MY primary ministry...is not students
this came up several times in the affinity group discussions throughout the weekend. something i've been toying with in my mind for the past few years, but it never really "felt" right until hearing it from others this weekend. i would often feel shame if i spent more time in admin stuff or adult leader support than actually spending time with students. as a youth pastor, you set out in this calling because you love hanging out with students and pacing with them. but as the ministry grows, so does the lead pastor's role...and in order to sustain that growth, there needs to be someone still steering the entire ship, and equipping others to do the ministry.
my primary ministry is our adult leaders/volunteers... caring for them, loving on them, and equipping them to be better team leaders, small group leaders, and catalysts for growth in the students' lives. i'm coming away from this weekend with a renewed drive to invest more of our resources and more of my time in the 15+ adults we have, so that they in turn can invest themselves in 3-5 students. i'll be investing even more in a select few adult leaders who will then invest their leadership in the rest of the adult team as it grows.
this does NOT mean that i'm unavailable and unapproachable to the teens... in fact i don't think the teens will actually notice any difference because i've tried to already put a lot of this in place. i will still lead a small group, and still deeply invest in a few students that i naturally connect with. it'll come out more in my own thinking and planning than anything... so often parents will come to me with their kid's issue, and the easy and natural temptation is for me to right then and there setup time later in the week to connect with that student. the answer is different now. it's sending those students directly to the adult volunteer on our team who would best be able to meet that need...or run that event...or lead that meeting...or...etc.
delegate responsibility...not tasks
there are so many reasons why this is so difficult, but there's even more reasons why it's even more important. our leaders need to be empowered and equipped to run entire pieces of the ministry...entire programs, and that's a major weakness of our ministry right now. many of our leaders are busy taking on various tasks that i individually hand off...but few have the responsibility given to them by me to run and develop and grow a certain area of our ministry. it's plugging up the process, overworking me, and inhibiting the overall quality.
i work too much
this is something i've been gently told for a while now by a few close friends, and have been trying to improve on. it was incredibly encouraging to hear from so many others struggling with the same thing, but also to hear from them practical strategies they're using. i used to think that a good youth pastor was "always on" and always available, but more and more i'm learning that that's not a good youth pastor...that's an unhealthy youth pastor. so for the sake of my wife and future family, here's what i'm trying to implement:
- quit youth ministry every sunday night, and start back up again every tuesday morning. i've been taking a day off, but now i'm going to really take it off. my phone will be off and locked away in the nightstand for 24 hours.
- no more than 2 nights out/away each week. we have a great ministry process that helps with this, and i don't have to be at board meetings and stuff like that. thursday nights i'm out every week, and most tuesday nights for small groups. while there are certainly some exceptions to this, to maintain healthy balance, this is crucial.
- home by 5:30/6:00 every night (earlier on Tuesday & Thursday nights). being in the office till 7 or later is just stupid and controlling, and it cheats the ones that matter most. this might be the toughest one for me, but i'm committed to sticking to it.