Program Overload


By Anonymous

As I sit down to write this blog post, I am taking a couple deep breaths as a wave of panic continues to rush over me because I just realized that my blog post deadline was… YESTERDAY! Completely putting aside what I was planning to write on, I am moving instead toward a question that has been on my mind for quite a while now—are we doing too much and yet, somehow not doing enough?

As I sit here now, my office is cluttered with basketball registration forms, uniforms that need to be updated, children’s church attendance sheets, fundraiser miscellany, residual Fall Festival games/decorations/pumpkins that need to be put way before that one church lady chides me for a messy office, Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes that need to be packed, a notebook with our big January retreat program information that has not even been cracked open, a children’s Christmas program that I’ve got to cram into December somewhere (along with caroling, parties, and all the other stuff we try to cram in) and two calendars that get dates put on them (but obviously aren’t looked at enough to keep track of when things are due)! I know that all of these things have value in some way, but I’m having a hard time putting my finger on how to whittle away the fluff and focus on what is truly meaningful for the lives of the people we serve! The truth is: I have so much on my plate that I don’t have time to whittle away the fluff. I know that I need to take time away to re-focus and re-charge, but (to be honest) when I have time off the last thing I want to think about is church stuff. I am positive that many other ministry leaders out there are in the exact same boat.

Less is more. Less is more. Less is more. I’m not sure when I will actually learn this. I spent a year working alongside other youth ministers as a part of a Youth Ministry Coaching Program cohort and this was my mantra then. Obviously, it did not sink in; but it must. Too many of us burn out too quickly because we are doing what the church wants us to do and barely leaving time for what God wants us to do.

So, what do we do? I wish I had some magical answers for us all. It is clear that I may be in no position to give advice, but I can tell you what I plan to start doing for myself.

  1. TALK IT OUT—Sometimes I find myself feeling so overwhelmed that can’t breathe. I talk to God, to my husband, to my sister, my ministry friends. And suddenly it doesn’t seem like too much to handle. I take a beat and reflect with the help of others. No one can do everything on their own.
  2. GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK—If you gain nothing else from this post than a resounding “ME TOO” feeling, then my mission has been accomplished. Ministry is not easy. There are no perfect formulas. Suggestions are not imperatives—just because someone says we should do something, doesn’t mean we have to. This one is a biggie for me!
  3. BE STILL—Jesus was known for taking time away, especially before and after a big event. How can we know what direction God wants us to go in, if we aren’t taking time to listen to Him? Take a day or week (not vacation) to re-focus, to listen, and to align with God’s call for you in the area of ministry that you serve.
  4. DON’T GIVE UP—What we do as ministers is important work, even if what we are currently doing doesn’t feel that important. Take time (#3) to figure out how to make the areas that seem less meaningful…become more so; or, get rid of them…cast a vision with your congregation, your students, and parents about how you want to lead. There will probably be some push back, but sometimes growth is painful (just ask the teenagers that you work with).
  5. ALLOW ROOM FOR TEENAGERS TO DO NOTHING—They are often overwhelmed too. I planned a lock-In a few weeks back for my high school youth. I had lots of different things planned, but when it came down to it, when spent the night playing cards, playing a whole lot of sardines (of course), and just sitting around talking with each other. I went home and told my husband that I felt like we did nothing all night; but, they had a blast. I need to remember that sometimes a lack of structure is not a terrible thing. Sometimes, it’s exactly what everyone needs!

Those who have the most programs do not always win even though it may seem that way sometimes. I have found over the more than ten years I’ve been doing this ministry thing that the most meaningful ministry moments are often the ones that happen when I least expect it, and have very little to do with flashy programming or perfectly run events. Moving forward, I am challenging myself to focus on a ministry that has more depth than width. I challenge you to do the same!