Sometimes it is good to stop doing that – by that, I mean what you have always done or what you know needs to go away. But first, I think you should ask an all-important question, “Why am I doing this?”
After almost 19 years of youth ministry, I find myself asking this question more and more, “Why am I doing this?” I do not mean the job of youth ministry – I love my job, my students, their families, and the community where I work. I ask myself about the tasks and questioning why this event is on the calendar, or that activity is taking place. You should ask that question of yourself.
Knowing why you are doing what you are doing is key. Often we do things because other people did them. Or we thought it might be fun, or cool, or we do something but haven’t really thought about the “why?”
As a former high school coach, I learned that if it didn’t translate to the game, then why would I waste time in practice on that specific skill or particular activity?
To stop doing that, you must ask yourself the hard questions.
How do I want my students to leave this ministry?
What do I want to teach them?
How should I teach them?
Where should I start and end with expectations, goals, programs, and you get the idea.
Planning is key.
Start planning. To stop doing what you have always done, you must start planning time to plan. Give yourself and your team a solid weekend or week together to plan your calendar, and how you hope to implement it.
A planning retreat requires a lot of work, but it is necessary- even if you do most of the work and meet with your team for just a day.
Planning how you will do what you want to do will help you to stop doing that.
So here are three things I think you should do.
Gather, Games, and Grow.
Everybody does this in their way and in their parameters, but I really believe these three elements should be in every youth ministry at some level or another.
Gathering is what we are called to do as Christians. It can be as simple as having a hang time before youth or having snacks as people show up. It could be more formal with set leaders gathering and having intentional fellowship with a few students. However you want to frame it out, I believe a gathering time is key to all ministries but especially vital to youth ministry. Gathering is where students start to feel known and accepted.
Games is not something every youth group does anymore – (I KNOW RIGHT? LIKE WHAT IN THE WORLD?) But seriously, if your group is not the game-playing type, here are three reasons to think about starting.
Number one, games break down walls that other activities cannot. Number two, games cause conflict and help in teaching and modeling conflict resolution. And Number three, games build bonds and memories that help us love people that may be different than us.
Grow is a word I hesitate to use, but it is what we will do when we connect to Christ. Jesus says there will be fruit when we connect to him. So we should grow spiritually, sometimes that means numbers and sometimes not so much. But we should always plan to grow numerically and spiritually.
So every time your youth group meets, you should share God’s word and the Good News of Jesus because this is the food and water we need to grow. Jesus himself said he is the Living Water and the Bread of Life, that those who are hungry should come to him, and those that are thirsty should come and drink.
Gather, games, and grow are three elements that will help you get to know, love, and serve students. They will help students get to know, love, and serve each other. They are also useful for all of us to know, love, and serve God.
Stop Doing That
What is your “that” that you need to stop doing? Once you identify it, ask the hard questions, make time to plan, and consider using gather, games, and grow in your future ministry plans.
David currently serves as the Associate Pastor at New Hope PCA, and he has served in full-time youth ministry for nearly 19 years. At every point in his life, even before working in the local church, David has loved working with students. He is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Journalism and Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando with a Master of Divinity degree. David has been married to his beautiful wife, Karen, for nearly 24 years, and they have two teenage children that are about to graduate high school. David’s hobbies outside of ministry involve the outdoors as much as possible, watching sports, and writing for his Dad’s hometown newspaper.
You can read more of David’s writings here.