The very idea that we, humanity, will set our own goals for ministry is liberating. In fact, it is rather encouraging—if you want to fail. Okay, that may have sounded a bit harsh, so let me explain. Youth ministry effectiveness is often measured on the pendulum swing of the next and best ideas or in some cases the boldest and the brightest décor. Although understandable, since young people reflect the sensory generation, this is far from the right approach. We should not measure our success on décor or even being trendy.
Don’t misunderstand me, I am not suggesting that we embrace mediocrity or disregard the need for being culturally relevant. In fact, I will boldly proclaim that, at times, the church has settled for less when we could have done more. Too often, we have allowed a few to set the tone for the majority—on both sides of the spectrum. We must pursue excellence. God gave His best and we need to operate in the same way by giving our best.
Youth ministry needs to be relevant, engaging, technologically savvy, and most of all biblically based. Know God’s word and be able to support the vision with Scripture; otherwise it is just a good idea. Be prepared for a high-wire balancing act when positing vision and goals for your next phase of ministry. With God’s favor and your diligence, you can declare the vision and meet the goals—resulting in an effective ministry. Remember God’s vision to us is to evangelize and make disciples. Our response to Him is to do so with excellence and fervor. Here are several key points to keep in mind when preparing to cast vision and goals:
Vision and goals are different. Vision is where you are headed. Goals are the steps or process to attain the vision.
God inspired vs. culturally deficient. I am an idea generator and a fixer. It is in my nature to dream and I am driven to fix problems. As youth leaders, you should be aware of the deficiencies of your youth and their culture. You know what their needs are. You know what your opposition is. Caring for youth can be overwhelming and if not careful, you can easily be pulled into the “fix it” mentality when you should be seeking God’s wisdom and favor. Find out what God is saying about the deficiency, listen as He gives you ideas, then set your goals accordingly.
Friend or foe? Be aware, not everyone will support you. The phrase, I am for you, is a common term that I use when talking to the team I serve on. It is my desire to let them know that I am supporting them with all my resources.
When preparing ministry vision and goals, here are some key steps to help you align with friends and avoid creating foes:
Pray. Prayer is most important when preparing vision and goals. For centuries, ministries have fallen short of God’s provision and favor because dreamers and fixers have failed to align their vision with God’s way.
Let your ideas gestate. In addition to being a fixer and dreamer, I am a now person. I generally lack patience but have learned how important it is to let my ideas gestate or mature before sharing them. Just as the baby continues to mature in the mother’s womb before delivery, allow your ideas to gestate in the womb of prayer so they will carry God’s favor and blessing.
Communicate with clarity and frequently. When you have the vision and you are listing your goals, be clear. People want to follow leaders who know where they are going. Even if you don’t know how you will get there be sure you know where God has called you to go. Cast a vision worth pursuing.
Identify your key stakeholders. These are the people who believe in you. They support you. They follow you. You will need these people when it is time to launch your vision and goals. These key stakeholders are the supporters that help you be effective and not a mere commodity for transactions. Listen to them. Consider their advice.
No regrets! My wife (of 25 years) has told me on many occasions “Live your life with no regrets.” She is not talking about living carelessly or without regard for others. In fact, she has high regard for what others think. She is simply giving a challenge to be contemplative and intentional about our responses to the call of God.
So with regard to vision and goals, live with no regrets. Consider the commands of God. Respond willingly to the call of God. Ground your vision in Scripture. Align with strategic ministry partners. Most of all—pray! Then, using the steps above, dream well and cast vision with confidence! “And the LORD answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it’” (Habakkuk 2:2 ESV).