By Tyrone Jones from Church for the City
Vision casting is so important to sustain the ministry you are leading. No matter the size or demographic of your ministry, you need to have a healthy vision, and then practically act on that vision. As you attempt to develop and cast a vision in your ministry this year, here are five questions to consider!
1. Are you in alignment with your lead pastor and church vision?
I remember the first time I heard the phrase “Rock Star Youth Pastor.” In all my immaturity and early ministry desires, I thought it sounded so cool. But the longer I’ve been in ministry, I’ve come to discover that there are no stars, and when it comes to a healthy local church, there is truly only one visionary. The mission, vision, and passions of our local church should be directly reflected in the vision of our youth ministry.
Psalms 133 talks about how the Lord commands a blessing when we are in alignment with who is placed over us. The oil starts at the head and runs down the body. We can’t define what a healthy youth ministry looks like in our church without having an intentional conversation with our lead pastor. We’ll never achieve traction if we lead our ministry in a direction that’s counter to the body as a whole. What we are a part of is bigger than the part we play. Our plans, desires, goals, and definition of success should come with an amen and cosign from our lead pastor.
2. Is the vision leaning too hard on systems or personnel?
For those of us who were part of church leadership in 2020, we learned very quickly that the way we do things can be stripped away at a second’s notice. Buildings, equipment, trips, special events, and many other things that were healthy elements of our ministry were completely sidelined. We had to learn how to carry the culture of the ministry and meet the needs of the people while not being able to depend on many of the systems we worked so hard to create and lean on.
On the other hand, sometimes we lose a key leader and we feel like we can’t go on without them. The leader is such an integral part of that department that it crumbles when they are gone. Many times you find out too late that the team was built on the giftings and abilities of that specific leader.
The goal is to have a healthy balance of both; obviously systems matter! In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear made the statement, “You don’t rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” We live in a world that has made creating systems easier than ever. We have Planning Center, Text In Church, Check-Ins, podcasts, conferences, coaches, and so many other resources that assist us in building systems that operate like well-oiled machines. Ideally, these systems make it possible for us to plug people in as well as remove others when it is necessary. Systems are great organization and clear assimilation. They help us create a place for people.
At the same time, we must always remember, WE ARE IN THE PEOPLE BUSINESS. So, yes, create that strong system, but not at the expense of personal interaction, formation, fellowship, and development. Jesus said, “I will build My church,” which means He will send us people, but it is our responsibility to invest in them as He leads us. Be ready to work through the attitudes, emotions, highs and lows of working with people. Empower leaders and let them speak into the vision, crafting, and growth of the department. There will come a day when the department reflects them to a certain degree, as long as it doesn’t rise and fall with them.
3. Does this benefit the students’ lives beyond your ministry?
A great leader should absolutely believe in what they are building. We should be confident in the fruit, benefits, direction, and product. In the church world, it becomes easier and easier to measure success in the context of the church world only. Salvations, baptisms, attendence, number of interns, number of people hired on staff, impact of events, and many other factors are great to look at when it comes to the measure of ministry success. However, we have to consider the fact that there is a big world outside the church walls that most of our students will someday go out and work in. Currently, if our students spend one to three hours max on campus for youth programming and about the same for general Sunday services, that leaves a possible 160+ hours a week that they are outside church walls. When developing the vision for youth ministry it’s important to consider the following questions:
- How does our message and programming affect them as students in school?
- Are our students good employees, teammates, and friends to others?
- Do we make time and space to discuss life skills with students or are we solely focused on spiritual formation?
- Is there an area of underdevelopment that has become a pattern in our students postgraduation?
In all actuality, healthy discipleship displays itself in every area of life. If we are truly doing life with students, the fruit is evident in a variety of ways. We must be intentionally looking at the whole picture of their lives and make it a priority to produce well-rounded young people.
4. Have we spent enough time with students and parents to know their heart?
As I mentioned before, we are the most resourced generation of all time when it comes to leadership. I can personally say that I’m grateful for the internet, podcasts, conferences, online collectives, and many other avenues to learn from, but none of those compare to spending time with the people you are actually ministering to.
Way too often we’ll see ministry success based on a certain model, personality, event structure, or focus, and we attempt to cut and paste it into our area. Sometimes, things are replicable or scalable and it’s a healthy progressive change, but many other times it becomes Saul’s armor—it doesn’t fit. The best ministry comes through time and understanding in our own context. The students God has called us to are the ones that we should be adamant about knowing. Our “crowd” and sphere of influence is not about social media followers or students we get to preach to at an event out of town. There’s so much truth to the age old saying “A good shepherd smells like sheep.” We can’t effectively preach to students who don’t feel heard. Leadership and the best communication is an exchange. The same goes with parents. As much as we work hard to hear from the Lord and to lead based on what we have been taught, we must absolutely value the voices of the ones who are raising our students. Parents and guardians have a higher call and greater demand in the students lives than we ever will. At times, parents are difficult, and sometimes parents are not believers themselves, but that does not dismiss the fact that they have a voice. Relational leaders are the best leaders.
5. Is the Holy Spirit the most dominant voice?
This last point should not require much explanation. The Gospel says the Holy Spirit will lead us into “all truth.” He knows us, our students, and the heart of the Father with absolute clarity. Our greatest weapon in ministry is a revived spirit and healthy soul. Those cannot and will not be attainable without posturing ourselves to be ministered to by Him. Mentors, spiritual fathers, and great global leaders can all be valuable voices in our lives, but none can ever outweigh the voice of the Spirit. Our time with Him must be intentional and consistent.
1. Feed loves to help equip and resource youth pastors in the local church. Reach out to [email protected] to find out how they can partner with and support you in your ministry