5 Steps to Relaunch Your Ministry When Things Seem to be Going Wrong
We’ve all gone into youth ministry for a million reasons: We were enthusiastic to share what we received, we had leadership qualities we wanted to express, we looked up and wanted to imitate a youth leader who guided us, we really wanted to lead a lot of young people, the vibe of having loads of young people around excited us, our Jesus experience was simply irresistible … Many times we feel one or many of these reasons are being accomplished. That makes us feel great, satisfied, spiritually boosted or simply confirming we are in the right vocation.
But, at other times, it simply seems not to be working.
“My group has just crumbled, most of the other leaders are leaving the ministry, I feel drained of ideas, there doesn’t seem to be any spiritual growth in my group, petty issues are taking over the group dynamic and to top it all I don’t know whether all this is really worth it!”
When the statements and situations above seem to be more present than the original desires and stimuli, apathy or burnout might be taking over, especially if we are still committed as before. How can we avoid, or how can we react in these circumstances?
1. Don’t push too much
Many a times our first reaction might be: ‘Maybe I’m not doing enough’ or ‘I should do something bigger, or more attractive’. As long as you’re committed to your youth group this might not be the case. Instead, remember the first calling of Jesus to the apostles: “He appointed twelve that they might be with him … (Mk3:14)” Our first call is not to be ministering more but to be with Him. As Mother Theresa says: “God has not called me to be successful. He called me to be faithful.”
Youth ministry is not about doing more but being more. Young people are looking for an authentic witness who is faithful to his journey, irrespective of this resulting in success or showing one’s vulnerability. This calls me to the second point:
2. Are you actually doing more than being?
Many times the feel good factor that comes from being on the field, working with young people, receiving their approval, might be ironically the biggest temptation to go off the mark. Formation should be your priority. It’s a challenge for me as well but I’m ever more convinced that keeping this as a priority is what develops good quality ministry. So go through your formation checklist: when was the last time I attended a course of personal formation? Maybe I need to start a journey or renew one with my spiritual director or mentor! How is my prayer life? Maybe I need to put a retreat in my programme!
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3. How are my relationships in the group?
Sometimes my relationships within the group might be disturbing and creating uneasiness every time I’m going to the group even though it might not be so evident. A youth group is not simply a group of friends. A community is somewhat different. Go through a personal exercise to see what’s happening in your heart. Have friendships and dependencies actually taken over your relationships with your colleagues, or members of the group? Am I struggling with these relationships? And are these relationships actually alienating me of the intentions of the group or ministry I’m responsible for?
4. Count your blessings
Many a times we are often lost in grumbling and complaining on all the factors, persons, and situations leading to ‘failures’ in our ministry. Instead, a different approach can actually set our hearts and ministry on fire: “Gratitude in advance is the most powerful creative force in the Universe.” (N.D. Walsh) Let gratitude be the attitude which leads you to new pastures, the attitude which guides you through the good and the bad times.
5. It might be actually a time for change
Without making rash decisions, God might be calling you to a change. The Lord might be calling you to mysterious changes, maybe a change within your ministry, a change to a different ministry or an interior spiritual change. Never allow yourself to think small, but allow God to direct your thoughts, he might be asking you to leave to a land he’s showing you, to row into the deep, or to strengthen your roots. Do not be afraid to let go into this change.
Many times it is difficult to discern which of the above is the most urgent for you. Make sure to facilitate your process of prioritising. First of all try to think as objectively as possible alone or with a true friend where you truly are. Secondly and most importantly make sure to take your experience to prayer and spiritual direction.
Remember the Lord is first of all calling you to your ministry, not your creativity, your success, your excellent talents or social skills. If you desire it, you will surely get the help you need and you’ll soon be in a new place to relaunch your ministry.