We have a core mission in youth ministry that, it seems, is also ridiculously easy to forget. As we try to keep numbers up, live up to the vision of the church, and keep up with the demands of ministry life, what can we do to keep Jesus at the center of it all? And how do we keep ourselves from drifting from the true mission of our calling?
First, let’s identify mission drift.
1. Mission drift is when a ministry meanders away from its original core purpose, or when a ministry unintentionally slides into a new direction.
2. Mission drift can also mean that a ministry is compromising its core mission in order to gain favor or security with certain funders, members, or the denomination itself.
Have you experienced mission drift in your ministry?
Here are a couple of things that can re-focus us on our original calling in ministry…
1. As ministry leaders, we’re determined to keep our significance and identity rooted in our relationship with Jesus, every single day.
This means committing ourselves to time away from the hustle and bustle of ministry, to steal away quiet moments to engage with Jesus and listen to the Spirit. We cannot depend on ministry wins or successes to define who we are.
2. Jesus must be our compass.
If we know the voice of Jesus and continue to seek him, we will settle on the direction our ministry is supposed to be headed. And that direction is always toward Jesus and only Jesus. Ministry growth cannot be our compass. Denominational expectations cannot be our compass. Parental demands cannot be our compass. We can only lead people to the feet of Jesus if we know the way there. Years and years of ministry do not equal the clarity and transformation that we experience when Jesus is our compass. We must be surrounded by peers and team members who are committed to making sure that all things lead to Jesus. Every event. Every study. Every relationship. Every measurement for growth.
How do I know if our ministry is drifting?
A few indicators or signs…
- Ministry programs are on autopilot—we could do them in our sleep.
- Others’ expectations change the direction of our ministry, leveraged by demands, spoken or unspoken.
- The evaluators surrounding my ministry bend my focus to “program reports” more than the stories of people.
- Numbers play the biggest role in our ministry accountability and our measurements of growth.
- No one recognizes when I’m running on empty and need to be refueled as a leader.
If you’re experiencing any of these trouble signs of mission drift, there’s good news. You’re not alone. We have all experienced drift. By the grace of God, his power is best expressed when we are weak. But we can join in the mission of Jesus and go in the same direction as him today. Take a moment to recommit yourself to Jesus—not ministry for Jesus, but ministry with Jesus.
Then ask yourself: How does our ministry invite teenagers to discover Jesus? This is our compass. We cannot drift from it.