“From Managing to Focusing: The Fine Art of Reprioritizing”- a Youthworker journal article

*The following is an article I wrote for the July/August YouthWorker Journal, and I think can be accessed at the following link:

youthworker journal online

Let me ask you an honest question. Have you ever sat down at your desk an hour before youth group and wondered where the week had gone and what the heck you were going to speak about at that night’s meeting?

For many of us, this scenario sounds all too familiar. Some youth workers hate the office part of the job. Many of us spend way too much time at the office and behind our desk doing stuff that seems to take us away from being a youth worker.In college, I read youth ministry management books that gave rookies advice and tools to organize our youth ministries in order to maximize effectiveness. While these types of books can be helpful, I believe that finding a healthy balance and managing your ministry has more to do with priorities than specific organizational methods.

When I got my first job as a youth pastor, my desk was piled high with lots of things to get done. That’s when I started taking a more critical look at what I was supposed to be doing. I soon realized my priorities were out of whack, thus causing the unnecessary and often overwhelming sense of stress and burden.There might be some of us who love sitting behind a desk full of papers and watching the time tick by on our wall clocks. Some of us may have been reprimanded or fired for a lack of administration skills.

While management is an important skill, youth ministry is neither a business nor should be run like one. The only business we are in is forming the spiritual lives of students, and that does not happen at an office, behind a computer or in front of a stack of papers. It happens in conversations and shared experiences with our students beyond the walls of our offices and church buildings.

I believe youth workers need to learn the fine art of reprioritizing our time and our workloads. Administration always will be a major aspect of youth ministry, but we never should allow ourselves to get overwhelmed by it.If you spend more than half your time focusing on busy work, I would advise taking a mini-retreat and praying about your priorities, passions and what you really are called to do in youth ministry.

Let me offer a few creative ways to make reprioritizing work for you.

1) Find people at your church who love administrative tasks and can do them well. Equip them, resource them and support them to help you.

2) Delegate certain tasks to your student leaders, such as writing welcome notes to new students, updating student contact lists, maintaining your website, taking pictures, etc.

3) Remember: In this struggling economy, ministries are scaling back on events, trips and programs that cost money and require paperwork.

4) Lunch meetings, small groups and other forms of relational ministry should not require much administration and often will return far deeper results and more life transformation.Of course, you need to spend time in your office managing your ministry; but see what you can do to free up more time to be with your students. Isn’t that what youth ministry is all about?

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