We have had a busy couple of months where it seems like we are just doing event after event. When times like these pop up, I find myself using one of my ministry catch phrases. The phrase goes like this: “we don’t do anything that does not build up your student’s faith.” The idea is that I want to tell parents that they can trust all of our events to be worthwhile. We are not interested in babysitting or filling time with random events because we feel like we are supposed to be doing something. The problem is that I am not always sure that we mean that. Intellectually, we mean it, but when I look at our event calendar and our weekly programs, sometimes I feel like we are just doing stuff because, well…because. This got me thinking about how easy it is to say things that may not be entirely true about our program. Let’s look at some examples:
1. We don’t do anything that doesn’t make a difference in your student’s life. I wholeheartedly believe that if you cannot explain why you are doing something (and why it is important) then you need to stop doing it. We came to terms with this when we stopped doing “game nights” which were basically just directed hang out time instead of planning a worship/teaching time. Unfortunately, there are still some things we do that don’t entirely make sense outside of the “we’ve always done it” mentality. Our goal is to always be rethinking and evaluating. Some things are working great such as our Fall Retreat or our Sunday nights, but some things seem to only exist in order to take up my time and grow my patience.
2. This is a safe place. I recently asked our students what they liked best about our student ministry and overwhelmingly they said that the atmosphere was their favorite part of being here. This is great because we have worked hard to create a safe place where students feel comfortable and accepted. It’s good to see that students feel this way, but, in order to keep this atmosphere, it will continue to take a lot of work. If we want to be able to say that this is a safe place, it means that we cannot let students lose focus on bringing people in, even if it disrupts the equilibrium that they feel here. It also means that we must head off drama and strife. It also probably means that we should excommunicate any students who try to date within the group, but that would not be entirely fair.
3. We are partnering with parents. This is a tough one because my ministry philosophy acknowledges that parents need to be the main spiritual influence for their teen. However, it is a lot easier to leave the parents out of the loop and just take responsibility. Obviously this is misguided, but there is a part of me that feels like it sounds too hard to partner with parents. Unless I engage parents, I am operating at about 20% efficiency. Disicpling students requires us to engage parents and empower them to connect with their teen. Often it requires discipling parents so that they have something to offer their student.
4. We are so thankful for our volunteers. The key to determining whether or not this is true is to look at how much time you invest in your volunteers. Have you given them expectations? Have you given them resources necessary to succeed? How many thank you notes or thank you calls have you sent or made? I want to honor my volunteers because they truly make everything work. I want them to know that they are appreciated, but that takes action. Your gratitude is not assumed. Without expressions of gratitude, volunteers will stop feeling appreciated and start feeling taken for granted.
Good ministers never intentionally mislead the people we minister to and with. Unfortunately, we need to also be honest with ourselves so that we can speak with integrity and consistency. The problem is that when people doubt our sincerity when discussing our programs, that broken trust gives birth to a whole host of problems for the ministry.