May 27

How to keep your passion for youth work alive

There are many reasons why leaders drop out of youth ministry. I believe one of those is down to the never-ending cycle of demands and expectations put on them from church leaders, parents, young people and the rest of the church. It is all too easy to become a people pleaser, looking to meet these demands and to be constantly listening to their comments and requests in order to determine how we should best spend our time. All of this inevitably destroys our enthusiasm and passion for youth ministry.

goal settingWe are not designed to be people pleasers but to be God chasers, people who strive after what God is asking us to do and to live obediently to his plans for our lives.

There is the simple, but incredibly difficult, challenge we face as youth ministers: do we live to please people or to please God?

We can’t stop listening to what people are saying to us but I have witnessed too many good youth workers leave the ministry because they were worn down by comments and criticism and unrelenting expectations and demands. We need to learn how to weigh these demands and to have one ear on them and one ear to God. In fact, we need to learn to hear from God first and foremost, and then use the reactions from others to help us carefully discern what God is saying to us.

So how do we do this? We set times in our diaries to plan, and to plan regularly. By this I don’t mean that we set aside times where we can develop our own masterplan but that we set aside times to pray and to meet with God and to plan together with Him, for the future. If we believe God has plans for us and for our ministries, it is fair that he would want to include us in on some of those plans, so we need to listen.

Planning helps us get a better perspective on what we are involved in. As we live week by week, day by day, we can easily get caught up in the busyness of living. We have youth sessions to plan, outings to arrange, risk assessments to write, talks to prepare, assemblies to create. These are all necessary just to keep the week flowing into the next one. It can feel like an endless cycle that eventually we just have to jump from.

When we plan, we create a deeper sense of purpose for what we are called to and gives us a better understanding of where God might be wanting us to develop the ministry.

I do this in 4 different ways:

1. Annual planning

Once per year, I set aside a day to get away and to pray. I pray over the previous year, think about what worked well and what didn’t. I reflect on the goals I set for the year and see which ones I smashed and which ones didn’t even get started, and reflect on what God has been doing. I then spend some time praying for the year ahead and try to set simple goals as to where I think He wants me to go in the next year. If you want to find out more about this, you might like to read this previous blog post.

2. Termly review

I then set aside an hour or two at the start of each term, to look at my annual goals and to consider how I might be able to develop them over the course of the next 4 months, or school term. I can’t achieve all my annual goals, but I should be able to move forward with a lot of them so I set myself smaller goals for the term.

3. Monthly review

This then breaks down even further into smaller, monthly goals. I set aside an hour once per month to look at my termly goals, to review how I am progressing and to consider how I might push forward in the month ahead. It also gives me the opportunity to reflect on my upcoming diary appointments and commitments and to make sure I have sufficient time set aside to prepare for all that I have committed to.

4. Weekly review

The final part of my planning takes place on a Friday afternoon. I set aside an hour to review the week, to look ahead to the next couple of weeks and make sure that I am aware of all that I need to do. I create a list of people I need to speak to and those I need to send a message to, as well as sessions I need to prepare or upcoming bigger occasions that I need to start work on. The day I do this on has changed depending on my circumstances. For many years, I had Wednesdays as my Sabbath so I found having my weekly review on Tuesday afternoons was really helpful in being able to switch off on Wednesday as I knew I had everything ready for starting the week on Thursday morning. Other times, I would do it on Thursday mornings as I great way to start the week. It is not important when you do it but you need to do it every week!


David Allen in his book, Getting Things Done, describes this kind of planning in terms of the six horizons of focus. He relates the different stages of planning to that of different altitudes of an aeroplane, where the higher you rise, the further into the distance you can see, but the less detail. Annual planning is like being at a high altitude, where you are looking the furthest into the distance, whereas the weekly review is the ground level, you can’t see that far ahead but you are able to see what’s immediately around you. Both are essential to keep ourselves in a healthy place.

We owe it to the young people we serve to keep ourselves on fire and passionate for the ministry we are called to. One of the best ways to do this is to make sure we set aside times to seek God and to plan together for the way ahead. I don’t think we can afford to ignore this.