Picture this with me. You've just had a phenomenal weekend retreat. Everyone made it back safely, no middle schoolers were injured, and students are hyped about Jesus. You sit in your living room on Sunday night with a massive smile on your face thinking about how cool it is that God would use you for this type of work.
Monday morning rolls around, and you head into the office, ready to do some follow-up with parents. The moment you sit down at your desk and open your computer, ding! You've received an email from Finance. It turns out your Church Credit Card statement is late, and they need it immediately. Your spiritual high starts to diminish a little, but you keep your weekend smile.
A few hours into the workday, you realize there's a flag football event this weekend, and you need more volunteers. You pull out the list, stare at the names, and wonder who doesn't already have plans. The energy you had from the weekend has all but vanished from phone calls, office supplies, and paperwork. You ask yourself, "How am I supposed to do the real ministry when all this stuff keeps getting in the way?"
Do these scenes sound familiar to any of you? Youth Ministry is an exciting place to work in, but there seem to be some parts of the job, which are much more draining than uplifting. We wanted to take a moment to help you take a fresh look at how office work isn't meant to inhibit your ministry instead of enhancing it.
Phone Calls Matter
It’s a skill we don’t learn in seminary. How do we greet people on the phone? Why don’t people answer their phones? Do you feel a little knot in your stomach when you initially leave the voicemail?
We know we can't make a face to face contact with our entire ministry, but we also know in today's culture, phone calls become more and more critical. There is something special when we get to hear the voice of our people. We can listen to the burdens in their voices more than an email. We can share the heart and sometimes the urgency of the ask we are calling about.
Phone calls not only matter for recruitment, but they matter for ministry. Do you have a long list of recruitment phone calls to make? How about reaching out to someone in your ministry, which you know won't be helping you fill that need, but you need to make a ministering phone call. One of the best things we can do is remind ourselves of the dual purpose of phone calls for ministry. This is not just a digitally outstretched hand looking to recruit, but a powerful tool for connecting with people from a distance to do soul care.
Small Tasks Still Make Ministry Mean More
It's easy to see the value on Wednesday nights and even Sunday morning. This is bigger than the stage, though. Camp has value; retreats have value. Do you know what else has value? Office supplies. Budget reports. Organizing your desk.
Keeping a check on what you have and don’t have in the office helps you do two things well. First, it allows your team to keep doing things to the best of their ability. Knowing you have staples in fresh supply helps you be more productive with your time. The alternative is having the whole team hunt around the office for ten minutes, losing their rhythms. Second, it lets your team know you are listening to them in the small things. Even if your team is volunteers, your small group teachers know you’re listening when fresh markers are in their Sunday School room.
Staying on top of your administrative responsibilities lets others on staff know you aren’t just a bigger kid they put in charge. Youth Ministers can get a bad reputation due to the nature of what we do, but showing your Finance office you care about receipts helps them trust you even more.
Organization is what sustains leadership. Your desk doesn’t have to look Instagram worthy at all times, but you should at least have some system to get things done. The piece of paper you received from your Executive Pastor in the meeting earlier today shouldn’t be buried below all your other stuff. You would be amazed at how much more productive you can be with an organized workspace. It keeps you focused, on task, and ready to handle what you need to each day. It may take a little work to "Marie-Kondo" your current space, but you'll see a massive improvement on the other side.
When we crush the small things consistently, it allows snowballs to keep from turning into avalanches for our ministry.
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Utilizing School Hours
There are 8 hours a day where your students not only aren’t accessible, but they shouldn’t be. I’m not even talking about sleep, but more so school. One of the cool parts about a school schedule is it makes them predictable. You can’t do relational ministry during school hours with students, and most other hours with your leaders because of work.
Get into the office early and crush those hours before your lunch meeting. Make the most of the time between lunch and school release. It might take some restraint but consider blocking social media and sports apps or websites during these hours. They can be massive productivity killers to keep you from getting the needed things done.
Students are going to jump to their phones the moment school lets out, and your content can be waiting for them. Schedule the social media posts ahead of time for a 3 PM drop time. This allows you to be the first thing they see by merely utilizing their schedules. If you do the paperwork during school hours, you'll get to say yes to hangouts because you chose to do reports over twitter.
Parent Ministry is Student Ministry
I can’t stress this point enough. Parents are entrusting you with their child's lives and eternities; the least we can do is offer them some details for the packing list. We are in youth ministry because we care about the lives of our students, so why not come alongside the people who spend the most time with those students?
Parents who trust you and see value in what you are doing will bring their students to your events. If parents aren’t on the same page or trusting you, students won’t show up. Think about this: if your student ministry is 6th-12th grade, then your students will not be driving themselves for more than half of that time. We need to communicate with parents because they are doing even more ministry than us!
Speaking of communication, I've never heard a parent tell me their youth pastor over communicates with them. I have listened to plenty of parents tell me their youth pastor doesn’t communicate enough, and I’ve been the youth pastor they were talking about! It can be easy to puff out our chest and tell them they should just read the emails, but that isn’t ministry. If we hear the same question over and over again, it's a communication issue, not them. When you think you are overcommunicating, it probably means you need to reach out one more time. Parents bring their students to people they trust.
Ask Yourself, Why Does This Matter?
The easiest way to find value in something is to assign value to it. If you can answer the question, why something matters, then you can find the energy to do it. If you can't find the answer, ask the person who can. Your time is valuable, and you know that. This exercise can help you sift through your daily and weekly tasks to refocus on why the tasks happen.
Meetings can be a plague to productivity, but some meetings are necessary. Do you find yourself stuck in seemingly unnecessary meetings? It might be worth asking the people in the meeting, why does this meeting matter? Hopefully, you're not asking this in a tone of frustration, but rather genuine curiosity. If the group of people can't answer the question, then perhaps the meetings can be canceled. If you do have an answer for why you're meeting, does your meeting still accomplish that goal?
Sifting through your schedule with the comb of purpose is not meant to create a negative view of your schedule. Its purpose is to help you understand the more excellent picture of why reports, phone calls, and meetings matter.
Make the Decisions now, to make Choices Later
Too many ministries crumble because their bandwidth is limited by their organizational prowess. If your ministry would fall apart without you, then you’re also the one limiting it. We are called to shepherd, and shepherds look to the future for their flock. Decide on some standards and systems to make choices for growth later. When you've set up a schedule to follow, you also get better at doing your job. Before you know it, you are so good at doing reports you don't need the entire 40-hour workweek to finish your job.
You can immediately invest that time back into your relational ministry. What happens when a student calls you asking if you can hang out, but you know you have to put in your budget proposal by the end of the day? If you make the decisions to crush the small things in a work schedule, you'll be able to make natural choices on opportunities coming your way.
Office work, meetings, and admin is likely not why you got into ministry. These are the things that keep your ministry running. God has entrusted us to lead His people. It becomes our responsibility to steward our time well in ministry. When you received your call, you likely saw the Disciple Nows, camps, and Wednesday night services. You saw students’ eyes lighting up as they understood the Gospel for the first time. These are amazing parts of ministry, and we, at YM360, hope you never lose that wonder. We pray office work receives a new perspective in your ministry to launch what you do. What you do matters, and we want to help any way we can! Feel free to give us a call, send us an email, or reach out via carrier pigeon. We want to serve you! Leave us a comment, and let us know what you think about office work? What obstacles are you facing, which we didn't discuss?
We hope you have a great day and make it great for someone else too!