Two years ago, I transitioned to a new ministry position. With the job change came a range of emotions—from excitement and enthusiasm to feeling overwhelmed. One day I would be enjoying the honeymoon, and the next day I would be wondering if God made His first mistake in history by leading me here.
Whether you are entering your first ministry position or your third, every move is a transition and requires a time of observing, learning and adjusting. I often hear stories of people who had short-lived ministry positions simply because they did not allow time for strategic transition.
Rather than arriving, unpacking your ministry tool bag and opening up shop, I want to challenge anyone who is in transition to get to know a few things in the first year before you really begin your ministry.
Get to know your CULTURE
Just like missionaries spend time learning the culture they are about to enter, we must do the same. For instance, my current church has a fifty-year history of youth ministry with many youth workers who have come and gone over the years. My previous church only had two. There was also a significant difference in terms of foundation, vision and direction that I needed to understand. Another difference was the community of my current church has a much more fast-paced culture than my previous church. People here live very busy and hurried lives. When you know the culture you are working in, it will help you understand why people think and act the way they do.
Get to know your PEOPLE
Let your first year simply be about listening to others. Ask plenty of questions. You are trying to find out where people are spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. You are also trying to discover how they view the existing ministry and what they hope for the future. In my first year, I scheduled nine dessert meetings with parents to find out what they wanted in a youth ministry. I spent countless hours with students and volunteers to get the pulse of our people.
Get to know your PURPOSE
While you are assessing the culture and people, begin to process your findings to determine a purpose for your ministry. What does God want you to accomplish in this ministry? Will you be a service ministry to the existing church kids, an outreach ministry, or both? As I got to know our people, I began to see what they needed in order to continue on in their journey. I also determined how to reach new people as well.
Get to know your LIMITATIONS
Limitations are inevitable and they will show up in the form of resources (money, space, and leaders), policy (procedures, church polity), tradition (sacred cows), and relational equity (how much clout you have to overhaul and change things). I had to learn quickly what our limitations were to keep myself from becoming frustrated. Okay, it still happens sometimes. But I have learned how to work within those limitations or find a way to work through them. Notice I did not say work “around” them. I have to remember that I’m a part of the overall church mission and need to be supportive in that as well.
Get to know your PACE
It is so important to build your ministry over a long period of time. Don’t try to do it all your first year. Keep a pace that is sustainable for a marathon of ministry, not a two-year sprint. Frequently evaluate the pace in which you are working and make adjustments for family, continuing education, personal recreation and fun.