Too Little Time, Too Many Programs
Whenever I’m around youth, all I want to do is build relationships & minister. That’s what it’s all about, right?
It gets me so worked up when everything else gets in the way.
I think we all believe in the importance of relationships, but when the rubber meets the road, the struggle is finding time for it with all the boring planning & detail work. Programs seem to continuously crawl up out of nowhere to soak up all our time and energy, and the thing we want to do the most–be with students–is squeezed out of our weeks.
Here are a few quick tips you can use to evaluate your own ministry and become more student-focused.
Are you an idea-aholic?
Are you constantly looking for new ideas and giving them a try? Are you known for being extremely creative? Innovation is great–and necessary in youth ministry–but too much is still too much. Trying new things every single week can be a real time drainer. Building strong relationships is a ministry model that’s been proven to work for thousands of years. One day you might have an entire youth staff to help you out, but until then, try pulling back a bit to purposefully make more time for one-on-one discipleship moments.
Are you a lone ranger?
I know some youth pastors that are surrounded by energetic adult volunteers but still do all of the work themselves–from preparing everything, setting up the youth room and leading the actual meeting, to running the cafe, tearing down, cleaning up and locking the doors. If you love your programs so much that you’re not willing to share the work with others, it’s no wonder that you don’t have the time you wish you had with your students.
Is the weekly sermon required?
This last one is may be a bit more outside of the box, but I think it has the most potential. Do you really need to spend time every single week teaching students via a sermon?
A recent study of Illinois youth pastors found that they spend an average of 80% of their time preparing sermons. If time is money, that’s quite a chunk of change! Now look at it from your students’ perspective. They just spent an entire week listening to boring lessons at school and are already in the habit of zoning them out. What if we instead aggressively engaged them with an entirely new teaching format?
Try converting some of your sermon times to extended hang out times for your students. Then make a careful plan for you and your adult leaders to sit down individually with your students during those times to let them know you care for them, find out what’s going on in their life, and pour into them. You will learn incredible things about your students and have amazing opportunities for ministry. Give it a try and let me know what happens. I’ll be posting more about this idea in a future post.
The Heart of the Matter
The goal isn’t legalism. It’s having more room for ministry. We should always be looking for ways to free up our time so that we can do what we know has the greatest impact: Building solid relationships with students and student leaders, and pouring into them individually.
Three years ago, Nate started Called to Youth Ministry with a desire to equip and support youth pastors. It started after he noticed a trend of people with a passion for students "go it alone" for too long and otherwise burn out, without a friend or mentor to stand by them. Now the ministry hosts online training and networking groups that leaders can join from anywhere in the world. Youth ministers from California to Florida to the UK have already benefited from the coaching, community and prayer support these groups provide.
Two year ago, Nate also started an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) company with a desire to feed his family. Now he enjoys balancing the two and being able to use the business to support his ministry habit.
Nate lives with his beautiful wife, Christa, and rambunctious two-year-old son, Josiah, in Lake Geneva, WI.