that Reggie is on to something big. He’s onto something that every senior leader ignores to his or her peril.

Family is an issue that demands the focus and attention of every senior leader (and their team) for at least these 5 reasons:

1. Unchurched people never lie awake at night thinking about your next sermon; but they do lie awake at night wondering if their kids are going to be okay. When you start the conversation with unchurched people around the cause of family, you have a conversation they’re already engaged in.  And you want to reach families, right? What if the conversation about family is the greatest evangelism opportunity you’ve got?

2. Family is a universal issue. Sure, not everybody has a family. There are singles, and engaged couples, widows and many who are single again. And not every family is two adults with two kids (not that that was ever the Biblical definition of family anyway.) But everybody comes from family. And many of us spend great chunks of time being impacted by our families, even as adults. While families come in all kinds of different forms, when you speak family, you speak a language everybody understands.

3. Family is one of three arenas for applying any sermon. Most of the people any senior leader speaks to on Sundays tries to apply the message in one of three areas of life: family, work and friendships. By far, family is the biggest application area because most people spend so much time with family. To ignore family when preaching a message is to essentially tell people “this has no application in one of the most essential areas of your life”.

4. Your leaders think family before they think leadership. Guess why many of the leaders who serve in your children’s ministry and student ministry serve? Because they want to be better parents and have a better family. Speak to their hearts as parents even before you speak to their hearts as leaders. They’ll thank you for it.

5. This generation of parents is producing the next generation of leaders. If you want to see healthy leaders emerge in the next generation – both in the marketplace and in the church – then nurture healthy families. It’s simple as that. As goes the family, so goes the next generation. Your investment in family is an investment in next generation leadership.

Ministering to families isn’t something that should happen down the hall on a Sunday – it’s something that should be happening in the heart and mind of every leader every day.

Because family is pretty much everyone. If you miss family, you miss almost everything.

My posts this week will be about family.  This week, over 5000 leaders from the US and around the world will gather in Atlanta for the 2013 Orange Conference. I’ll be speaking there and also hanging out with a team of 17 from our church (Connexus) as well.  Stay tuned for posts (and notes from my talks) on the blog this week.

What are you learning about moving the cause of family higher on your agenda?

What do you think you’re missing if you miss family?

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  • Chris Shumate

    One thing I know for sure, is that “Parent Beyond Your Capacity” has been impactful for me. This post ehcos a lot of the thoughts I came away with from that book. As a father, and kidmin volunteer it is important for me to get the concepts above better embedded in my mind.

    This past week at our church campus, our kidmin leader spoke to the congregation, saying we aren’t “down there playing patty cake with your kids, we are telling them about God’s love.” It is still up to the parents in the big room to help make that connection during the week with their kids. Your post is a great reminder to always think in the context of families, even if the pastor does relate it in that way during his message.

    Your posts here and on Twitter, Carey, are so valuable to me as a dad and volunteer. I think Reggie needs to get more active on Twitter. Make another deal with him to get him as active as yo on Twitter.

    • Carey Nieuwhof

      Chris I appreciate your encouragement. And I’ll talk to Reg about tweeting more. It’s always a fun conversation.

    • xjm716

      The patty cake line. FTW.

      Using this next week in our monthly Family service.

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