It seems like every website I visit has a “FAQ” tab or page exploring the Frequently Asked Questions. These are helpful, because they identify the questions most people ask and provide an answer proactively. But, that’s usually all that is provided, and there is a fundamental breakdown in that logic, so today I am taking a bit of my own medicine and exploring the questions that people should be asking, but rarely do in today’s post titled “RAQ”, or Rarely Asked Questions.
Why are we doing this? Too often, the first question we ask when planning an event or activity is “How do we do this?”, but the reality is that in youth ministry, the first question should always be Why. Is this something we are doing because we have always done it before? What is the motivation? This question is so important, because there are plenty of times we do things in ministry for bad reasons. Doing something because we did it last year, doing something because another church is doing it, even doing something because it will get more people to come…these motives can take away from your ministry and may be why you are experiencing different results than you would like. Start with a vision, and have that vision be the health of your ministry. Find a way to make everything about the faith and love of your teens, and you will find God in all your ministry does.
Who is this about? Why did you get into youth ministry? Was it for the long hours, or the steady diet of pizza and soda? Probably not, but there are lots of reasons people do get into the ministry other than feeling a calling to serve and teach youth. A question we all should be asking with our programming is “who is this all about?” Is this something that is first and foremost about glorifying God? Is this about nurturing and loving our teens in a way that prepares them to be disciples in the world? Or, is this about being their friend? Is this about being up front performing to the group? Are you killing time till you are out of seminary? Is this about being the cool guy or girl long past high school? Is this about being the best at dodge ball, and keeping a career in which that is a useful skill? Is it about us, the leader, or God and the students? If you aspire to be a singer, then go and sing. If you aspire to be a comedian, then go and try stand up. If you aspire to be hippest person in the room, go out and make more friends. But if you aspire to youth ministry, glorify God and teach youth to do the same.
Can I handle this? A colleague of mine recently started a new position and is already being bombarded with demands of events, activities, trips, etc. Some advice I told him in a moment of unsolicited advice (much like this) was do a little well instead of a lot poorly. The third question we as youth ministers need to ask when we approach our ministries is “Can we handle this?” Running a program or event when you are ill prepared can hurt your ministry and even put you or your youth in danger. Don’t overextend yourself or your limitations. That being said, just because you can’t handle something alone doesn’t mean you should drop it. Ask for help. That’s sort of a bonus RAQ that we all need to be ready to use – asking for help. We can’t do it all alone, nor should we. Our programs should be bigger than us, and no one of us has all the gifts needed to fulfill all aspects of youth ministry. So tag team it! Find some helpful volunteers. Empower older youth. Use the people around you to help the ministry execute the things you can’t handle alone.
There are so many questions we should be asking ourselves that we don’t, but I believe these three live at the heart of youth ministry’s bigger issues. Use them more often than rarely and you will find that your ministries will thrive.