The youth gathering is wrapping up, you are standing back and gazing over a crowd of teenagers bouncing around and talking to each other. Parents start to show up to collect their offspring and give obligatory greetings to you as they see you there. Then shows up Bob. Bob has two children in the youth program, one older daughter in high school and a younger son who will be in high school next year. Bob stares at you and then signals that he wants to chat with you. You walk over to meet up with Bob wondering what this is about, a myriad of thoughts go through your mind; was I supposed to call him this week, is he mad at a lesson, are the kids okay?.
You greet each other with the tribal custom of smiling and nodding (if you want you can do the guy hug & back pat). Bob then says the most dreaded opening sentence to any youth ministry conversation, “You know what I think this youth ministry needs?….”
You can now insert a ‘thing’ for me in this instance it was, “we need a basketball league for the kids” (translation: we need a basketball league for my kid). I love and hate this moment in ministry (especially in this instance when there was a viable basketball league in the area, it was just run by the Baptist church). This is one of those times when some idea for ministry has been given to a lay member of the church that is to benefit some aspect of the church and its ministries. I love that part. However, hating it is just as easy because this conversation can as well be capped off with a “and I want you to make it happen” endorsement. This now becomes some task for us as a youth minister. Tasks which drains us mentally and physically. It as well takes us away from the ministry we were called to (and many times paid by the church to do).
It is only in my last few years that I have become better at handling these encounters with elements of grace and skill. So in the hopes that this might save you some pain and misery of feeling like you have to adopt some other persons passion you can keep to things you are passionate about and help them to own their own idea.
- Know your Passion and Purpose in youth ministry. Was having a lunch with the pastor at my local LifeChurch.tv campus a number of months back after they opened up their new worship space. I asked him how many church refugees he has been getting. He shook his head and said ‘you don’t want to know.’ He went on to say that he was happy to have them come to the church, but many would come up to him after services telling him what all the church needed to do. I asked him how he handled those situations. He said, ‘I send them back to the church they came from. I share with them that we are a church specifically for those who are un-churched and those who want to reach out to and be in ministry with those people. They obviously are not going to feel comfortable here and they probably need to reconcile something at their home church they came from.” Chuck, the pastor, knows the purpose of their church and its ministries. So he is quick to recognize when something is not within the purpose of the church and his passion for ministry with the church. It is not because it is a bad idea, it very well could be a great idea. In our youth ministries we need to know what our passions and purpose making the youth ministry go. Knowing this can help start to protect you and the ministry from getting distracted by things that are not within God’s purpose for the ministry.
- Sometimes these conversations are really great ideas, but you know right away they want you to do it all. So think about it and Give specifics of How You are Willing to Help this idea get off the ground. I have said yes to a number of youth ministry events, general agency happenings, and even the parent who has some really great idea that I could get passionate about. The need here is to not take away from the overall ministry so we have to set up some parameters. So tell people how or what you are willing to contribute to the cause. Parent, “Gavin, I have this mission project idea where we will collect some items to give away to the needy.” Me, “Awesome, I will be happy to help you communicate that initiative to the youth through our emails and make a poster for you to distribute around the church and community.”The same can work for a youth event or greater church event, “We want to have a church revival and we want you to help us.” Us “That sounds great (if it really does) I would be happy to coordinate the food for after one of the services.” We are stating up front our contributions and our boundaries so that everyone knows what they can expect from us. Note: the long range trick here is to keep to those so we do not train people that what we state is just our words, but that we really do mean it.
- Give back the Ownership of the idea. Inevitably when someone comes to you with an idea they do feel it is a great idea, what they do not state is one of two things 1. They are unwilling to do this idea themselves but like it and want you to do it for them or 2. They do not know how to do this idea so they are and are really asking for some help. In the case of 1 and 2 you can do the same thing and get two different results. Person “You know what the youth ministry needs? It needs to have a contemporary service on Sunday evenings for the whole church.” Us “That sounds like a real audatious idea. Tell you what, since I do not remember details really well in Sunday conversations how about you draw up on paper a purpose behind changing the program with some timelines and fundraising ideas of how we can make that happen. Then WE can get together with the pastor and other folks in the church to start planting the seeds for some change like that.” If you have someone who has #1 intentions you will not see any results and you can move on. Note: And if they huff and puff about it you can share with your advocates that you did not dismiss the idea, but you asked them to do a write up plan before any further conversations or planning should take place. People in the church know the ideas person that gets their ego wound up, you rarely have to defend yourself against that person to others. If it is a #2 intention then they will show up with some plan and ideas and it is at that point you can help empower them to build a ministry that is part of passion and purpose. That is some good ministry there.
These may seem simple, but it bears repeating because we get caught up in other peoples passions and purposes all the time. Write down a few ideas of what you passion and purpose are. Jot down some of those ministry activities that you have gotten caught up into that you know took you away from the ministry you are called to. Outline what your ideal contributions could have, should have been, that is a start to your future specific helps. Make a mental plan for helping youth or parents who come up with audacious ministry ideas to give them back ownership of something placed on their heart.