I’m too cynical to actually make New Year’s resolutions, just to be clear from the top. But if I did make New Year’s resolutions, after resolving to lose weight and say a sentence prayer every day I’d probably turn my focus to the workplace. Here’s what I’d probably come up with:
1. Pay more attention to my budget spending.
Not just spending, but finances as a whole. If you’re like me, you’re staring down the barrel of a shrunken budget. Again. Involve more people in deciding where our money goes. Know how much I’ve spent without having to drop by the administrator’s office. Be able to answer questions about “where we stand” without having to spend an afternoon juggling receipts. One final thought that will require a resolution with a lifespan into the fall: base next year’s budget request on a fully developed ministry plan for 2014. Wouldn’t that be something?
2. Actually enforce our church’s Safe Sanctuaries policy
We’re not completely off radar on Safe Sanctuaries, but the UMC is barely capable of one buzzphrase at a time. If you’re pretending to be excited about Vital Congregations, it’s difficult to feign interest in Safe Sanctuaries at the same time. Our church’s policy states pretty clearly that we’re supposed to be training our workers every two years and updating background checks every five, but by now you’re probably not only struggling to convince parents to buy in to the guidelines but also likely fighting to keep it on the front burner for SPR and trustees. And defending spending money on all those pesky national background checks. Keep it important to your families. Weave it into conversations about events and programs. The more people you can involve in those conversations, the less catch-up work you’ll have to do when it really matters.
3. Thank more volunteers.
Get more volunteers would be a good sub-resolution here. But thank the ones that you have. Notice where they’re going above and beyond and praise them for it. I had a wake-up call about that a few weeks ago. I was standing outside as parents were picking up kids and noticed that one vehicle wasn’t leaving. I wandered over and found one of my youth dads sitting with his kid, vehicle running. “Everything OK?” I asked. “Yeah, I was just hanging out til everybody gets picked up. You were saying something about trying to make sure you weren’t left alone at the end of the night with one kid in the parking lot and I thought, ‘Well, I can do that.’ So we’re just hanging out.” You never know–somebody might actually be responding to something you said. Watch for them. Thank them.
4. Know where our kids are.
Increasingly kids schedules prevent regular attendance. Our church’s program’s are pretty varied; there are a lot of little pockets where youth show up that might fall outside of what you think of as “the main thing” each week. The kids that come to orchestra practice but can’t make Wednesday. The kids that only come to Sunday school. The ones that volunteer with the children’s ministry on Sunday mornings and never get counted in Sunday school. Last year I met a senior that had been in the church since childhood. She had faithfully been running sound at the early service for years. I just missed her. The last group of kids can be the hardest to nail down–the ones that exist in the life of the church that never come to anything. Are these kids the responsibility of the youth ministry? You bet. Go find them. They’re not in your office.
5. Take care of yourself.
This is the dead horse that gets beat to death, but beat it just a little more. Take care of yourself. If you burn out, you’re good to nobody. If you get sick of your current church and go find another one within three years (twice the average lifespan of a youth ministry position) you didn’t last long enough to effect real change and growth in that ministry. It takes time to develop the relationships that make a ministry tick without you. If you don’t last long enough to form them, you’re cruising to burn out at the new church too. Don’t do that. Put all of your vacation time for the year on the calendar at the beginning of the year. Know where your breaks are. Plan to take time off after trips or long weekend events. Have a relationship with your pastor and SPR where if everything is suddenly too much you can step away for a day or too without feeling guilty or despairing that you’re failing. You are critically important to your work. It won’t go on without you. It will wait. Take care of yourself.
I pray for a terrific and renewed year of ministry for you this year. If you’re in Dallas for PSYM or UM Certification next week, come say hey or hit me up on Twitter (@elvisfreakshow).