The launch of a new season in your youth ministry is almost always exciting and full of momentum. But fast-forward a few months, and your “best-laid plans” have not come together the way you’d hoped. The people who promised to help set things in motion are now distancing themselves. Even pieces of the plan that seemed nicely tied up are beginning to unravel. There’s more fallout than movement, more mess than progress.
Even Jesus had to make it through the mess in the middle. After years of mentoring his disciples, they still didn’t seem to get it. Paul must’ve felt like bailing when he heard stories of Corinthian “saints” battling and backbiting each other. The early Christians miraculously made it through the middle, staying the course even as they watched their brothers and sisters die brutal deaths at the hands of the Romans.
Most ministry ideas fail not because they aren’t good ideas but because we neglect to manage the mess in the middle. Here’s what it takes to make it through:
Expect it. Can we please stop being surprised when most things just don’t work right out of the chute?
Don’t react. It’s easy to get defensive when so-called “partners” begin to criticize us for the ideas they helped come up with. Instead, listen. Take notes. Nod your head and say, “Hmm….” Whatever you do, just don’t launch into a dissertation on why you’re right.
Don’t bail. New ideas frequently fall flat because we get tired of slogging through the details. There are calls to be made, minutiae to be managed, and volunteers to be replaced—none of which we ever anticipate. Avoid the temptation to call it quits. Treat this time of perseverance as if it was God’s Waiting Room—God’s Waiting Room
Work it. When setbacks emerge and morass stalls movement, remember this key: The process usually works if we keep working the process.
Tell it. Recapture the narrative of what Jesus is doing and of the grace that’s coming, even amid the mess of the current renovation.
The messy middle is part of any worthy enterprise, part of every ministry calling. So whatever mess you currently find yourself in—whether it’s a new student-leadership program, a new worship launch, a different way of keeping up with all the teenagers you’ve been given—make it your mission to make it through the mess in the middle. The experience will be invaluable, and the rewards will be amazing.