3 Youth Ministry Traps I Have Fallen Into and Escaped

I remember as a child something I always wanted to be able to do was juggle.  I had trouble just catching a ball that was tossed to me. There was no way I would have the hand eye coordination to juggle. This did not stop me from trying. The issue I always had was that as I was focusing on one ball I would drop another. I could maybe keep two balls going at once but never all three.

I have found that youth ministry is a lot like juggling. You need to keep up with kids, plan trips, plan for weekly meeting, meet parent, keep the church leaders informed and happy, write lessons, recruit volunteers, keep volunteers happy and much more.

Over my three and a half years being a head youth worker I have had many times where I said “If I just get this right everything else will fall into place.” Early on my biggest focus was teaching. I spent a ridiculous amount of hours preparing lessons that I thought were really good. I was taught in college that a good lesson had 4 hours of prep for every 5 minutes of teaching. At first I really assumed that if I just got the lessons right everything else would fall into place. I ended up with an unorganized mess. Today I can look back and say that I fell into the lesson trap.

I then realized that I needed to get things organized. I scaled down the amount of time on the lesson to a more reasonable amount and sometimes less then reasonable. I then spent all my time getting things organized. I made sure that there was a handout for everything, poster, flyer, schedules, and signup sheets. During this phase I spent a large amount of time brain storming what creative, fun thing we could do during a youth meeting that will be memorable and fun. My focus was on the program.

At some point my focus changed again. I decided that I really just needed to connect with the kids. I started meeting one on one or in small groups with them as much as I could handle. I went to anything they invited me to.  I would Facebook stalk, text message and e-mail teens and had a spread sheet to make sure it looked random but that I would not be missing anyone.  I was focused on relationships and set many other tasks to the side. We again became disorganized and lessons continued to suffer.

I fell into three different traps consistently. I remember going from one to the next. I knew I needed to find balance I just could not. I am still struggling with this today but have found ways to help keep the balance.

Get help: I hand most of the programming details off to student leaders. I ask them to come up with and run the majority of what happens during out meetings. This freed me from some of the programming tasks I was juggling. It also forces relationships. I know that I will be checking in with anyone who is running part of the event.

Learn to say no: I say no to invitations all the time. If I know I need to focus on something else I will miss a sports event, or drum line show, or concert. It’s not because I don’t care but because I know that I need to focus on what is best for the group.

Review with others: I ask people all the time “how do you think that went”. I don’t do anything formal I just a questions. If there is something that took up a lot of my time but they don’t remember then it was a waist of my time.

Learn to Kill Things:  A few months ago everyone walked in to a youth room set up like a funeral and a wooden casket in the front. We killed the Wednesday night program as they knew it. Our church has killed many other programs. Everything needs to have a purpose and if it does not fulfill the purpose there are two options, 1 Change the purpose to match what it does accomplish or 2. Kill it.

I am still learning how to juggle. I drop balls all the time but then reach down and pick them back up as soon as I notice. The ball I have not spent enough time on is Leadership training. I hope to research and plan to better equip both our student leaders and our adults to help oversee different aspects of the youth ministry.

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