student ministry, youth ministry, challenges in ministry

3 Tricks to Keep from Falling off the Youth Ministry Tightrope

By Doug Franklin September 9, 2014

Every part of youth ministry is a balancing act. We balance time discipling students and time planning with volunteers. We balance the amount of time we spend with each student to avoid favoritism. A balanced budget is always good. Deadlines force us to balance personal study of Scripture with teaching actual lessons. And of course, we always balance family and ministry. So what makes a good tightrope walker in youth ministry?

1. A can’t-do-it-all mentality. Does the thought of delegating ministry tasks feel like admitting defeat? If you start with the thought that you must do it all, then balancing your activities will probably seem impossible. But shift your thinking to admit that you can’t do it all, and finding balance will seem doable.

Building a balanced ministry is a mental game. If you have to do it all, be it all, and make everyone happy, then your selfish attitude is driving your actions, not the needs of your students. Once your students’ relationships with Jesus become more important than your need to be needed, you’ll do whatever it takes to help them, even if it means letting go of a few tasks. The fewer things you have to balance on your own, the less likely you’ll be to drop something important.

2. The ability to say NO. Just imagine it: your senior pastor comes to you and wants to expand your responsibilities because you are doing such a great job. He asks you to personally oversee a committee, or manage a capital campaign, or lead worship on Wednesday nights. What an honor! So you say, “Of course, yes.” The problem is, now that you have that extra plate spinning, you have less attention to focus on those areas in which you were excelling in the first place. As a result, you go from doing your few tasks brilliantly to doing many tasks poorly.

Instead, remember that easily forgotten weapon in your leadership arsenal: the word “no.” When you’re asked to take on more than you can handle, just say no. Most churches make the leadership mistake of giving more tasks to those that do a great job. Common sense says if someone is doing a good job with students, then they would also do a great job with children’s ministry and college ministry and adult education. The sad part is, many youth workers fall for this. Pride says, You bet I can turn those ministries around like I did the student ministry. But six months later, you’ll end up hating the church and wanting to leave. People with balance know when to say no.

3. Team building. As the old saying goes, many hands make light work. That’s why team building is the key to balance. A leader without a team is a person who doesn’t get the job done. If you want to reach balance in your life and ministry, you will need to build a team of like-minded people to serve with you. Only then can you be sure that your ministry is healthy.

People regularly ask me how busy I am and how much traveling I do. I tell them I am not that busy and I don’t travel that much because I have an awesome team who can do anything I can do. I just look better doing it! Building this team has been a key to my happiness and effectiveness. A great team means I can go home at 5:00 p.m. It means that my ministry will go on long after I am gone. Even the greatest “rock star” ministry leaders can’t stay in the spotlight forever. Many of those superhuman youth workers who seem like they can balance an entire ministry on their own are eventually crushed under the weight of responsibility—unless they learn to distribute the weight to a well-trained team.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More