The amount of things you want to change, that need to change in your youth ministry can be overwhelming. After every book you read, after every training you receive or conference you attend, you come home filled with ideas for change. But how do you realize change when you’ve got some much on your plate already, when you have so little time, and when the changes you want to make are so huge?
The key thought you have to remember, is that big changes happen in little steps. Changing course is rarely about one huge action; rather, it’s about doing a hundred little things, one at a time. To make a big change in your youth ministry, then, is about breaking it down into little actions you can do.
Make it concrete
The first thing you need to do is to make an idea concrete. Let’s say you’ve been to a conference and you come home with the conviction that your youth ministry needs to become more family friendly. That’s an admirable idea, but it’s still very abstract. If you want to actualize realize it, you’ll need to become more concrete.
You can do that by taking the time yourself to brainstorm what this abstract idea may look like in practice in your youth ministry. You could also ask your volunteers or other leaders for input and ideas (usually not a bad idea if you want them to support it!). You could ask other youth workers for ideas to see what has worked for them. Do some research on the topic and idea to get a broad perspective. Can you find any best practices? Use all that information to translate your big idea into a practical goal.
Break it up
The problem with big projects is often that we don’t know where to start. The sheer size of the undertaking can scare us into doing nothing at all. The trick is to break down the project into doable steps.
Let’s say you have translated the abstract idea of creating a more family friendly youth ministry into two concrete goals: adapting the youth ministry to the parents’ needs and training parents in whatever areas are necessary. If you want to actually execute this, you’ll need to break it up into smaller steps.
What you could do, is take a huge piece of paper, stick it on a wall and start the mother of all mind maps. What do you need to do in order to realize these two goals? Whom do you need to talk to? Do you need anyone’s approval or permission? What people need to be involved and in what stage? How could you find out what they parents’ needs and wishes are? Write every question, aspects, worry, etc. you can think of down.
It’s really important to first keep it as broad as possible and jot it all down. The big advantage of creating a mind map is that it allows your brain to associate freely and come up with all kinds of ideas and practical issues. But if you’re a more linear person, or you work better in a team, do a brainstorm by yourself or with others.
If you feel reasonably sure that you have an overview of everything that needs to be done, break it up into steps and create a sort of timeline. What needs to be done first? Which steps are dependent on each other? Which steps have a deadline (think of budgetary issues, or the deadline of a new season that’s starting) Create a list (or a flow chart if you like those) so that you know exactly which steps need to be taken in which order.
Create actionable items
Now that you’ve got your steps, break it even further up into doable, actionable steps. Actionable means it’s something that you can actually do. ‘Have meeting with senior pastor’ for instance is not an actionable item, but ‘Call pastor Dave to schedule meeting for next week’ is.
Each of your identified steps needs to be broken down like this. You know why? Because if you put them as steps on your to do list instead of as actionable items, you won’t get around to it. Your brain doesn’t like vague descriptions it has to think about before it can act, thus leading to procrastination.
Do the next right thing
Now it’s simply a matter of doing the next right thing. And yes, I did borrow this expression for the AA who use this as well. I love the simplicity of it: do the next right thing. It’s a wonderful way to tell yourself you don’t need to make your youth ministry more family friendly this week, next week or even next month. You just need to do the next right thing that you’ve already identified.
If you approach change like this, it’s still not a piece of cake. Change is hard, especially changing course completely. Divvying it up like this it will make you act and take steps to realize that change instead of being paralyzed by the enormity of the task before you.