Ten years ago my wife and I made the biggest transition in the history of our lives together. We moved from Michigan to California.
My first thought when we started discussing it was, “You don’t move away from family.” And my reasoning was, “It’s just something you don’t do.” Now, looking back on that time in our lives, I can say I was really basing my logic off of what I’ve known my whole life. You see, most of my family and my wife’s family lived in Michigan. Moving was something we traditionally didn’t do, we stayed with family.
I think sometimes we can have this mentality in youth ministry or any other ministry we may oversee. We do things because it has always been done that way. Now, I firmly believe that doing things out of tradition isn’t a bad thing. I believe sometimes you can kill a ministry very quickly when you kill traditions that may be a part of why there’s life in the group in the first place. I just think we need to evaluate those things that may be done out of tradition to decide if it’s something that should remain or something that should be removed. To keep something because “it’s what I’ve always done” are the last words of a dying ministry.
So here are some things I evaluate when thinking about keeping or cutting a tradition:
- I evaluate my ability to make ministry about me – I ask myself, “Is this about me?” Ministry is not about you, it’s about serving others. Doing ministry out of selfishness is no longer ministry. Keeping or cutting a tradition based on your comfort needs to be evaluated. Because it’s not about you.
- I evaluate the call to continue – Get feedback on your plans before implementing. This is all about asking questions at multiple levels: core students, parents, long-time volunteers and even trusted youth pastor friends. You want to seek counsel on the call that started the tradition in the first place. And ultimately you want to seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit on the call that has been placed on you concerning the ministry. The tradition may not line up with what God has you doing. But a wise man or woman would evaluate the call — it is this serious.
- I evaluate the fear of conflict – It may be fear that’s keeping it afloat. You may be afraid to change things because of the fallout you may have with students, parents, leaders, and volunteers. So it’s the fear of conflict that keeps it going, even though the tradition that once was a blessing to the ministry is now straining the ministry. On the flip side, you may want to keep it but feel fear about the higher-ups wanting change. You must know that you ultimately answer to God, so it’s up to you to be wise in seeking counsel.
- I evaluate the pressure to out-do – A lot of times we put undue pressure on ourselves to make a splash when it comes to leading in ministry. And if we’re honest, sometimes we think the best way to do that is to out-do the guy or gal before us. So we cut traditions based on pressure because it signifies their legacy. Be careful because this is a slippery slope and a character issue that will find its way to the surface pretty quickly.
- I evaluate the tradition’s impact on the ministry – Whatever became a tradition has had to have some type of impact on the ministry. I think it’s important we evaluate the impact because it could be some of the glue or DNA that makes the ministry effective. Also, you may find it’s not about cutting the tradition as much as it is updating or tweaking how things are done. And that update or tweak to the tradition could take the ministry to the next level.
- I evaluate my motives – I believe this is a huge issue in the Christian faith. I believe we forget that God cares less about the “what” and more about the “why.” God cares more about what he sees in your heart than what he sees on your Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or website. Our social posts and our motives for posting can be in conflict with one another. It’s the same with keeping or cutting traditions. I need to evaluate my motives to make sure I’m cutting or keeping traditions for the right reasons.
The Bible tells us in Lamentations 3:40: “Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the LORD.” This should be something we do more often than not.
These are just a few of the things to consider when evaluating your ministry’s traditions. What are some more?
Hope it helps,