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Oct 07

The key to being more effective and less busy

It’s a common flaw in youth ministry meetings. We are over-stretched and over-committed, in a word busy. The same faithful few, doing too much because we are dedicated to seeing the ministry survive.

You discuss areas of the youth work that need developing. It is often areas like building relationships with the wider church, or creating a bigger fringe group, or needing to fundraise. The answer most meetings land upon is to put on yet another event. “Let’s have a meal to connect young and old”, “create a regular social programme”, “hold a fundraising event”.

busyThe problem with each of these solutions is that they are good but probably not the most effective.

We end up adding more events and activities to an already overcommitted diary and group of leaders, not to mention the added expectation of commitment from our young people.

The problem is lack of focus and vision for our youth ministry. We don’t have a clear understanding of what we are trying to do and so we keep doing more, adding new ideas, trying creative suggestions.

Don’t get me wrong. Creativity and imagination are essential elements in the youth leader’s armoury. We need to keep trying new things. The problem is that we do them out of desperation rather than out of wisdom.

A common scenario: your youth ministry isn’t what it used to be ten years ago. The immediate solution – do more, add extra events to the programme in a hope that we discover what needs to attract young people. The necessary solution – evaluate what you are currently doing and discover  why it doesn’t work anymore.

It’s about vision. What are you trying to do? Where is God leading you and the church at this moment in time? We can’t change everything, but we can improve something.

Good ideas can be crippling. How do we dare pour water on someone’s suggestion when it can only be good? But when we keep taking on new ideas, we do this at the cost of existing commitments or possible fruitfulness.

“There is always enough time to do all that God is asking us to do.” That’s one of my favourite statements. It’s so true. So if I feel overworked or overwhelmed, I am probably trying to do more than God wants me to do or, at least, am doing it in a way that is not according to his plan and purpose.

We need to be clear on what it is we are trying to do. What about setting some clear goals for the year ahead? Instead of just dreaming of what we could do, think of perhaps three key areas of ministry that you would like to see change over the course of the next twelve months: for example, deeper experience of God, higher profile of youth work in the church, seeing more young people connected to the ministry. Whatever they might be, choose three and restrict your desires to three. This is a one year plan not a five year strategy.

“There is always enough time to do all that God is asking us to do.”

Once you have your three areas, explore how they currently exist in what already goes on. You might discover that they don’t, and that’s where the temptation to do something new will start to rise within. Hit pause quickly!

Before setting up that new event, discuss with your team how you might incorporate this new area/goal into the existing work. So we don’t have young people going deeper with God, what could we do in what we do already to enable it to happen? What would we need to change? What training for leaders would we need? Who do we need to bring on board?

We set up new things because it can be seen as easier than challenging the existing set up. Perhaps what happens at the moment is run by someone who wants it done their way. Rather than having the awkward truth conversation, we see it as easier and preferable to set up an alternative. Nice idea but the people who lose here will be the young people.

If you take the time to choose your three areas for development for the year, you will find it easier to say that hardest of words, ‘no’. No to that good idea for a new youth service, no to that good idea to start a weekly car wash, no to that good idea to starting a regular after school club. Not because they are bad ideas, but they don’t fit into our areas of focus for this year. Park the ideas and promise to return to them in a year’s time, when you set your three goals for next year.

Three goals are manageable and, most importantly, measurable. In a year’s time we can see how we got on, did we move forward in these areas, and if so, what difference have they made.

These three goals need to be considered carefully, involving your key youth leaders, and in conversation with your church leader. Get them on board and praying. Make sure you pray over them as you set them, we want God’s ideas not good ideas. Then go for it!

Imagine what difference your youth ministry might be in a year from now, if it had grown and deepened in three key areas. Which areas would you choose?