Growth is overrated, and usually involves too much hard work and focus. It is far easier to lead with a minimalist strategy.
- Don’t read anything about youth ministry. Assume that you already know all there is to know about ministry to teenagers, and that those who have more experience are simply older and out of touch. Don’t use the internet as a resource or buy a book about youth ministry; instead, rely solely on your own experience and thoughts.
- Assume the society around you offers no competition. Conclude in your mind that teenagers from your group have no interest in computers, video games, television, sports or movies. Other churches might struggle to gain teenagers’ attention, but your church won’t – because your teenagers aren’t lacking commitment like those who attend other youth groups.
- Cater to the “this is the way it’s always been done” mentality. Allow your leaders and others to convince you that the way it has been done in your church or ministry is the way it always should be. Block from your mind the fact that about 80 percent of churches in North America have peaked or are in decline. Assume that only other churches need to periodically review their inferior approach to ministry.
- Assume that teenagers will accept mediocrity from the church. Make sure all your volunteer leaders know that teenagers do not really know the difference between an excellent youth event and one that is lacking quality. Remind your teenagers that they should continue to come out of loyalty to God and the group, and forget about any aspiration for quality in the church. Eliminate from your mind the thought that your teenagers could be embarrassed to invite their friends to your group event if it is poorly planned and run.
- Aim your efforts to please the already convinced. Assume that your only audience is those teenagers who already come to your group. Never plan an outreach event. Don’t encourage your teenagers to invite their friends. Don’t place ads in the newspaper or build contacts with the community. Make sure everyone knows that only youth from church families are welcome to attend your ministry.
- Teach your teens to remain separate from non-Christians. Make sure you put fear into their hearts about befriending people who do not agree with them in every way. Teach them that ‘holiness’ demands that they only make friends with other committed Christians, and that Jesus would never have anything to do with ‘sinners.’
- Develop a condescending attitude toward growing and successful groups. Conclude in your own mind that groups which attract new people must be shallow in their teaching, personality focused, or weak in their expectations, in order to attract a crowd larger than yours. Always remember that your group is the best youth ministry around – and if people only knew how great your group was, then everyone would come to yours instead of the one at the church down the road.
- Keep the lid on the creativity jar. Devote as little time as possible to prayer, and reflecting on how to improve your programming and events. Stick with the tried and true, and offer your group the same menu year after year. Assume that no one else in your leadership team has any good ideas about how to improve your program and initiatives. Never ask your teens for their ideas; and when they offer suggestions, don’t listen to them.
- Don’t invest in your volunteers. Never offer to send them to a conference or give them a resource so they can be refreshed. Take people’s loyalty and commitment for granted. Make sure you tell them when they come aboard as a leader that you think they are great and that you’ll let them know if you ever change your mind. Assume they will only want to volunteer in your ministry for one year and that constant new blood is always better than leaders with experience.
- ‘Have faith’ that your ministry will grow without focusing on lost people, building the biblical community God desires, and radically committing yourself to excellence in Jesus’ name. Put your trust solely in God, so you don’t have to use the gifts and talents he gave you.
In closing, remember: You should preserve your energy for things that require less commitment and thought. Forget about the calling and relax – you probably deserve it!
Bruce Fawcett, PhD is academic dean and associate professor of leadership at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. adc.acadiau.ca