When I first learned how to play soccer and basketball, I struggled with something vital to the success of the game. In these sports, you have to move the ball from one side of the court or field to the other, but there is this small inconvenience called the opposing team. As I dribbled the ball across the field, I wanted to make sure I still had complete control. Often I would look down at the ball, which meant I took my eyes off of the goal or basket. Looking down also ensured my competition could run up and steal the ball away while I never saw them coming.
You can't succeed at the highest levels of basketball or soccer until you learn to look up while dribbling. Why do the players look up? They want to keep their eye on the target and be ready to counter anyone who stands in their way. As we begin the new year, I want to go over five things I believe all youth workers should focus on to get the most out of 2020. I'm not calling them resolutions because resolutions themselves are a one-time firm decision. These are goals that will require a year's worth of decisions to reach. Not only can you meet all of these goals, but I believe each of these will allow you to make 2020 matter!
You are going to have events and sermons on your calendar in 2020, whether you schedule them today or not. The beautiful part about time is that it waits for no one, and the tough part about time is that it waits for no one. The first goal you should have for 2020 is to put your significant events on the calendar if you have not already. After your significant events, go ahead and look at free space on the calendar to find some extra room you could put some additional smaller events.
Another thing you can go ahead and look at doing is your sermon schedule. Ask yourself what topics or books you want to cover this year in your youth group. When you put in the effort to plan out your sermon schedule, you can make sure you focus on essential things throughout your year. Your completed calendar will also allow you to prepare better sermons as you start thinking about specific sermons ahead of time. Locking down your schedule is not meant to restrict you, but it should hopefully free up some mental space to dream rather than panic picking sermons. We've all needed a sermon as soon as possible. You reach into your back pocket and pull out the series on James you've done three different times. There's nothing wrong with James, but with proper calendaring, you can do better!
Imagine being able to dream about your summer kickoff series while sitting in the Starbucks drive-through in February? If you take some time to get ahead on your planning, then you'll already know where you want the series or event to land. The best thing to go alongside a completed calendar is a blank notebook. When ideas come about your future events or series, be ready to capture them!
If you will take the time to focus on your calendar in 2020, both personal and professional, you will be amazed at how much freedom you find in saying yes to things. The days of double booking and canceling lunches will be so last decade. Planning can be your best friend in 2020.
We get a terrible reputation as youth workers for how we use the budget. At times we go overbudget or use the budget for what some might deem ridiculous things. Where some see a purchase of 50 Nerf guns as silly and childish, the youth worker sees the countless possibilities and connections at future lock-ins. The second goal of 2020 is budgeting. How will you use the budget given to you to further the kingdom of God and reach of your church?
I want to frame the goal of budgeting within those two parameters: furthering God’s kingdom and your church’s reach. Whether you have struggled with the budget for the past semester or year, 2020 is brand new. You can start crushing your budget right now. If you find yourself struggling in this calendar year, go back to those two parameters.
When you use your budget, are you doing something to further the kingdom of God? Will students be reached or discipled? Does this purchase help create future opportunities down the road? Your budget comes from God's people giving back. That truth still applies to those of you who receive no money from the church for the youth budget. You are still one of God's children, and your use of personal funds is your act of giving back. I'm not saying you need to justify every purchase to every member of the church, because this will not always end well for you. If you can reinforce your budget usage with Kingdom advancement, then the conversation will change powerfully.
The second parameter is the reach of your church. Your church is hopefully joining you in the first parameter, but here is something to consider when the youth department uses its budget flippantly. When you go over budget, another part of the church suffers. This can be constraints placed upon the youth department, or budget removed from other departments to help cover your ill spending. We have no reason to go over what is given to us without prior conversation because the youth ministry is no better than other ministries within the church. When the church starts operating in silos and a better than other mindset, we begin to diminish the effectiveness of our church's reach. Don't fear your budget in 2020. Focus on the goal of using the budget to further God's Kingdom and the reach of your church.
Goal #3-Bible Reading
The You Version app is getting redownloaded, people are subscribing to Bible reading plans, and the time is now to focus on Bible engagement. Like gym memberships, everyone remembers the importance of reading scripture in January. I’m going to stand counter-cultural here, and I’m not going to assume that because you are in youth ministry that you have a dedicated Bible reading time. Live by example in 2020 and let this be the year you start that practice. Allow your students to see your vulnerability in learning how to engage with the Bible.
If you do have a dedicated quiet time, then walk your students through how you got started. Most people don’t start their daily devotionals with hour readings, so why do we expect students to do this? We preach that the Word of God is living and active, and we know the power of daily engagement. What would the year 2020 look like with 10% of all youth groups having students who were actively engaged in Bible reading? It's only appropriate to make a vision joke here, but having our sights set on Scripture engagement would only create ripples throughout our youth culture.
Goal #4-Personal Development
How will you grow in 2020? If we are not careful as ministers, then we can spend so much time telling others about growth without experiencing it ourselves. Jay Strack at Student Leadership University uses the following quote repeatedly during student events, “10 years from today you’ll be the same person except for the people you meet, the books you’ve read, the places you’ve been, and the scripture you memorized.”
Your personal development is not a detraction from your students; rather, it is a way to be more equipped to pour into them.
I know many people who struggle to read, but no one is saying you have to read fast. My wife is a librarian who reads 100 books a year. I learned long ago that comparison could never be the enemy of my personal growth. If you read one book in 2020, then you are deciding to grow as an individual. If you read ten books in 2020, then you are choosing to grow as an individual. The number of books doesn't set your level of development; it's your desire to grow!
Another area that can be overlooked in personal development is a healthy hobby. Your ministry is a calling, but it can also become a job. Take some time in 2020 to refresh yourself doing something non-ministry related. This can be an activity with your family or a hobby you do for yourself. For me, the hobby is disc golf. When I can step out on the course to clear my head and listen to nature around me, I find myself more engaged with work and ministry upon my return.
Personal development comes in as many forms as there are people, and everyone develops themselves differently. Let 2020 be the year where you care about growing yourself in order to reach your students better.
The last goal to focus on in 2020 is people. This can come in a variety of ways, but the bottom line is people matter. Let this year be the year you cared about people like you never have before. Christ cared for people in a counter-cultural way. When the crowd was moving, Jesus stopped for one person. When the group was gathered to listen, Jesus paused to heal the paralytic. Your focus in 2020 should be on the people, not the numbers or events. Everything we’ve listed thus far serves to help you reach those people. Here are a few fun challenges to help you focus on your people this year:
- Learn Every Student’s Name
- Learn a Handful of Facts about Each Student
- Learn Every Student’s Parents’/Caretaker’s Names
- Ask for Prayer Requests from Students and Follow Up
This year won’t be slower than years prior. Like we said at the start, time waits for no one. 2020 will come and go whether you want it to or not. How will you capitalize on the time God has gifted you with this year? We hope these five goals will give you something to aim for, and we hope we can help you meet these goals.
We are your biggest fan here at YM360 because what you do matters. If we can help you with your events or resources in 2020, please let us know! We are honored to partner with you and your ministry!