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7 Words You Never Want to Hear

I really enjoy conversations where we dream and strategize the future of our youth ministry and church. While many of them are positive and really encouraging, there are, of course, few that can be challenging and at times frustrating to be a part of. What I find the most challenging is when we are talking about an element of our youth ministry, or a function of the church that I am wondering about changing so I start to dig in a little bit. Maybe you have moved into a new Youth Ministry or are just starting out, it’s important that we dig. So you have some context of what I am like, I was that kid that took everything apart to find out how it worked, and why it did what it did, and I am no different as a Pastor. I am thirsty to understand the process behind the event.

Part of that need to know can be asking tough questions about what motivated a decision or program, and there are few words that I don’t like hearing from someone explaining the rationale for a decision than “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” I don’t disagree that many of the things we do are proven best practices, but I worry sometimes that “the way we have always done it” is simply an excuse to avoid making difficult changes and potentially rocking the boat, when sometimes boat rocking can be a good thing. Doing things out of habit and not out of purpose is how we end up coasting and end up complacent to what God is wanting for our ministry. It’s a slow, steady march to irrelevance and ineffectiveness.

Challenging the status quo and the traditional ways of doing things allows us to understand:

Is this truly the best practice?

If this is the way its always been done, is that because it’s the best way of doing it? Best practices are just that, the best way of doing things. Is the way that we do outreach working, is the framework of our weekly youth gathering in fact the best way to reach and grow students? If it is working, that’s great, but if its not, am I willing to say its not and make the changes necessary? I have found the less time I spend in the word, praying and listening, the more willing I am to accept the status quo as good enough.

Is this a change worth making now?

There are some changes that need to be made right away, but for others, it might be best to wait until we slow down for the summer before making non-critical changes. After all, change nearly always has collateral damage. So discerning, when is the best time for change, is part of good leadership and takes patience when sometimes you just want to pull the trigger. A Pastor here at my Church said it really well, when he said, you can’t always fix a plane while it’s in the air, sometimes you need to land, fix it, and fly higher afterward. I really like this idea. Sure it needs to be fixed, but does it need to be done immediately. I’m a sucker for a metaphor.

This year I have looked very objectively at the ministry I oversee and am sensing a few things that are being done simply because they are the way we have always done them, and I don’t think that is good enough. We are actively searching for better ways to do things, are you? Is there something you are thinking about making a major overhaul on? Maybe you need to change something, but you are not sure to what. Post a question in the comments, and we will put it out to the community.

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Josh Griffin is high school pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. He’s the co-counder of DownloadYouthMinistry.com and host of the Youth Ministry Garage Podcast. He's authored more than 20 youth ministry resources and is the author of "99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders" with Doug Fields. Josh is a father of 4 who speaks a little, podcasts a little, Twitters a bit, and blogs a lot. You can find him at DownloadYouthMinistry.com!