With two kids my house seems to default to a state of clutter. Like most people, I really hate having a cluttered house, but picking up after each kid is like living the movie Groundhog Day. It just starts all over again.
Just as our homes can become cluttered, our ministries can also have a ton of clutter. While we have good intentions, sometimes we put events and programs all over the place just trying to have the maximum impact and outreach. However, the problem with clutter in our ministries is the same as it is in our homes, it is distracting and unorganized. Clearing up this cluttered approach to our programs allows us to focus and plan in ways that we never dreamed possible.
So what are the signs of a cluttered program? If planning the next six months would be impossible for you, the the program may be cluttered. If you have more “spontaneous events” than planned events, then there is clutter. If you lack any real process of discipleship or even participation, then the clutter may be accumulating.
So how do you clear the clutter? First, you need to evaluate whether your events have a purpose and if they fit in your overall plan. Sure the purpose of paintball is to have fun and maybe grow community as long as no one get shot in the eye, but does it fit in an overall plan to grow community? The goal is to have a goal, or at least to have all of your events working together.
The next thing to do is to have an overall process for your ministry. This is where ideas from Simple Student Ministry or the Orange conference can really help you decide upon a strategy for reaching and discipling your students. Having a clear process for your students means integrating events with one part of your program leading them to another part. It also means balancing what you do for clear impact. If 75% of your program is built on fun activities, then it may be time to balance that out with discipleship and service opportunities. If 80% is Bible study then perhaps you could consider implementing some community building activities. This is also true if you are duplicating your efforts in an area. We realized that we want to do small groups at night, but we also offer a small group Sunday School. If we want students to see their evening small groups as their primary discipleship opportunity, then we needed to look at what Sunday School could become so that we are not overlapping.
The next thing to do is hard, but really necessary. You need to plan. Look, I am one of those people who thinks I write better when the paper is due the next day, but that will not cut it in ministry, not if you want to reach your true potential. Plan your big events at least 6 months out. Right now in December we have scheduled all of our big events for next year such as Disciple Now, M-Fuge, and our Fall Retreat. We have penciled in smaller events like lock-ins and Christmas parties. When these smaller events are three months away, we will have fixed dates that we can start to advertise. By the end of this year, we will also have crafted our teaching topics for January through June. Doing this planning now means that we have a ton of time to be creative and gather resources. We can also create a brochure with relevant dates and details that gives everyone a sense that we know what we are doing. The level of confidence and credibility we gain is worth the time spent in planning. This does not mean that we will not do spontaneous things or that some dates may change, but we do have a plan to go by.
Clearing the clutter has so many benefits from helping you to streamline and use your time more wisely to allowing you to maximize the impact of particular events. Good luck, now I need to go pick up some more toys.