Switch It Up

Chris Wesley —  April 16, 2013 — Leave a comment

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut in youth ministry and, it’s also very frustrating. When ministry is moving slow it feels like no one is engaged and everything is happening below your standards. There will be seasons in your ministry when you feel like your calling has just become a job.

If you feel like your ministry needs a pick me up, then look at switching things up. Change what you do, try something new and give your ministry new life. To get out of your rut you don’t need a major overhaul, just a few teaks. To change and shake things up in your ministry try giving:

  • Someone Else The Reigns: If you are constantly making the decisions, choosing and leading activities you’ll find your ministry limited. When you are limited you feel trapped and stuck. By delegating leadership and creative responsibilities to other volunteers you enable them to take the ministry where you could not. This does not mean they are better leaders than you it’s just giving it a different approach.
  • Groups Permission To Play: Your small group leaders need to know that they have ownership of their groups. This means allowing them to once in a while deviate from the plan by just sharing life, playing a game or addressing a different issue. Giving permission to play means allowing the group to grow organically.
  • Yourself A Break: The reason your ministry might feel tired is because you feel tired too. Give yourself a break by taking a vacation, building in more margin and working on your Sabbath. When your mind and soul are at rest they are more equipped to think outside the box. A creative mind is a rested one.


Switch it up by giving away the burdens and responsibilities that might wear you down. Give yourself room to breathe so that that you can think clearly on where you need to go. Your ministry needs you for the long haul which means tweaking and adjusting your routine from time to time. Don’t be afraid to switch it up.

How do you switch it up? 

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

One of the joys of working with youth is how spontaneous and creative the ministry can be. It feels so free flowing and easy going. Most youth pastors cherish this aspect of the ministry, but there is another side that a lot of us youth leaders fear and struggle with: administration.

The stereotype for youth leaders and youth pastors is that they are wild, free-for-all types who lack organizational skills. Often, this stereotype is closer to the truth than we’d like to admit. Yet this is unfortunate because there is power in being organized. Some examples from Scripture come to mind. Joseph’s knack for planning caused Egypt to become the most powerful nation on earth. Nehemiah organized the impressive construction project of rebuilding the walls in Jerusalem. Paul led a network of churches that spanned hundreds of miles even before the days of technology. None of these great feats could have been accomplished with a leader who was disorganized.

I know that organization is a skill that comes easily for only a handful of people. But it is something we all must address. An organized youth leader is able to accomplish more because he/she is on top of things. Events go more smoothly because they are well prepared for. Less students fall through the cracks because we can track their participation. Growth is easier to measure. Volunteer leaders become more dependable because they are not always frustrated. Students are better cared for because you know where they are it. Teaching is more well-rounded because you have a scope and plan for your material. There is a whole host of benefits to being well organized.

If you are not very good at being organized, you need to learn from or delegate to someone who is. It is too important a skill to be careless with. Here is a list of questions to help you get thinking about being organized:

  • Is your event schedule planned at least three months in advance?
  • Do your volunteers have job descriptions?
  • Do you have mission, vision, and value’s outlined on paper?
  • Are you keeping track of attendance?
  • Do you have a way of contacting parents at a moment’s notice?
  • Are you aware of exactly how much money you’ve spent from your budget, and on what?
  • Have you set any short and long term goals?
  • Are you keeping track of your Bible teaching so that you can confidently say you are teaching the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27)

Hopefully these questions will give you an idea of where you need to improve organizationally. It might feel at first like the task is too daunting, but the truth is that once you do the hard work of putting the right systems in place, being organized is a lot more enjoyable than winging it all the time. It is freeing. So get organized and get ‘er done!

Jeremy Edgar is the Youth Pastor Bible Fellowship Church in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario, Canada


I hate planning for trips, events and program because it’s calling me to embrace administrative duties that I’m not good at doing.  I’d rather be on a mountain, hanging out at a burger joint or shooting a basketball with a group of teens, than figuring out the cheapest way to feed them on a Sunday night.  When you started out in youth ministry you probably had dreams of hanging with students, mentoring and walking with them in faith.  While you should be doing that, as you become more seasoned there is a pull to manage and lead from an administrative standpoint.  You might feel like fighting that urge and grow guilty when you are stuck behind a desk.  However, it’s prudent to embrace the administrative side of youth ministry because it will help you as a leader:

  • Extend Your Capacity
  • Solve Big Picture Problems
  • Fuel A Movement

So, how do you embrace your administrative duties?  How can you grow as a leader?  Remember to:

Study Outside Systems:  To lead a ministry takes more than just being relational.  As a leader you need to study successful models.  This means learning how to do customer service from Chick-fil-a or how to sell an idea like Apple.  Business models, school systems and looking at other ministries will help you discover principles and practices that will help your ministry grow stronger.

