Friday, February 25, 2011

Do You Manage...Or Do You Lead?

When you enter a new ministry situation and see things that need to happen or that need to be changed, one of the more difficult decisions you must make is, "How quickly do I move?"  It didn't take me long to come to a decision on that question at Wesley Memorial UMC in 2001.  A number of their student leaders had left with an associate pastor just before my arrival. Another very important family had moved away.  We were soon to learn that we were losing our pastor to another church, which also meant losing our youth choir director (his wife) and two more key student leaders.  The time for action was NOW.

I began to roll out some of my plans to our Youth Ministry Team in a November meeting at my home.  Aside from (for the time being) minor changes to the Sunday evening youth group meeting, I had a couple of things I wanted to to do immediately. I wanted to start a bible study group on Wednesday nights.  I wanted to get a monthly SHO-Time (Senior High Only) fellowship night started.  I was going to throw a major Christmas party at my home.  I wanted to plan a Winter Week of Wonder (WOW) for the week after Christmas.  And I wanted to plan a Ski Camp for January of 2002.  My new team of Youth Counselors were supportive of these ideas, as they understood the need to build relationships and excitement levels given all that was going on.  I remember one particular volunteer asking several dozen questions about the value of a Ski Camp and how I would go about planning it.  After a long period of Q & A, Robyn Smith spoke up and said something along the lines of "Look; we went to all of the trouble and expense of hiring a full-time youth pastor (the church's first) with a lot of experience.  He's done this before.  Let's let him do his job."  And that was the end of that discussion.

SHO-Time was an immediate success, giving me a chance to build relationships with the high school students who had already been through several youth leaders and a couple of disasters.  The bible study remained a small dedicated group for my entire tenure.  The Christmas party (see picture at top) drew a huge crowd and got people very excited, and that carried over into Winter WOW (at left).  That first WOW included a round of mini-golf at Disney, followed by lunch at Planet Hollywood.  This would become a tradition.  All of these things helped me "earn the right to be heard" and share Jesus with my new youth family.  And the Ski Camp?  Check back Monday to see what I learned...

Leadership in youth ministry is a tricky thing.  It is important to listen to the students and hear their dreams and goals for the ministry.  Parents must be heard from, although it is crucial to remember that parents usually have hopes and ideas that apply to their child, not to the whole group.   Your pastor should have input.  And the adult volunteers who work with you share in the planning and implementation of your programs and goals.  But in the end (in my opinion- others will disagree) the youth pastor must be a loving and benevolent dictator.  You listen.  You pray hard.  You draw on previous experiences.  And then you make the call.  If you are the youth pastor, then it is as Robyn pointed out- you were hired because they want you to lead.  Are you there to manage a committee that oversees a youth program-  or are you in ministry to help students change the world in the name of Jesus?  Don't pass the buck on leadership.  You will fail at times, but that is nothing to be afraid of.  I know at WMUMC the youth were watching to see if I would be more of the same old thing... or a new kind of leader.  I suspect that students everywhere are asking the same question.  Jesus told his followers to drop what they were doing and go with  Him- wherever that may lead.  We should be just as bold.  Have a blessed weekend.

Because of Jesus,

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2/25/2011

    You changed the whole feeling of youth at Wesely. Before you came it was all depressing and there were too many rules. You made Graceland fun, and I learned a lot too. Thank you.


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