student ministry, youth ministry, youth ministry reset

When it’s time for a ministry reset

By Doug Franklin November 22, 2017

Before Google Maps, before MapQuest, there was the good old-fashioned, reliable road atlas. When we got lost, we pulled out the atlas, scanned for landmarks, determined our location, and plotted the best course to our destination.

Youth ministries today need an atlas. So many youth workers tell me, “I need a new direction; I just don’t know what it is.” They say their ministries feel lethargic or lack enthusiasm. They’ve tried everything, but nothing is yielding the right results.

And I feel their pain. I get their frustration. A directionless or stagnant ministry can drain the life out of you in no time. But getting out of a ministry rut will require something different of us. We can’t keep doing what we’re doing and expect different results—that’s what I like to call “youth ministry insanity.” We’ve got to recalculate and recalibrate.

“We need a scale to help us assess how we’re doing; until then, we’ll continue along the path of avoiding reality.”

We’ve got to reset. And here’s how we can get started:

Assess and Confront Your Reality

The first step in resetting your youth ministry is to assess your situation and confront your reality. Let’s just say, this is easier said than done. It’s kind of like when we notice ourselves putting on weight but repeatedly avoid stepping on the scale. At the end of the day, we’d rather not know how bad it really is. We do the same thing in ministry. We may notice things starting to slide in the wrong direction, but we choose ignorance over uncovering what’s really going on.

It turns out that one of the best weight loss strategies, according to Cornell University, is to step on the scale once a day. And we should be adopting this same idea in youth ministry. We need a scale to help us assess how we’re doing; until then, we’ll continue along the path of avoiding reality.

LeaderTreks created the Intentional Youth Ministry Assessment for this very purpose. The Intentional Youth Ministry Assessment details key metrics and indicators that Formative, Fundamental, Emerging, and Dynamic ministries possess or exhibit. By using the Healthy Youth Ministry Assessment you can assess your ministry’s health in these five areas: Meaningful Relationships, Intentional Programming, Transformational Discipleship, Partnering with Parents, and Student Leadership. Download the Intentional Youth Ministry Assessment to begin assessing and confronting your reality.

Evaluate the Good and the Bad

Evaluation naturally follows any kind of assessment. Knowing where we stand encourages us to look at what’s going well and what needs improvement. Many times our ministries experience plateaus simply because we don’t pause to evaluate the effectiveness of what we’re doing. Begin your evaluation by celebrating what you’re well. Consider your biggest ministry wins this year and what led to them. List out the ways that you’re seeing your vision for the ministry realized, or think through recent words of encouragement that you’ve received regarding the ministry. Next look towards areas that need improvement. Try to name the habits, practices, or programming elements that could be hindering the health of your ministry. Look for areas that aren’t reaching their potential or aspects of ministry that consistently bring stress or conflict. Your evaluation will lead you to understand what’s driving you forward and what’s holding you back.

Make an Action Plan

Following your assessment and your evaluation, spend time charting out your next steps. Make an action plan to address areas that need improvement. Outline not only what you need to do but also how you will do it. A good action step is specific, measurable, and answers the questions, “Who? What? When? Where? How?” You may choose to implement a bimonthly discipleship training for your adult volunteers, or you may decide to invite two students and a mentor to participate in a new leadership laboratory. An action plan is what will begin to kickstart your youth ministry reset.

If your ministry is without life or if you fear that you are stuck in a rut, don’t put off hitting the reset button. Use the Intentional Youth Ministry Assessment to assess and confront your reality. Based on the assessment, evaluate what you’re doing well and what you can improve on, and develop an action plan to move your ministry forward once again.

And if you’re ready to reset, we want to help. LeaderTreks offers Reset, a hybrid training tool that combines resources and coaching. You’ll receive a download of training resources as well as three, one hour, one-on-one coaching sessions. 

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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