Yesterday I wrote part one of this 2 part blog series on “Thinking STEPS in ministry.” If you haven’t read it yet… go back here and read that one first. If you have read it, here we go with the PRACTICAL “how to” side of thinking STEPS and not just programs for your ministry.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Before you start identifying a cute strategy with words that all start with the same letter, have some kind of slick diagram that looks like a baseball diamond or spells the name of your ministry (don’t think you weren’t coming up with something like that… I know our type too well 🙂 )… the FIRST THING we have to do is identify the OBJECTIVE. We need to know what we are trying to accomplish before we try to accomplish it. What if the inventors of Baseball never came up with the concept of scoring runs? What if they created this awesome game where you got on base and then moved from base to base… only to just keep moving from base to base. I can just imagine that conversation:
“so, after they get to third base, then what?”
“Well… they go to home plate.”
“um, go to first base?”
“So when do they finally stop going around the bases?”
“When the other team gets three outs.”
“So how do you WIN?”
“um… great question.”
Thank God they came up with scoring runs… or baseball would be a very confusing and boring sport to watch (I know… some of you already think it is).
So when we think about our students in our ministries… we need to ask “What is the end goal? What does a RUN look like for a student?” When I first started asking this question… it was very difficult to answer because we are never truly FINISHED as a follower of Jesus while we are still living. We are ALWAYS progressing towards becoming more and more like Jesus. (Sanctification, for you theology nerds)
I finally figured out that I don’t have to think about what a completed Christian is supposed to be like… I just need to think about what JESUS wants for an adult disciple. I thought about the answer to the question, “What kind of Followers of Jesus do I want to graduate from my ministry?” And then it clicked. I want students to be fully in love with Jesus, ready to give everything they have to follow Him and want to share their story with as many people as possible. If I could graduate those kinds of students… then I would feel like I did what I was supposed to as a youth pastor. So that became my objective. That is why I said yesterday that I no longer became impressed with how many students attended my program… because that was not my end goal. That was not my objective. My goal was to ask how many students look like that profile I just described when they graduate from High School? That changed HOW I do ministry. I moved from Programs to STEPS.
The model I use now is very different than where it started 10 years ago. Why? I’ve learned over the years how to think about it in a better way. I now use 4 words that describe the steps I think it takes for students to be fully in love with Jesus, ready to give everything they have to follow Him and want to share their story with as many people as possible.
GATHER. GROW. SERVE. SHARE.
GATHER – students need to have a place where they can gather together to have fun, be with friends, sing about God in a way that makes sense to them, and hear about what God wants for their lives in a meaningful way. It’s a place where students who are far from God will hear about Jesus and the incredible life he has in store for them… and how he wants to have a deep, meaningful relationship with them and wants to forgive them of their sins. This is where our youth group program fits. And notice… this is not the THE GOAL… but it is STEP 1 in a process.
GROW – Programs don’t grow disciples. Sure, students will grow under the teaching of the word of God and under giving of themselves in worship… but we believe that people grow BEST in the context of friends and mentors sitting in circles doing life together. This is where our small group ministry is HUGE. And we value our small groups in such a huge way, that they are a BIG PART of our YOUTH GROUP PROGRAM. That’s right… we cut out a huge chunk of our time that we could be entertaining, singing or teaching from the STAGE to teach through sitting in a circle with mentors. WHY do this then? Why not create a separate ministry or program to do this? 2 reasons: 1) we don’t think in the context of programs :-), and 2) our youth group time is the time where all of our students are already there… so why wouldn’t we take advantage of that vs. asking them for another time commitment out of their week? That’s why. A small group is where a student will be cared for, loved, prayed for, encouraged, challenged, and heard. Big time discipleship happens in small groups. (or at least it should) A part of our Small Groups this year that will continue the GROW aspect is something I am calling “The First Five.” It is a devotional sheet that goes home with the student that has the bottom line for the week on it, the memory verse for the month on the topic we are teaching on, and 5 days worth of devotions for the student to develop a consistent quiet time with. It’s called “The First Five” because we want our students to spend “The First Five” minutes of their day with God. The more time they spend with God and the more time they spend with meaningful friends and mentors, the more they will grow to be like Jesus.
SERVE – Someone once said that “we are never more like Jesus than when we are serving.” If that is true, then serving needs to be a BIG STEP for a student progressing toward the goal of being fully in love with Jesus, ready to give everything they have to follow Him and want to share their story with as many people as possible. We need to be intentional to not only PROVIDE areas for students to serve, but to TEACH them to look for ways to SERVE OTHERS ON THEIR OWN. We want our students serving both INSIDE the walls of our church doing MINISTRY, and OUTSIDE the walls of our church doing OUTREACH.
SHARE – The final STEP in our process is SHARE. We want our students to be fully equipped to SHARE their story of who Jesus is in their lives with as many people as possible. We teach on it, mentor it, and try to demonstrate it whenever possible. For me, this is where I go “THEY GET IT BIG TIME!”
The tricky thing about these four words is that, unlike baseball, you aren’t done with one step when you move on to the next. I know a student is hitting the goal when ALL FOUR words are present in their life.
So what is the goal for your students? And what are the steps they need to take to reach that goal? I think it is time that we start Thinking STEPS in Ministry.