Recently I took a long car ride with my children that involved driving several days through many States. As we went they knew to keep asking, “Are we there yet?” was futile. However, to make the time go faster, they decided to focus on “markers” in our trip. How long would it take to get out of the State we were driving through? When would we get to the next rest stop? There was one thing that was abundantly clear to them: our final destination. No matter the number of bathroom stops or hours in the car a point would come when we “arrived.”
This got me thinking about ministry. When we look at the scope of our students do we know where the endpoint is? In other words, when a student graduates out of our youth group who has been produced? We might say phrases like, “A fully devoted follower of Christ.” However, what does that really mean?
This is one of our first steps in leading our team or even our students. We must be clear about where we are going. In a world that often uses the phrase “casting vision,” this is vital. Anything can be conquered when we know WHERE we are going. We might have a “mission statement” for our ministry. However, if it is longer than one sentence, if everyone in our ministry can’t easily recite it, and if no one really understands its meaning, it is useless. If your people don’t know where the journey ends then they feel like all is purposeless. This one line sums up the target.
Once you and your team decide the “end student” you are hoping the Lord will produce through your ministry, talk about it, ALL THE TIME. When we got stuck in traffic on our trip it was supremely frustrating for all of us. No one wants to feel stagnant. However, the knowledge that the highway was not goal kept us all in check. We refocused on the excitement of where we were headed, and what it would look like when we got there.
Secondly, everyone wants to know, “How will we get there?” and “How do we know we are headed in the right direction?” Figure out the core values you are looking for in your team and ministry. Put these clearly in place. At our ministry they are to be Christ-Centered, Relationally Driven, Servant-Leaders and to have Integrity in everything. We explain what these mean, and how they relate to where we are going. This is one way we know HOW we are headed in that right direction. Secondly, we plan in a myriad of ways. There is a five year strategic plan that is broken into increments. We know where we are looking to get to at the end of the five years, but also in 2, 1, 6 months and even a month from now. Then we hold everyone accountable to these. This lets everyone see those mile markers to know how we are going, and how to know when we have arrived.
The trip can be really long when it comes to working with youth, especially those stuck in survival mode. We can wonder some days if we are moving at all. However, when we are clear about where we are headed and how we will get there, everyone hangs in for the ride.
Where are you headed?