Youth Ministry Realities: 2 Quick Ways to Tell if you are Focused on People or Programs.

People are more important than programs… But are they really?

You see, if you are like me, there have been too many times when I have allowed programs and details to get in the way of true discipleship and authentic relationships with my students and leaders.

And the bottom line is this: No matter how effective we are at running great programs, eventually students will see through the shallowness and seek out a different place to belong.

So, how do you know if you are too focused on programs instead of people? Here are two quick ‘checks’ I continuously make as I go about youth ministry.

1) My Schedule Tells Me: How much of your schedule is and calendar is taken up meeting with people to invest in them, rather than ‘getting things done’ and accomplished? As you look back on the last month, how many hours were spent connecting, relating, and investing people? As you plan ahead, who are the people who you are lining up to meet with?

Now don’t get me wrong. Depending on the type of ministry you oversee, many of us will have a schedule that requires us to plan and implement programs. However, the issue we should all struggle with is the reality that without relationships discipleship cannot happen. Without proximity with others, they will not likely see Jesus in us. Without intentional ‘people time’ in our schedule we can quickly lose touch with the needs and issues of the students and volunteers we are serving.

So the question is: What does your schedule tell you? Programs or people?

2) My Task List Tells Me: I got into ministry because I loved investing in students. However, as I increased my time in the trenches, went to larger ministries, and gained further experience, my time with people diminished. And, my task list for programs and events increased. It was a hard reality to face… However, as I faced this reality, I decided that I needed to be intentional in fighting against becoming a program driven youth worker. Therefore, instead of seeing my task list as my enemy, I have come to make it my friend over time. During the day, as I think about students and volunteers in my ministry, or when I pray for them, I make sure I write them in my task list to call, meet with, or pray for. These days, if my task list is full of program centered tasks, I know I need to counter balance with people. But…

BE CAREFUL: I want you to hear something clear about the task list. People cannot become ‘tasks’ in ministry. I simply use my task list as a tool to ensure that I care well and follow-up with the people God has entrusted to me. People will often ‘sniff out’ the difference between a leader who ‘schedules me in’ compared to a genuine and authentic leader. Again, task lists and schedules are simply a tool to care well for God’s people.

Bottom Line: My schedule tells me how I am doing in being people focused. My task list tells me who I need to invest in further.

What are your signs of becoming program driven? How do you stay focused on people?

Phil <><

  • Aaron Helman

    “My schedule tells me.”

    I want so badly to disagree with this, but I can’t, because you’re exactly right. Time to make some changes to my schedule.

  • Phil Bell

    It’s a tough one isn’t it? I am continually checking and readjusting my schedule. It is a weekly battle for me. I think our personalities and sometimes the expectation of our churches encourage us to build programs and create events. Before long, our schedule displays our lack of contact time with people, yet we often fail to see it…