There are times when change isn’t the best idea. Maybe you’re one of those people who just like change. You like to rearrange your furniture, you take different ways home from work just to mix it up, and you frequent different restaurants just because you like it. Or maybe You take the same route every day because you know what to expect and always order the same thing because you know you like it.
I find that I fit into both categories depending on life. If I’m in the midst of changes that aren’t really in my control, I tend to like everything else to be status quo. If life is pretty smooth, I like change. Either way, we all deal with change in different ways, but I have found there are times when change isn’t really needed or even a good idea.
Change for the sake of change can be fun, but in ministry we need to be aware of the kind of changes we make. Changing up the order of the night or ordering pizza instead of hot dogs is no problem, yet when we mess with programming and strategy we need a bit more care and thought.
This may sound counter-intuitive, but the reality is that our audience, although young, doesn’t necessarily like change. For them, same = safe, consistency = comfort, and knowing what to expect = acceptance. A heart that is at ease is often more open to whatever is being taught or shared. This doesn’t mean that our ministries never change, it just means that we realize the “what” and “who” matters as we change.
A few questions to ask before you initiate change:
1) Is this change necessary?
It takes time for any program or strategy to take hold and just when you’re sick of it – your audience is finally on board. In the end, ministry isn’t about you so be careful. Changing grape for cherry slushies is easy – go for it. Painting the wall in the youth room could be awesome, just be sure to get good color advice. Changing how you run small groups is foundational and should be given time and thought.
What other change is in happening in the church?
This is all in the timing. If your church is going through a major project, leadership change, or vision implementation, wait on your own change. You lead students but you are also a leader within the larger church. Change on more than one front is difficult to navigate, can create silos and stress, and often elements get lost in the mix.
3) Is this a comparison issue?
Every leader deals with this. The guy down the street does “it” so well and you decide to do “it” too, or you heard a great podcast and decide that without a band ministry is over, or you read a great book and create a new strategy overnight. With each new idea, it’s important to take into account your context, your audience, and your leadership. Just because it works in Texas and reaches thousands of kids doesn’t mean it will work in North Dakota.
4) Are you bored?
I don’t mean kids are bored – that’s an entirely different issue. Your audience changes each year as new grades start and others graduate, so many times boredom is on us. It’s a reality that we can get bored doing the same format or curriculum year after year. If you feel bored, start with why? Are you bored because you are spiritually dry? Or, is it time for new programming because culture has shifted and you have not? Attend a conference and connect to a larger ministry tribe, take up a hobby that isn’t connected to ministry at all, or get involved in a study as a couple or gender-specific group that helps you grow as a follower of Jesus. Maybe the change needs to be in you, not ministry.
5) Is it because of a squeaky wheel?
At some point, you will have a parent or pastor complain about how you ran an event, what you said in a message, how you created a small group or even how you run your programming. Complaining can lead us to second guess what we are doing and change something that isn’t broken. First, if it really is something you did wrong – apologize and move on. Next, if it’s something that a student totally misinterpreted – apologize and move on. If it’s something that has a purpose and reason and they just don’t like it – apologize, explain the “why” and move on.
Still feeling like you need a change? Then pray, plan, and move forward. Remember, principles never change but methods do all the time and it helps to pay attention to the transition.
Image attribution: phototechno / Thinkstock