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student ministry, youth ministry, leadership, dream big

You can’t lead if you can’t dream

By Doug Franklin April 29, 2014

Many youth workers suffer from dreamitis, an inability to dream. Symptoms include living in survival mode, leading with your head down, and lacking innovation.

Where do youth workers contract this deadly disease? Most acquire it from the daily grind: competing expectations, too many emergency fires, lack of resources, and no real training.

This disease is taking a toll. Without the ability to dream, youth workers do the same events and the same programing over and over, never tweaking for improvement and never evaluating the effectiveness. The “same old” becomes the order of the day. Students sense the creativity deficiency and realize that “nothing new” means “time to check out.” That’s right—dreamitis is contagious.

I spent last week with 20-some youth workers talking strategic planning on a Refuel Retreat. I asked the group members where their ministries were going. Crickets chirped. These youth workers struggled to dream about the direction of their ministries. Honestly, I assumed they spent time every day planning for the future.

That may sound cliché—”Spend time every day dreaming.” But it’s hard to plan a trip if you don’t know the destination.

So what’s the cure for this malady?

Change your perspective. New perspective drives innovation. Look at your ministry from a new direction, and you’ll see new ways of ministering to students.

That’s not as hard as it sounds. Here are a few treatment plans to move from stagnation to innovation:

From commanding to equipping

We think we lead a ministry to students. What if we changed our viewpoint and said, “We help students lead a ministry to their peers”? How would we train students differently? How would we support them, prepare them?

From topic-based to others-based

We disciple students through topic-based small groups. What if, instead, we created mentoring groups dedicated to leading others to Christ? This new perspective would help prepare small group leaders and narrow their focus. Small groups would move from hangout time to praying for lost friends.

From mission trip to discipleship

We think a mission trip is a success as long as students go and serve. What if we thought about the mission trip as a discipleship trip? We’d use the time away to serve, but also to learn about how we are designed to serve. This change would get us dreaming about the activities of the trip. Free time would look different. So would the return home. Instead of quickly moving past the trip, we would spend one-on-one time with students to help them create a plan to serve at home.

All youth workers have distractions and good reasons to keep the schedule they have in place. But it costs something: our ability to dream. When we dream, we attract students (they love to think outside the box), and we allow God to use his power to transform lives. God cares about our routines, but boy, does he love it when we dream big.

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