Youth ministry is hard.
Of course, it’s also fun—I love what I do, even when it’s hard. But some seasons are harder than others. In our context, Winter feels like downtime, with the pace of life a little slower (except for Christmas). Spring is a time of ramping up as we anticipate our summer activities. Summer is crammed with big events that fuel our momentum heading into the fall. And fall seems like… a grind.
The “grind” season isn’t bad. One of my former students is an MLB pitcher. When he was in college, his pitching coach told him a starting pitcher will have 18 outings a season—in six he’ll be untouchable, in six he’ll be terrible, and in six he’ll have to dig deep and work his tail off. His coach also said it’s in those “middle six” games that careers are made. The “grind” defines success.
So, what does it mean to grind things out in youth ministry?
1. Reinvest relationally in your volunteers.
Summer is a crazy time for us, with expanded programming. In fact, Summer is the only time we stop meeting monthly with our volunteer team. In the first few weeks of school, we schedule a one-on-one meeting with each of our volunteers to reconnect relationally, lean into any pastoral care needs, and remind our team of the importance of what they’re doing as they invest in teenagers.
2. Scrutinize your systems and processes.
Sometimes the administrative tasks of ministry are overlooked when things get busy. Take advantage of a slower programming season by peeking under the hood to assess your processes for attendance tracking, follow-up, and pastoral care needs—just to make sure they’re not misfiring.
3. Rest and relax.
If you’re anything like me, when schedules get busy, the first thing to get shoved aside is time off. And if it makes sense that some seasons require a little extra work, it also makes sense that some seasons give you more margin for rest. If you’re always working overtime, with no balance for seasons of rest, it might be time to have an honest conversation with someone. When your ministry is lighter on programming, take your day off, schedule fun things to do that fill your tank, and reconnect with the relationships that are most life-giving to you.
4. Trust that the Holy Spirit is working in the grind.
Our students get incredibly busy during the fall season—the new school year brings with it packed sports and activity schedules. That’s why our fall ministry schedule is pretty sparse when it comes to extra events. It’s tempting to think that “real ministry” isn’t happening because “all we’re doing” is our weekly programming. The reality is, it’s consistent weekly programming that makes extra events special.
What does the grind remind us about?
- God is always at work, even if our schedules aren’t jam-packed.
- That we must pay attention to the less exciting, but incredibly important, tasks of youth ministry.
- That we can re-commit ourselves to the calling God has on our life.
Your schedule might not look like ours, but I’m sure some ministry seasons feel super-exciting and others feel like… a grind. You can’t escape it, so make the most of it. Be faithful, even in the grind.