Keeping Perspective While in the Trenches

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I get it. You are swamped in your youth ministry work. There is no shortage of events to plan, lessons to prepare, and visits to make—all within the limited time you have around work and family. 

It can be difficult to keep a big picture perspective while churning out week to week programming. And, more often than not, it can seem far too big a task to keep track of the big "why" questions. And while it's important—even necessary—to keep focused on the big picture, all too often we get pulled in by the busy schedules we create. 

I'd like to suggest four ways in which you can work on finding, maintaining, and keeping perspective while you're working through planning and implementing your programs. And while they may take some extra effort, it's my hope that these are not too overwhelming or time consuming.

Ask the parents. If there's one group of people within your congregation who long to see the children you work with become lifelong followers of Christ, it's the parents. After all, it's their God-given responsibility to raise their children in the faith. And while your work is important, your time with teens is rather limited in comparison to parents. Spending time with parents is equally as important as spending time with the teens. Invite yourself into the parents "big picture" conversations. And don't forget the parents whose children are now past your ministries and have launched into adulthood, as they can be a tremendous resource. As you are having these conversations, consider how you could turn your ministry upside-down: rather than asking parents to participate in your ministry goals, why not consider how your ministry can better serve parents as they raise their children. while the outcome of your programs may or may not change, your purpose for what you do will. In fact, why not mentally "give it back" to parents right now, and decide to leave saving teens to Jesus.

Share with council. Your council supports you, and they trust you. Don't ever underestimate the significance of that. But the reality is that they are working hard, and focused on "problem areas" within the church. So as long as your ministry doesn't have a problem, they move on. But rather than presenting a "no problem here" report of calendar events that are keeping the teens busy, may I suggest a report that stands out by sharing highlight moments, which can include moments of impact, times when you saw a student "get it," and stories of seeing a student put into practice something that was discussed. Sharing stories which directly show how your teens are maturing in their faith and putting it into practice are far more significant than showing how many events were held. Over time, these shared stories paint a more precise picture of your ministry efforts. And the process of writing down these moments can also remind you of what a "successful" evening might actually be.

Avoid tunnel vision. I love seeing people who are passionate about what they are doing, and are fully invested into their particular ministry. However, this "tunnel vision" can prevent us from seeing and participating in the big picture of faith development within our congregation. Getting together with ministry leaders who work in different generational programs (children, teens, 30-somethings, seniors) can help strengthen each ministry, and sharpen goals for each group. In addition, gathering your leaders to explore collaborative opportunities with, say, your worship or outreach teams, may spur on new initiatives that not only bless your teens, but the entire congregation. While investing your efforts only in your ministry can be effective, those efforts can be multiplied by partnering with others involved in different ministry work.

Call in the professionals. On occasion, your voice may not be enough to gain momentum. And you're already busy in the trenches, simply getting your weekly programming done. This is the right time to have a conversation with others who can offer their voice to your efforts.  Within the denomination there are a number of growing initiatives who are willing and ready to help out. Across North America, Faith Formation Catalyzers are equipped to engage your congregation towards a healthier lifelong approach to ministry. And within Canada, regional youth ministry champions are ready to assist you to strengthen your ministry and help shape your ministry to be a place where lifelong faith is nourished. Bringing a new voice (and a fresh set of eyes) into your community can provide an outsider's perspective and assist your ministry and your church in strengthening your big picture goal of journeying with your teens to set them up with a lifelong relationship with Christ and HIs church.

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