Tim Alford

It's time to do less, but better

I’m no prophet, but I do know one thing about you… you are busy! In the whirlwind of youth and children’s ministry, you have no problem filling your time.

There are innumerable things that you either already are, or feel like you should, be doing: Sunday morning break out sessions, Friday night outreach groups, small group Bible studies, mentoring programmes, provision for children with special educational needs, schools ministry, detached work, managing transitions from primary to secondary, preparation for university, writing session content, pastoral conversations, engaging with parents, raising and releasing young leaders, social action projects, recruiting and training volunteers, fundraising, planning events, organising residentials, sharpening your own gifts, going to training conferences, spending personal time with Jesus, etc!

Oh and then there are those risk assessments to write, DBS checks to process, child protection policies to formulate, finances to reconcile…. I’m exhausted just thinking about it!

Chances are, you are busting a gut to make all of this happen, and feeling guilty about those things you wish you were doing but can’t seem to find the time to give proper attention to. If that’s you, I know how you feel! But there is another way….

Do Less Better

I’m still no prophet, but there’s a second thing I know about you (and me!)…. You cannot do everything, and you certainly cannot do everything well.

In youth and children’s ministry there are so many good things we could be doing, but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

Youth Ministry legend, Doug Fields, expresses it this way: “When a youth worker is talking about how busy she is, you can be certain something is wrong in her life. Why wrong? God has given us the exact amount of time we need in a given day, week, month and year. If we’re too busy, we’re not correctly prioritising our opportunities and managing the time with which God has entrusted us - therefore something must be wrong.”

Could it be that you are putting an enormous amount of time, energy and effort into some things you feel you should be doing, that you have not actually been called to do? And what if, in order to say ‘yes’ to the God things, you need to say ‘no’ to some really good things?

The Hedgehog Concept

In his book Good to Great, business expert Jim Collins writes about The Hedgehog Concept: In a battle between a fox and a hedgehog, the hedgehog always wins. Why? Because it curls up in a spiky ball so the fox can’t eat it! In other words, it does one thing brilliantly.

The fox meanwhile has all kinds of strategies. He sneaks, he pounces, he attacks from left and right, high and low, but no matter his approach, the Hedgehog does the one thing she has mastered and wins every time. In short, “Hedgehogs see what is essential, and ignore the rest.”

In youth and children’s ministry, there are so many good things we could be doing, so we strive to do all of them in order to develop a well-rounded ministry. But don’t strive to be well-rounded, strive to be sharp! Be more hedgehog.

What if we saw what was essential and ignored the rest? How would our ministries change if we learned to do less better?

Pastor Andy Stanley writes, “Perhaps the two best-kept secrets of leadership are these:

1. The less you do, the more you accomplish.

2. The less you do, the more you enable others to accomplish.”

By focusing in on only the things that God has specifically called you to do, you free your time, energy, creativity and competency to deliver on those things really well, and you create opportunities for others to do the things you’ve stopped doing. Everybody wins!

Good Things Vs God Things

God has given you everything you need to accomplish everything he is calling you to do (2 Peter 1:3), and that includes enough time. So how do you weed out the good activities that are diminishing your capacity to focus on the God activities? How do you discover which things you should really go after, give time to, and deliver with excellence, verses which things (though good) you will let go?

Well, this bit takes some time. So go make yourself a brew, grab a notebook, and spend some time with Jesus (and then with your team) reflecting on these questions:

What are you most deeply passionate about?

What are you naturally really good at?

Which one thing would have the biggest impact on your ministry if you could accomplish it in the next six months?

Which one thing would have the most negative impact on your young people if you stopped doing it?

If the budget was cut by 50%, which activities would you stop and which would you fight to keep going?

If your time was cut by 50%, which activities would you continue to do, and which would you have to let go?

Properly considered, these questions have the power to bring to the surface of your life and schedule the things that matter most. Once you’ve discovered them, focus the first and best of your time and energy on them. You cannot do everything, so rather than attempting to do everything, do less, and do less better.

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Director of LIMITLESS

Tim Alford lives in Malvern with is wife Jen, son Tobijah and daughter Aria.

He is the National Director of LIMITLESS, the youth movement of Elim Pentecostal Churches in the UK and Ireland. He is a passionate communicator of the gospel, having spoken at churches, conferences, schools and events all over the world. Tim is the former frontman of [dweeb], a frustrated supporter of Arsenal, and has on more than one occasion been to the cinema in Star Wars fancy dress.


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