Part of your responsibility as the leader to get what you have in your head out into the hands of your people so they can carry out the vision God has given you for your ministry. In order to do this, you need to know a few things:
- It’s not easy.
- It’s an uphill battle.
- People forget and need to be reminded… a lot.
- It has to be clear and simple.
- It has to move people emotionally.
Ministry is a juggling act. You need to plan services (hopefully far enough in advance), take care of leaders, go to schools for lunches, do pastoral care, do whatever your senior pastor adds to your plate that week, take care and invest in volunteers, write a sermon (or two) a week and much much more.
All of this needs to take place at the same time while your current ministry is still rolling week in and week out. Holy cow… that is a ton of work. I know what you are thinking, “That is a lot. I don’t know if I can do it. Where can I find the time? The people? The content?”
I’m telling you it’s worth it. You can’t afford to not do it.
Now comes the big question: How?
It starts with you
Before you even get to the culture and values of your ministry, you need to understand that you are the one responsible to keep the vision at the center and the culture and values alive. Before you even have the first meeting, before you even put the pen to paper, you need to understand that as a leader the culture and values to be kept in the future is up to you.
The culture and values you want doesn’t just magically transfer to your people; it is caught. Repeated over and over again, witnessed consistently, it catches a viral fire into the hearts of your youth ministry leadership.
I was sharing part of our vision and values with an intern recently. She was asking why I was rearranging the room from the normal set up of our weekends. She asked, “Do you have to do this?” I said, “No, but if I don’t we won’t get the atmosphere we want. Culture doesn’t just happen, it’s caught, and we have to be the ones who set it.”
When you compare you lose
Don’t assume that other youth groups you see on social media are all they’re cracked up to be. I don’t know about you, but I usually catch myself thinking, “Man, how cool is it that their students lead that! Why don’t ours? Their leaders are so incredible, why are ours more like Secret Service agents than pastors?”
There are a couple of things you need to be aware of. First off, the internet only let’s you look at a small portion of that particular ministry. And it is the portion that youth worker wants you to see. No youth ministry is all roses and happy days. Celebrate with what God is doing, but keep it real. And secondly, chances are what you see is the culmination of what we are outlining in this chapter. What you are seeing is years in the making. What you are seeing is the combination of great vision casting, great culture setting and a great God working in that ministry.
This conversation got me thinking about this last 2 years of me being in my current position. The last 2 years I would say has been the toughest yet most rewarding times in ministry I have had to this point. We have seen and experienced a complete culture shift. We are not where we want to be yet, but we are on our way to a healthier and vibrant ministry.
As I look back, our team has set the culture. We have been very intentional with everything we have been doing, with how everything has been done, how it has been communicated, how the atmosphere looks and feels, to the music that is played and how we worship and tell stories in service. We, as a team, have modeled what we want to see. What gets celebrated gets repeated. After 2 years we are JUST NOW beginning to see the culture we desire (and I can’t wait to see what happens in the years to come).
You set the tone.
Do you want a culture of inviting people? You as the leader be inviting people to come to church and tell stories about it and then give your students an opportunity to invite students to something. Do you want students to have blast and worship passionately? Don’t sit backstage but go in the front and model to them how to worship. Get your leaders off the walls (which we had to do) and get them to model what worshipping looks like. If you want students to jump around, you jump around. If you want them to know it’s okay to raise their hands, show them it’s okay. Do you want a fun and inviting atmosphere? You have to fun and inviting to your volunteers and they will be with students. Our team tries to sit down with our leaders at coffee or lunch once every six weeks or so. I ask our leaders 1) How are they doing? 2) How are they doing in our ministry? 3) How can we help them to do what they do better? Then I say to them, “This is what I want you to do with students.” After 2 years, we are starting to see leaders take students out and be in their lives outside of our Wednesday nights.
What’s my point?
You do it.
You do it, do it consistently and tell people why.
Enforce it. If something goes against it (which sometimes people will because change brings tension), it’s your job to keep the culture you want. This will help people see that this is important and this is the culture you desire and the vision God has placed on our heart.
You as the leader set the tone of what’s to come. The hard part about setting the type of culture you want is that it takes time.
It takes a while to catch. People will always wonder why you are doing what you are doing but once it catches, it takes off and there is momentum that cannot be stopped. If you want something to change in the culture of your ministry, you do it. You lead it and tell people why… tell them over and over because people forget.
It takes a lot of work but let me tell you, it’s always worth it. It begins with you.