Craft Your Communication Skills: Communicating clearly and consistently might come naturally to some; however, for others it takes practice and work.  Whether it’s developing email templates or reviewing a talk.  As a youth minister if you aren’t communicating to others effectively, than you won’t lead them effectively either.

Prepare, Prepare And Prepare:  You need to prepare for meetings to make them worth people’s time.  You need to prepare for messages so that you can cast vision.  You need to build in margin into your schedule so that you are not always flying by the seat of your pants.  A prepared individual is confident and able to roll with the punches youth ministry can literally (Middle Schoolers can get nasty) and figuratively bring.

The administrative side of youth ministry is definitely not as attractive as sitting with a teen in the trenches.  The tendency is to fight these responsibilities; however, if neglected they can harm you in the long run.  As the youth pastor of your church you are not only called to lead individual students but also the young church.  To do this effectively you need to pour into your leaders.  You need to organize systems and sometimes that means embracing administrative duties.


What administrative duty do you struggle to embrace the most?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)



Go Back To The Basics

Chris Wesley —  January 3, 2013 — 2 Comments

When I was 9 years old I had to do a project on the Panama Canal.  The assignment was to write a 5 page paper that explained the history and structure of this modern wonder.  Let’s just say I took a simple assignment and made it complex, instead of 5 pages it ended up being 15.  When I handed in the project in it’s vinyl cover, I could tell my teacher was a little overwhelmed.  In the end I didn’t get the best grade because I failed to follow directions.

There are times when you will go over the top because you are either OVERLY PASSIONATE or INCREDIBLY STRESSED.  When your emotions gain control of your actions it’s easy to make what you do too complex.  This can cause:

  • Confusing Messages
  • Irrelevant Activities
  • Unclear Communication
  • Competing Systems

In other words it will water down your ministry and make it ineffective.  To avoid this you need to know the basics of your ministry.  That means knowing:

The Bottom Line: When delivering a message or an email you need to know what it is you are trying to say.  Take what you are trying to say and boil it down to one sentence.  Once you have that you can build on it; however, keep it clear.

What You Are Designed To Do: At the end of the day why does your ministry exist?  Answering this question will help you know the impact you are supposed to have on the students. Youth ministers can be lured into trying to be everything to anyone; however, God has given your ministry one purpose.  Focus on that purpose and you’ll see your ministry flourish.

Your Work Flow: A complex schedule will lead to overworking and exhaustion.  Creating a schedule and making to-do lists will help you sort out your day and tasks.  You’ll see what you are doing that isn’t necessary and what needs all your attention.  By prioritizing your work flow you’ll be able to build momentum and create more capacity in your life.

It’s easy to find ourselves in a complex ministry because you’ll be eager to impress students.  You’ll find yourself in situations when you want to say everything about a certain subject.  And then there will be seasons when Satan is attacking, making life confusing and when that happens it’s time to slow down.  Find a pace, ask God for guidance and go back to the basics.

Where else does ministry need to be more simple?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

A youth worker sent me an email with a question about preparing for growth in their ministry as they were seeing larger classes in their children’s ministry heading their way – it looks like their ministry is on a path to double soon. Here’s part of how I replied to him, thought it may be helpful to you as well:

Infrastructure is absolutely key. I would definitely start building a team of leaders with all your energy. You might be tempted to think adding more programs but I think people and systems are the best choice.

Adding a position
Getting another staff person, even part-time, is a crap shoot. Flirt with it in your mind, but in my experience that is usually where it stays. Typically leadership waits to see results and staffs late, or staffs intentionall what is hurting instead of what is building. Ironic, but want to be real with you so you don’t get your hopes up. I do think it is time to ask for help before it is too late. And either way, start pouring in to your leaders and building a team of people, paid or not.

Core Leaders
Start a core team of people who are totally on board with the vision of your ministry and love and follow you. These are the people you’ll do life with and know the best. You need to trust them. They will trust you. You need to eat together, laugh together and develop some inside jokes and memories as soon as possible.

More Leaders
Next, I’d work on developing as many additional leaders as I could. Get your small groups/life groups super small next year, so they can scale and grow with more students as they start entering the ministry. If each group has 4 students, you could easily give them 6 the next year and 8 the year after. So make them all super small right now and get the rookies some experience and get ready with an infrastructure for growth.

This is where you can prepare for growth as well – make sure that all of your systems are ready to scale as well.  Take a look at your communications tools, your curriculum, your web presence, your parent ministry – all of these systems need to be able to scale up to double/triple their size. If not, you need to ditch the tool now before it dies under the strain of growth. Take care of these things now and adding students is a breeze.Wait and it will crush you and slow your momentum to a crawl.

Other random stuff/links to consider: