Does Your Youth Ministry Need Streamlining?
There was a passing in our family recently.
My Suburban finally kicked the bucket. Affectionately known as the Doo-Doo Wagon (a fitting and hard earned moniker if there ever was one), she had served the family, our youth ministry, and ym360 well. It was time.
I ended up replacing the Suburban with a truck, and though it is a crew cab that seats my three girls comfortably, it provides so much less . . . well . . . everything!
There is less space in general. There are less cup holders. It's a base model, so there are less options which means less buttons on the dash, steering wheel, and console. In a word, it is simple. But a funny thing happened. Instead of feeling limited by the simplicity, I have discovered a sense of freedom and ease I didn't expect.
Without a multipurpose console, there’s less potential for messiness. As a result my car is clean, something that has literally never happened in the history of the world. There's less room for clutter, and as a result my car is more organized. It's more comfortable to ride in. I have actually enjoyed the “less” of a simplified automobile a whole lot more than I enjoyed the myriad options of a car with “more.”
See where I'm headed with this?
Do you need to take the “base model” approach to your youth ministry? Could it be that you and your team are stretched too thin by too many options? Are your students overwhelmed or distracted by too many features?
If you were to streamline your ministry, what would you trim? What would you combine? Here’s some thoughts on where to start . . .
Unify Your Vision
Are you moving in too many different directions between the different programmed moments of your ministry? If your students are traveling through Scripture using one thematic thread on, say, Sunday mornings, while focusing on another one on Wednesday nights (and possibly another on Sunday nights, not to mention the goal of getting them to dial in to what your pastor preaches on Sunday mornings) are they able to actually process and apply what they’re learning? Or does this philosophy enable them to interact with the Bible in a drive-by sort of way? How much better might they interact with God in His Word if you had a streamlined philosophy of teaching where your programmed slots built on each other (or somehow otherwise worked in concert)?
Sacred Cows = Hamburger
What “sacred cows,” from a program perspective, are you hanging on to that don't serve your ministry vision? Could these “we do it because we've always done it” moments be eliminated for the sake of simplicity?
Numbed By Names
I see many ministries around the country that have more names and brands than a multi-national mega corp. I see youth ministries that have separate names and logos for middle school and senior high ministries, separate names and logos for middle school and senior high mid-week gatherings, separate names and logos for their middle school and senior high retreats, and so on. I'm all for creativity and creating an identity for your group. But when you find yourself confused in staff meetings, imagine what your team, your students' parents, and even your students feel like.
What if you simplified your messaging? How much “noise” would you minimize by simply streamlining how you refer to different programmed aspects of your ministry? (Does your once-a-year middle school girl's camping trip really need it's own name, logo, and tab on your website?)
U2 Concert? Or Wednesday Night Youth Group?
What if you streamlined your presentation? (Gasp!!!!) I know, I know . . . Borderline heretical. But seriously. What effect would it have on your students if you dramatically scaled back your set-up, even if only once every few weeks? How would they react if you carved out a place of refuge from the non-stop media saturated existence of their daily lives? It would be so awesome if what students took away from your midweek gathering wasn't high production value and clever media, but deeper relationships with God, you, and each other. I know the two aren't mutually exclusive, but too often the complexity of our production draws away from the simplicity of community.
Just a few thoughts from a guy who thinks simplicity in ministry (and in my truck) can be a pretty good thing.