Why You’re a Dynamo and That’s Not as Good as It Sounds…

I’ve been thinking about the idea of energy and ministry.  Ok, so there’s a thousand different types of energy in youth ministry.

  • There’s the “12-year-old boy who drank three Monsters then came to youth group and wants to punch people” energy.
  • There’s the “we have three girls in a group and each one is trying to make sure one of the others is the odd girl out” kind of energy.
  • There’s the “we just hit the first three notes of everyone’s favorite worship song and now they are ready to sing their hearts out” type of energy.
  • There’s the “I’m 32 years old and it’s hour 7 of our all night lock in and for the life of me can’t figure out WHO thought this would be a good idea” energy. (or lack of it)
  • There’s the “that dodgeball just got launched by my 6′ 2″ senior guy and is going to hit my face at 83 mph in .002 seconds!” energy
  • There’s the “climb in the van and leave for summer camp” energy
  • There’s the “I got out of staff meeting to have lunch with three students!” energy
  • You can add your own to this list as well

I want to discuss a different type of energy.  What about the energy we have to create in order to maintain a program or event in our ministry?  What program is going on, that you are constantly hyping, selling, pushing, and encouraging people to attend/be a part of?  No, really, what is it?  For us, it’s become our Sunday morning program.  We started a youth service several years back to serve as a bridge for the students who come to church on Sunday mornings with their parents, but never came to youth group in the evenings.  It has a clear goal, a good set of values, a strong team of volunteers, and is mostly student run.  It has been a good program.  Attendance will be consistent again this week, just like it is every week.  BUT, it isn’t a bridge from Sunday morning to middle school or high school youth group.  It never really has worked that way.  It’s a 9 am on a Sunday morning.  We’ve tweaked it over time, with several different versions of programs.  It’s never been a bridge.  At best, it’s been a youth led worship service.  At worst, it’s the lesser of two evils for students, between coming to it or to sitting in the adult services.  I spend a fair amount of energy trying to convince students it’s important, trying to make it fun, engaging, worthwhile, etc.  I have to invest a good chunk of energy into it to keep it moving, and see very little result from it.  Most youth pastors would LOVE to have this event.  We regularly get 60 students to show up at 9 am, worship, participate in discussion groups centered around Bible study, and be in community.  It sounds GREAT.  But it doesn’t accomplish it’s purpose, and I have to manufacture energy around it to keep it alive.  It doesn’t create energy in our ministry.

What about you?  What do you have to manufacture energy for in your ministry?  What do you have to convince people is worthwhile on a regular basis?  What event would you not go to if it weren’t your job?  Is there an event that is okay, but not one that is self-sustaining in the passion/energy area?  If so, it is asking for you to pay attention to it, to be willing to change it to some level.  Here’s why.  If we are having to generate energy around an event/program for those attending/not attending, then logically they are not generating energy/passion about it themselves.  They are lacking energy because it is not a program that is serving a real need in their lives at this point.  If that is true for most of your group, you are spending resources (time/treasure/talents) on an event/program that is not needed.  That is a waste.  You have FAR too much to do to be able to waste resources.  Can you radically alter that program to redeem it and make it worthwhile and valuable?  I’m not talking about simply repackaging it, or amping it up.  You’ve been doing that.  That’s why it came up on this list.  Can it be deeply retooled?  If not, then it’s probably time to let it go.

That type of change is so tough.  You’ve invested a lot of energy into that piece of your ministry.  I’m sure there is a handful of students/parents who DO enjoy/benefit from it.  But a small handful.  And it is taking a large handful of resources.  It may be time to begin phasing that piece of your ministry out.  Only in the rarest cases do you need to pull the plug right now.  But, it is time to begin an exit strategy for that event/program.

It’s tough, but this is what leaders do.  I’d encourage you to sit down with pen and paper and think through your ministry, really focusing on how much energy you are manufacturing for each piece.  It may be time to part ways.  Breaking up is hard to do, but it’s worth it.  You’ll be able to channel that energy onto something that is useful, meeting a need, and requires less energy creation on your part.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, or your examples of what you might let go of.