It’s hard to think deeply about youth ministry between stoplights on a Wednesday evening.
If we’re honest with ourselves, the last time most of us even thought at all about youth ministry was when our Senior Pastor had a question, or that parent had another complaint. … … And since we’re confessing, we may as well acknowledge that when we have enough spare mental space to think about youth ministry, the last thing we want to think about is youth ministry.
Unfortunately, it usually takes conflict or failure to force us to think deeply about our ministry efforts. Either a trip ended poorly, or no one showed up at the event they all said they wanted, or that killer sermon was interrupted by someone opening a soda can—it’s usually those kinds of moments when we find ourselves asking the tough questions.
And more often than not, those tough questions are more about our insecurities than our ministry efforts. Regardless of the antecedent, in my experience, the answers seem to bring my flaws and weaknesses back to the surface.
I recently attended the Orange Tour and by the end of the first session with Reggie Joiner, I found myself inspired by a single word.
Reggie observed, “The successful person isn’t successful because of their mission; they’re successful because of their strategy.” His observation resonated profoundly in my mind and in my heart. I’m all too familiar with what it means to plan and build a yearly calendar on the basis of my best ideas and what I think will bring a crowd. I know the effort and energy of crafting a new series, pouring myself into illustrations and games and social media posts, only to find very little fruit at the end of the ministry-month. I’ve been away on trips and outings when, for all the momentum and ministry that happened as a result of them, I end up concluding that I would have been way more effective as a minister at home with my family.
With that kind of time, talent, and treasure invested, it’s difficult to simply shake off failure, or worse—mediocrity. Moreover, it only takes a couple of those ministry-misses before “normal” ministry setbacks and disappointments can be catastrophic.
“What am I doing here, really?”
“Am I doing any good AT ALL?”
We can’t afford to allow circumstances to bring us to that moment before we ask those questions. After all, in what other pursuit in our lives would we invest that much of our time, talent and treasure without setting a strategy first? Why would we ever casually pour ourselves into such a monumental task like discipleship?
We need a strategy in ministry.
Strategy is the action plan set in place to accomplish a specific goal. It requires
- an assessment of my current position,
- an ambition of where I want to be, and
- an approach to move me from here to there.
There’s so much more to developing a strategy than simply following those three steps. A good strategy takes into account so many more variables (e.g., the vision of the local church in which you’re serving, the makeup of the community in which you’re serving, the dynamics of the families you’re reaching, etc) that a three-step process is simply not robust enough to solve all your ministry frustrations.
But building a good strategy is a good start to getting where you feel you should be…
Take some time this week and begin thinking deeply about the wonderful calling of Christ on your life, and the exceptional opportunity He’s given you to impact your community. Ask the tough questions when you’re not forced to by circumstances. Ask God to grant you vision and wisdom to reach the promise in your town.
…because success begins with a strategy… And building a good strategy can’t happen between stoplights on a Wednesday evening.
About the Author
Stephen Jones- firstname.lastname@example.org
Team Leader, Student Ministries Advisory Team
Rev. Stephen Jones currently serves as the Pastor of Student Ministries at Whitnel Pentecostal Holiness Church in Lenoir, NC. In 2002, Stephen earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Christian Ministries from Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, GA. In 2008, he completed a Master’s of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. Since 2002, Stephen’s full-time ministry to teenagers has spanned two IPHC Conferences, three IPHC churches, and numerous IPHC summer camps. Stephen currently occupies the Leadership and Skill Development Portfolio under the Student Ministries Advisory Team.