As I’ve traveled around over the last couple years and talked with many Youth Ministers on the phone, I often ask how things are going with their ministry. The most common response that I get is, “pretty good.” While it’s good to hear that things are not going badly, it’s also troubling that many are satisfied with “pretty good.”
As Youth Ministers, we should constantly be looking for ways to improve our ministry. After all, I think we’d agree that God and His teens are worth it. The problem is that when we think of improvement, most of us first think of setting goals. But, improvement doesn’t begin with goals. It begins with being real enough with yourself to confront the facts of your ministry, no matter how brutal they may be. It’s that kind of authenticity that can lead your ministry from being good to being great. Here are 10 questions to ask about your Youth Ministry. Take time to answer these, and remember…be real!
- Does your ministry have momentum? Momentum is one of those things that can be positive or negative, but in order to grow, we absolutely need it. Think about it, your car is completely useless when it’s just sitting there, but when you turn the key and step on the accelerator, it moves forward or backward. That’s momentum, and it’s a must have for change. So, does your ministry have momentum, or are you simply sitting still waiting for something to move? If we have momentum, that’s great! Be sure to evaluate why you have it.
- What can you do that’s new? People love new things. It’s a fact of life. Think about it. How many people went out to buy the latest iPad or iPhone simply because it was newer than the last version? If your ministry is lacking momentum, what is something new that you can do? Think big! This isn’t about tweaking something. This about doing something new and revolutionary in your ministry.
- What do you need to stop doing? If we’re willing to do something new, we also have to be willing to stop doing something, especially if it’s not working. Too often in ministry we keep doing things just because, “that’s the way it’s always been done.” What do we need to stop doing that isn’t benefitting our ministry?
- Do you evaluate your ministry? If we want our ministry to improve, we have to be willing to evaluate on a regular basis. Evaluation helps us to see where we’re doing well, and where we’re falling short. The problem is that too often we either don’t evaluate, or we settle for a quick and simple evaluation that lets everyone feel good about themselves. Evaluation is extremely important, but it will require true authenticity, which brings us to our next question.
- Do people feel free to openly criticize? Criticism is tough for anyone, especially someone who is in a leadership position. As a Youth Minister, I hated receiving criticism, but I also loved it. Why? Because, quite frankly, criticism can help you see areas of growth that you otherwise might not have seen. So be sure to create an environment that allows for criticism, and take it all to prayer. While too much of it might not be beneficial, some of it will be and can help take your ministry to the next level.
- Who is your target audience? This may seem like an easy answer for all of us, but who we want to target and who we are targeting can be completely different. In general, most of probably think our target audience is teenagers. But, what types of teenagers do we get? Do the teens that come to our ministry reflect the community in which our parish resides? What about the teens that aren’t coming? Why aren’t they? Taking a deeper look at these questions can help us to begin to further grow in our mission to lead all teenagers closer to Christ.
- Do you need new personnel? One of the things we must constantly evaluate as Youth Ministers is our Core Team. After all, the Core Members are the ones within our ministry who are responsible for bringing Christ’s message to the teens. So, do we have the right people on board? Who are the other people in the parish that could make great Core Members? Are there Core Members we need to let go of?
- Is your ministry too complex? Let’s be real. As Youth Ministers, we love to say “yes” to everything. We don’t like to turn people down, so we keep adding things and adding things, making our ministry more complex. The problem is that the more complex our ministry becomes, the harder it is to stay organized and build momentum. Sometimes, it is simplicity that can make the biggest impact, especially in ministry.
- What are you doing for training? How would you feel if you found out the doctor you’ve been seeing hadn’t received updated training in over 20 years? You’d probably reconsider asking for his medical advice, wouldn’t you? Training is vital. The same is true in Youth Ministry. If we want to grow as Youth Ministers, we need to regularly take time for training and education.
- Is your ministry built to last? Let’s be honest, we’re not all going to be Youth Ministers forever. At some point we’re going to move on, whether by choice or by circumstance. The question is, when that times comes, can the ministry we leave behind still be successful? To be a true leader doesn’t mean that everything depends on you. The best leaders lay the groundwork for the next person who comes along, so if we want the ministry that we’ve done to last, we have to be humble enough to know that it’s not all about us.
This world and our Church need Youth Ministers who are ready to take their ministry to the next level, men and women who no longer want to settle for “pretty good.” It’s time to be great, and it begins by asking yourself the tough questions. These are just a few to ponder about your ministry as you prepare for the summer months, and hopefully next fall. Above all, know that we at Life Teen are here for you, and we pray that God will continue to bless you in all your efforts to lead teenagers closer to Christ.