Youth ministry may be more of a calling than a job, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get somewhat monotonous. When you keep doing your thing, year after year, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut.
You throw a kick off party in September, start the small groups, organize your Christmas service, an Easter special, then the mission trip and the season’s end party. And before you know it, another year has come and gone.
How do you keep youth ministry fresh, inspiring, both for yourself and for your students? Here are five ways to get out of a rut:
1. Visit a Conference
One of the best ways to acquire fresh inspiration is by attending a conference. A big youth ministry conference is the first option, obviously, but think broader, or on the other end of the spectrum: more specific. There are conferences from various organizations about family ministry, preaching, missions, but also conferences specifically about middle school ministry or aimed at female youth leaders. Find one that appeals to you, where you can be refreshed and inspired.
2. Change Your Spiritual Routine
When we’re in a rut in ministry, our spiritual life is often in a rut as well. It can help to change your spiritual routines and try new things. A while ago, I started experimenting with creative Bible journaling for instance. I bought a journaling Bible and started making drawings, colorful notes, and even paintings. It’s helped me reflect on God’s Word in a whole new way and brought fresh inspiration into my walk with God.
3. Visit Another Youth Ministry
A third thing you can do is set up a visit with another youth group. This works best when you choose ministries that work under similar circumstances as you do, but have a different approach. You can even make a bit of a tour out of this by visiting several ministries to see what they are doing, what works for them. This should give you solid ideas you could try in your group.
4. Try One New Thing
Sometimes when we’re in a rut, it’s tempting to throw everything out and try all kinds of new things. That will almost certainly backfire. It’s usually best to change one thing at a time, especially when you’re about to touch long-standing traditions. People tend to get cranky and belligerent when you change something they’re attached to. So change one thing and see how this will trigger more changes.
5. Examine Your Heart
Sometimes, holding on to routine is a signal of something else. When your personal life is in upheaval for instance (think big changes, like getting married, having a baby, losing a loved one, etc.) it’s understandable to want routine in other aspects of your life as much as possible. But clinging to the known can also be a sign of deep-rooted fear, of a lack of trust, or of other things going on inside of you.
Examine your heart to find what is at the core of your rut. Are you discontent? Burnt out? Afraid, tired, or struggling? Be honest with yourself and dare to look inside, knowing that God loves you, no matter what. Doubt is normal (really, it is—we’ve all been there!), and so are struggle, fear, being overwhelmed, or tired. It starts with acknowledging it—and then allowing God to show you the way out.