5 questions to ask today to set you up for tomorrow
There’s a road map to freedom; a light at the end of the tunnel; a burgeoning sunrise on the edge of the horizon, declares Tim Alford, National Director of Limitless - Elim's national youth and children's ministry.
Whatever your metaphor of choice, the hope of an end to this pandemic, and the restrictions associated with it, feels more tangible now than ever.
We can look ahead to, even begin to plan for, gathering in-person with our children and young people again. We can imagine a time where we can stand in close proximity with one another, take off our masks and raise our voice.
It’s great news.
But this coming reality presents a potential danger. The danger associated with the opportunity to go back to normal is that we go back to normal. That would be a huge mistake.
The last year has seen a total upheaval of our youth and children’s ministries, and whilst it’s been undoubtedly painful it has also been entirely transformative.
We have learnt new skills, adopted new approaches, and reflected on old methodologies that perhaps weren’t producing the kind of fruit we thought they were. How tragic would it be, then, if we discarded these lessons for the sake of returning to what we did before simply because we’ve missed it, and we know how to do it?
So before we jump headlong back into relaunching our pre-pandemic programmes, it’s important that we take good time to reflect on what we have been learning, and evaluate our ministries in the light of those lessons.
To that end, I want to encourage you to take time to reflect, both on your own, and with your team, on the following five questions...
1. What have we learned that we want to carry forward?
What have been the key lessons you have learned at this time? What has the Lord revealed to you?
Perhaps there are new practical skills you have picked up, and some technologies you have got to grips with that you didn’t utilise before the pandemic?
A key lesson for me in this season is that the fact that we gather people has created the illusion that we are making disciples. I have had to confront that attendance and discipleship are not the same thing. This revelation has been, and will continue to be, absolutely transformative for my ministry.
So what about you? What have you learned that you want to carry forward?
2. What should we never do again?
Are there some activities that served you well in the past that are no longer fit for purpose in this new world? Has the pandemic exposed that some of your programming was not producing the kind of fruit you thought it was? Are there some ministry elements that need to end with the pandemic?
If so, you must find the courage to make that call.
3. What were we already doing that we need to double down on?
On the flip side, perhaps there are some things that you’ve already been doing to which you now need to assign a disproportionate amount of your attention.
Perhaps the absence of something has given you a greater understanding of its value?
For example, in a digital world with a digital generation, perhaps pre-pandemic we thought that our online activities were of equal importance to our face-to-face ministries. But surely if these lockdowns have shown us anything it’s that digital connection will never be an adequate substitute for the tangible and tactile.
But what is it for you? What are you already doing that you need to focus in on in the days to come?
4. What should we refresh, and in what ways should we refresh it?
Perhaps there are some things that don’t need to be stopped entirely, but are in need of a fresh lick of paint?
The reopening of our youth and children’s ministries presents a wonderful opportunity for the renewing of our youth and children’s ministries.
So are there elements to your ministry that have lost some of the energy they once had, even if the objective of those elements remains as important as ever? Are there parts of your programme that still have value but have become a little repetitive and tiresome? How could you reinvent these as you launch into a post-pandemic world?
5. What should we have been doing all along that we can now start or continue?
One of the initiatives we launched at Limitless in response to the pandemic was a monthly Online Youth Ministry Learning Community; a totally free gathering of youth leaders online to hear from experts and learn from each other around timely and relevant topics.
As we saw how well attended and valuable the learning communities were for the leaders who engaged, we wondered, ‘why haven’t we been doing this all along!?’
Finally, it may also be that the pandemic has exposed a specific area of weakness in your ministry that you need to address.
Perhaps it has become clear that your young people do not spend any time in prayer and in the Scripture on their own, so your first priority post-lockdown will be to take a strategic approach in helping them build this as a non-negotiable rhythm in their daily lives.
We will all answer these questions in different ways. We will all have drawn different conclusions, and received unique revelations throughout this tumultuous time.
One thing that is true for every one of us is we cannot go back. We have come too far. We have learned too much. So reflect on these five questions today, to set yourself up for a more fruitful ministry tomorrow.
Tim Alford is the National Director of Limitless; and his new book Leadership 101, a how-to manual for children’s ministry and youth leaders looking to develop their leadership skills, has just been published.
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