Monthly column for youth workers
Developing all the time
When I was doing an annual review with one of my youth team, I asked him why he wanted to continue in youth ministry.
His response slightly alarmed me. He said to me, ‘I did it last year so I might as well do it this year’.
In the secular world, many organisations have annual goals which they expect their employees to reach in a given time interval. ‘By the summer, we will have increased sales by 10%’ or something similar is what drives all the activity. The favourite word is ‘focus’. We heard it many times at the time of the Olympics when athletes, in their cameo post-event interview, often said the reason they had won their event was because they stayed focussed.
As I talk to people in youth ministry, it is quite surprising how many people have settled purely for a maintenance model for their ministry. There is always that routine that is needed to keep ministry going, but I wonder if you have considered anything specific for the coming year. Your new term has started, your programme is decided. Are you just going to turn up week by week or are there issues that could do with some work over the months ahead?
Some will say at this point that it is God’s work and all we have to do is turn up and he will do the rest. Such people have to explain why the apostle Paul was so intentional in the places he visited — he clearly had thought about how best to bring the gospel to that city and varied his tactics accordingly.
So what could you work on for the coming year?
1. Your team
Most of you probably operate in teams.
* How well is the team functioning?
* Are people’s gifts being used?
* Do you even know what your team members’ gifts are?
* Do you know and trust each other? — many teams don’t.
* How about a day or even a weekend away thinking and praying together?
The young people will still be there when you get back and, maybe with the help of someone from outside your team, you can spend time reading the Bible together, thinking through what you are doing and build the relationships within the team.
2. The individual
It may just be that you have team members who have been standing still recently.
* Do they need help to release them into new areas of work?
* Are they still teaching in the same way as they were three years ago?
* Is there some book to be read, a training course to attend or perhaps a couple of hours with the leader of the group to evaluate progress?
Such times are a real stimulus to people who have begun to stagnate.
3. Walk with God
Leaders can so often see their role as functional — getting the job done. If you look at chapters like 1 Timothy 3, Paul defines leadership as being all about the integrity and character of the leader. Hospitable, self-controlled, etc. Perhaps your team members need to develop their discipleship — if they don’t they will not have much to pass on to the young people.
4. A sense of purpose
This is so easy to lose but must be known by all the team. Passion for ministry so often comes from the fact that every member of the team knows what, under God, you are striving for. Most of you must have been in a team which works well together and one which doesn’t — the difference is very obvious and team cohesion is not un-spiritual. It’s both energy saving and motivating.
I wonder what the ratio is between prayer and action. If we ignore prayer, we will lose heart, so it is vital that your work is soaked in prayer, not only by you, but by the church.
So don’t just start the year with that sense of ‘doing it all again’. Look at a couple of things that you, as a team, can work on and put some time into those areas. Next year, start again with something fresh. It does work.