Ministry Mileage: How can we get more out of what we keep putting in?
I don’t know if you’ve bought a new car recently, but my wife and I have been out shopping and WOW. The sales teams at a few of these dealerships have been fierce. They are probably nice people, but they’ve offered lots of promises about how they had something that really was going to suit our needs.
That is, until they qualify.
A classic phrase of salesfolk (and abbreviation for many Reddit users) is Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV). It’s a qualifier, a hedge against offering a strong opinion that may or may not work for you. It’s a way to give a definitive stance with a safety net qualification.
“You are gonna love this new midsize. Yes, it’s only $5,000 more than we talked about, but it is really the car for a family of four. Well, your mileage may vary.”
In a year of not being in control of anything, it’s difficult to write a blog post that might be helpful to an audience of ministry friends always making contingency plans or preparing for the next frustration. But, I do want you drive home with something different today, because you came all this way and I think that means you were looking for something a little different.
Here are some statements that I would press you to buy into for the ministry long haul, though your mileage may vary…
Invest heavily in online ministry
Move some of your current “time currency” portfolio and explore what it means to be a minister through online channels.
I don’t exactly know the form it will take for you, but if you’re not creatively engaging and pushing your church leadership to do more online, then you’re missing it right now. More than just keeping up with streaming, you should feel empowered to try new things, to include new leaders, to offer a variety of connection points, and to catalogue content so that you’re not having to constantly make stuff all the time.
Don’t give up on hybrid small groups
Zoom/Google Meet/Facebook rooms are great tools when used correctly.
You need to continue to offer small groups; some in-person and some online. They may meet at different times and some may even cover different topics, but you have got to stretch yourself to curate really great small group connections for your middle school and high school students. We already know that midweek is no longer sacred or protected from school events and team sports, so don’t operate like you’re waiting to get back to a normal that’s been evaporating.
Be as relational with parents as you are with students
Plan more coffees, fewer lock-ins.
Whether you are 22 or 42, find connectional ways to be as warm, caring, and conversational with parents of teenagers as you are with teenagers. Don’t take a posture of waiting, but become proactive in looking for missing parents as much as you look for missing students. Don’t just create follow-up gifts for students but for whole families.
Recruit leaders who expand your ministry
Some of your best leaders will not be your buds.
Adding leaders who add value can be a treasure hunt. It is not easy or automatic, but to recruit the best you have to give your best effort to shine unpolished gems and make strong pitches to high-level leaders. You don’t need a room full of people who look, talk, or think like you. This necessarily creates some tension and challenge, but it’s worth it.
Coach up your leaders and then trust them
Think of your adult leaders as highly as you would want to be thought of.
Put the work in up front. Coach your leaders towards what successful leading looks like and then stand back, and let them lead. Coach them well enough to trust them. Trust them deeply enough that they are empowered to lead and not just enabled.
Don’t assume someone’s frustration is personal
Nobody picked these circumstances.
We are surrounded by challenges that we did not ask for. Stop assuming that people are hurt, tired, or bitter because of you. Trust me, their raw edges are showing up around you because at some level they like/love you enough to bare them. Embrace them while they are hurting, but don’t absorb it into your system. (1 Peter 4:7–11)
Take 2 days off from social a week
Do more with less screen time, so you can learn to live without it.
Trying to keep up on social media adds less value to your life than we care to acknowledge, so it may take a legalistic approach to how you manage your social boundaries. It is protection not only for your time, but your mind as well. You can’t live wired in and be the pastor, parent, and partner you want to be for those who love you most.
As far as I know (AFAIK), these next few months are in flux, and I trust that these are worthwhile investments of your time and energy. James 5:8 my dear, dear brothers and sisters in faithfulness. Care is waiting and ready, and as far as I know, you are not alone.
This post was written by Zac Workun. Zac serves as the Student Ministry Training Specialist for Lifeway and is one of the co-founders of Youth Ministry Booster, Lifeway Students’ collaboration and training network. He has served the local church in various youth ministry roles for over 15 years.