I love football. Whether it is college or the pros, I can’t wait for it to get started and to see how my favorite teams do during the course of the year.
At the end of each season, one of the first items of business football teams do is to spend time evaluating how the season went. Sure, they do evaluating over the course of the year and make adjustments as needed. But, at the end of the year, they sit back with all the coaches, players, owners or Athletic Directors and go through the year and evaluate what needs to be changed and what needs to stay the same for the upcoming year.
In the same way, Youth Pastors and Ministers need to be evaluating constantly. Whether you have been at your church a long time or are just now starting, it is vitally important to take an assessment of where your program is at and what needs to be changed. In order to move forward, you have to be able to look critically at yourself and your ministry. That is what I did at each of the ministries I was at. Whether I was just starting at a new ministry or had been there a while, I wanted to either take an initial assessment as to what I was getting into or seek to make changes in what we were currently doing.
This assessment process is divided into two parts – You and Your Ministry (this will be next week’s post).
In order to take a good assessment of your ministry, you have to first start by looking at the head honcho – YOU! This seems obvious and I hope that this is something you do regularly, but I have found often in my life that I do not do this nearly enough. As a Youth Minister doing this for over a decade, I realize that I can be set in my ways and feel that the way I have been leading myself and others is the right way. Do not get trapped into this thinking as this kind of mindset can do more harm than help.
Take this time of evaluation as an opportunity to examine your heart and open yourself back up to God and his ways. Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord”. God’s plan and path are often different than ours. So, how do you align yourself with God’s plan and make sure you are walking down the same path with him? These are some self-examination questions you can be asking yourself (in no particular order):
- How are you doing with Christ? Are you spending time with Christ daily?
- Are you being taught weekly (at Church or through a small group)?
- Are you surrounded by people who will challenge you and hold you accountable in Christ?
- How is your heart? Are you in ministry for the right reasons? Do you have the passion to take students to that next level?
- How is the balance in your life? Are you balancing your personal, family and ministry lives well? In order to be truly effective, we have to have balance in these areas.
These are not the only questions you can be asking yourself in your personal, self-evaluation, but it is a start. In fact, these all may seem like no-brainers, but when was the last time you asked yourself these types of questions? When was the last time someone else asked you these questions? Again, as I have found out about myself that when I fail to ask myself these questions, I suffer. When I suffer, my ministry suffers and most of all, the students suffer.
As great as personal evaluation is for us, this can also be challenging. The main challenge I have found is that we are in ministry! After all, we are put into a position of authority and are being paid to do a job – lead others in Christ. Shouldn’t we have our act together? No, we will never have our act all together. But, because you are in this position, you need to be in evaluating yourself and being held accountable just as much as any other. I know this can be hard as I have heard too many times of people in ministry being vulnerable with others and getting burned because of it. But, in order to be effective for Christ, you have to find others you can trust and share openly with.
To encourage me in my life and my relationship with Christ, I began to develop 3 different sets of relationships. They have helped me examine my heart, be accountable and have given me that extra kick in the pants that I desperately needed.
1. The first relationship I developed was with my Associate Pastor. For some, a relationship with your Associate Pastor may not work, but this is a natural person for me to connect with as we have a lot in common. We are able to talk about life, ministry and our relationship with Christ. I would not say that we have the deepest of relationships yet, but by meeting with him in an informal setting, we are able to digest life and ministry issues that push me in my relationship with Christ. The more we meet, the more I trust him and know that he is for me as a person.
2. The second set of relationships is with two other men who DO NOT go to my Church who I am being held accountable to. For the longest time, I did not have anyone to hold me accountable regularly. This was primarily because of the reason I mentioned above – I’ve heard of too many people being burned by sharing with others in their own Church. But, by being working alone in ministry for so long, I have realized that I needed people to challenge me in Christ and hold me accountable. Therefore, I jumped at the chance to form this new group with these two others. It has really helped a lot and I know that they do not just care about me as someone who is a Minister. They care about me as a follower of Christ, a husband and a father and I know that they are going to ask me the hard questions and challenge me so that I can be all that I Christ desires of me.
3. The last set is with some other Youth Pastors in the area. Let’s face it, ministry stinks when you do it alone. I have 3 part-time Interns that work with me right now, but I need to stress Part-Time. That is why developing relationships with these other Youth Pastors in the area has been so encouraging for me. We get together and chat about ministry, but also personal stuff. It is great to realize that you are not the only person who is dealing with or struggling through a certain situation. As we talk about life together, it challenges me to step up my game in areas I may struggle with. The more I meet with other Youth Ministers, the more I benefit.
The phrase I hear all the time is “You can only take students as far as you are allowing God to work in you”. Have you heard that one before? I bet you have. But, it is very true. If we fail to self-evaluate ourselves by looking at our heart and relationship with Christ, we will not be as effective as we need to be. We NEED that encouragement and extra challenge we get when we are being pushed and encouraged in Christ. Are you asking yourself these hard questions and making sure that you, personally, are being objective in your evaluation of yourself? Are you surrounding yourself with others so that you are fit to do the work God has called you to?
TAKE A MINUTE and…
1. Continue to seek Christ! Each day we fail to intentionally seek him and follow him, we fail to strengthen ourselves, thus fail to strengthen others.
2. If you do not have people to hold you accountable regularly, identify people in your life who can push and encourage you in your relationship with Christ. Then, call them up and see if they can get together and talk about life. Do not wait for people to call you, seek them out.
3. Identify youth ministers in your area who you can meet with. Then, set up a meeting. Just because you meet once does not mean you have to be soul buddies with them forever. It may take you a few attempts to build a relationship or for you to find the right youth minister to connect with. But, call some up and meet with them. You will benefit.