Balancing Your Youth Ministry: Organization

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Last month, we talked about the idea of assessment–figuring out where you are in your ministry.  A reminder that you do not know where you are, it is difficult to chart a course to a preferred destination. The old cliche is “if you aim at nothing, you will surely hit it.” I believe that personal time management is a big part of ministry time management, but I want to save that for a later article. Next month, I will talk about implementation–the execution of a plan that looks like ministry events.  This month, I want to talk about the middle child–organization.

Organization is about making a plan based on assessment.

Keep in mind that there are as many organizational strategies for youth ministry as there are youth ministers. I mainly want to get you thinking about crafting an organizational plan that is custom made for your context. In order to keep it simple, I will talk about four areas: a purpose for every program, balance across function and assessment, letting one thing be the main thing, and considerations for the 21st Century student.

A Purpose for Every Program

Write your own strategy for your own ministry. Start by writing down a few key “assumptions” about youth ministry.  Here are my principles (gleaned from other lists) but you need to change, add or delete according to your calling, experience and situation:

  1. Successful youth ministry is built upon and elevates the Word of God as primary resource.
  2. Youth ministry is sensitive to the immediate youth culture, but is not driven by it.
  3. Youth ministry is a process, not a product,
  4. A successful youth ministry should be able to function without a “professional” youth minister,  but a youth minister gives vision and leadership.
  5. As potential leaders are discovered, they must be trained.
  6. A successful youth ministry includes parents in planning, implementation, and evaluation.
  7. A successful youth ministry is built around existing programs, filling in the “gaps” with retreats,camps and special events.
  8. A local church youth ministry should be distinctively different than secular youth groups–while relationships are not contingent on spiritual progress, the hope for every student is maturity as a disciple of Jesus.
  9. Successful youth ministry gives youth responsibility in the church’s ministry

What do you believe is most important in youth ministry?  What is the role of adult volunteers? What other ministry targeted to students is healthy (choir, drama, recreation, ministry team)? How much of your total church responsibility is in youth ministry? (Some of you are in charge of multiple areas at church and you have to “divide the pie” in terms of time you have to give to each area).

Next, write down everything involved in youth ministry at your church. Two lists are helpful to me. First, the purposes or functions of the church (and youth ministry) are or include these five: evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, ministry, and worship.  Last month, we talked about success metrics–numbers, spiritual stories, ministry teams, kingdom mindset and family involvement.  Do an experiment for me–write these ten words (phrases) down and take a look at your calendar for the past year.  Make up a code for each function and each success metric and code everything on your youth ministry calendar. You should be able to get a good feel for the balance in ministry.

Organization is balance

Third, or maybe first, keep in mind that students in the 21st century are both postmodern and overcommitted. They are skeptical that anything is true all the time and they are expert in creating compartments in their lives which keep the sacred and secular in separate rooms–church vs. school, social media for parents and church friends vs. pages for other friends. They are experiential–they learn  out of the overflow of their teacher and of their own experience. They are pragmatic and like to see application and common sense, but they are idealistic as well.  What does this have to do with organization?  Sometimes less is more.  In your calendar inventory, maybe put another check mark beside each time that you introduce new content in a Bible study or youth group meeting. Maybe we should consider presenting less material and letting them marinate on it a little more.

Finally I want to go old school on you.  If less may be more, I want to suggest that your weekly small group Bible study (we used to call it Sunday school) be the centerpiece of your organization.  If you have recruited and trained small group leaders, organized into efficient departments or groups, empowered them to minister to students, you can let the weekly Bible Study ministry be central because it involves all five functions (Sunday school is a strategy, not a program or an organization).  It may or may not happen on Sunday and it is not the same in every church, but almost every church has a weekly small group Bible study.  Organizationally, if this is your starting point, you don’t end up reinventing the wheel by creating many other small groups which may present challenges in staffing with competent and passionate volunteers.

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