This week, the YS Blog posted a great, short read from DAN ISTVANIK, reminding youth workers the importance of recognizing the difference between programs and ministry. It's a timely and important reminder because for most of us, as programs are a big part of what we do. As a way to further the youth ministry conversation, I wanted to both applaud and thank Dan for his article, and his boldness to be transparent and encouraging.
Like Dan, as a veteran youth worker, I too need to constantly remember that what I do is vastly more than what my job title suggests. My position is, the DIRECTOR of YOUTH MINISTRY. While ministry is in the title and the description, there is still a sense that as a director, I am responsible for creating programs that are both attractive and entertaining. It's like I'm some kind of cruise ship director; calling out this months hayride and bonfire event on the gaming deck which will be followed by our missions dinner fund raiser in the main dining hall next weekend.
Currently we are in a season of programatic activities that happen every year. There is a lot of good in what we do. There is potential for great ministry. But at the heart of these events is the overwhelming issue of programming and making sure that these programs happen. Even in my student ministry, I have to force myself and others to consider why we do some of what we do. AS I look at the calendar and plan ahead, I have to stop and ask, what's the purpose for this or that.
It's a dangerous trap. There is a certain level of programming needs, but a great need to be thinking ministry as we consider our roles as disciplers. I often wrestle with how the calendar fits the ministry I've trying to achieve. What I want to do with my students in the way of speaking life into their hearts is over shadowed by the activities and the events that are often the expectation of parents and church leaders. Where I might be okay with having a spiritual and deeply impactful conversation with one or students students, the church leadership might question the effectiveness of my ministry when the numbers are lower than what they were 5 or 10 years ago.
In Dan's post, he lays out an easy way to remember what it is we are called to be for a students. I would say, yes, there are the programs and elements of programs that we must oversee. But I agree with Dan in that programs, while they may support our ministry, we must "make sure to be careful not trade program for ministry."
Take a moment and read Dan's post on the Youth Specialties blog.
Programs vs Ministry. There is a balance; a healthy middle ground. And while I am okay walking the middle ground, my heart leans towards the ministry. Discipling a students heart to know and live for Christ is a special experience. It's honestly why I continue to serve students.
While I love Dan's list of reminders, I wonder...
I'd love to read your thoughts and comments.
Dan Istvanik, we haven't met, but thank you so much for your post. I a busy season of "programming," you have reminded me to slow down and see that at the heart of what I do, there is a student who needs to know the grace of a loving God.
Jay Higham is a veteran youth worker of over 28 years; having worked with students in the local church and Christian camping settings. Jay is currently serving as the director of family ministry at a church, located in West Virginia. Jay has been married to Amy for over 23 years. Together, they are raising 5 kids, (4 boys and 1 girl). Jay is an aspiring author, blogger, speaker, vlogger, and social media junkie. He is passionate about student ministry, family ministry, and training youth workers to love and serve their students with passion and excellence.