Whether you are a big proponent of New Year’s resolutions or not, one must admit that the turning of the calendar seems to be a mental reset for most of us. Most times, we focus on our weight, our finances, or our family. Today, I thought it would be good to focus on our ministry instead. I am eager to take our Youth Ministry to the next level, and I’m sure you desire the same thing. So, I have compiled a list of a few ways you can improve your ministry this year. Know that I am writing this list as much to myself as I am to you, and I can’t wait to see God at work in the coming year.
1. Try a brand new approach to an old event or program.
If your ministry calendar is like mine, there are certain events and activities that are annual “staples.” It can be easy to get into a rut, to do the same old thing in the same way, and fall back on what we know. This year, let me encourage you to approach your calendar with a fresh perspective. Shake it up, try something new, seek input from other Youth Ministers and get ideas from them that might breathe fresh air into that “same old” retreat.
After 13 years of mission trips over Spring Break, we are doing something completely different this year, emphasizing the mission field in our own community. It’s bold, challenging, and very different, but I think it could have a huge impact on our community and our ministry.
Try something new and creative – God may use it in a big way!
2. Give more ministry away to your leaders.
One of the most powerful things you can do as a leader is to multiply other leaders around you. It becomes easy in ministry to try to be the hero, to do everything on your own. If we aren’t careful, we will be setting up the chairs, doing the tech, leading the worship, teaching the lesson, stirring the lemonade, greeting the students, and counseling every student. This, in my opinion, is egocentric ministry at its worst, and is a trap of the evil one.
This year, take your ministry to another level by giving more ministry away to your leaders. Ask them to lead some of the upfront games and activities. Challenge them to lead your small group even when you are there. Encourage them and guide them as they try new things. You may find out they are way better at certain aspects of ministry than you are! And what better picture of the Body of Christ exists? Try it – you might love it!
3. Commit to praying over your students and leaders with renewed fervor
Prayer is something I think we could all do better, so why not make this a fervent commitment this year? Maybe you could use an app like Evernote or Reminders to record prayer requests your students mention so that you can recall them later. Print a list of your students and commit to praying for a few of them by name each week. Send them a card to let them know they’ve been prayed for. Challenge your adult leaders to show up early to pray over the room before youth group.
The list of ideas could go on and on, so be creative. But, as Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Make this a renewed priority.
4. Get out of your office and be with students.
We know the to-do lists that face us each day in ministry. There is no end to the things we CAN be doing for the Kingdom. But being busy doing ministry tasks in our office often means we are missing time with our students. Don’t get me wrong; it is VITAL to spend the right amount of time preparing the messages and crafting the vision of your ministry. But we have to find a nice balance between “getting things done” and building relationships with our students.
Go visit your school cafeteria. Make a plan to get to your students’ ball games. Send personal letters of encouragement. Invite students over to watch an appropriate movie. Make being with students a priority, and see what happens. You’ll build deep relationships with your students, and meet students you would have never known if you hadn’t made the extra effort.
5. Plan ahead further than you normally do.
Sometimes, our ministry looks a lot like our checkbooks. We often live week-to-week and end up doing things at the last minute. When we are unprepared, no one wins. Creativity suffers, leaders are frustrated, and our students see right through it. This year, plan ahead further than ever before. Invite a group of creative people (they don’t even have to be youth leaders) to meet with you and walk through your ministry calendar for the year. Have them brainstorm about some creative ways you can accomplish your ministry tasks, retreat themes, lesson series ideas, decoration concepts, and more.
By planning ahead, you free yourself up to dream and be creative. You free yourself up to be with students, and to stop running around putting out fires all the time. Plan WAY ahead and see how God frees you up this year.
These are just a few of the ways I’m going to try to take my ministry to the next level this year. What steps make your list?