Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders How Ministry Programs Can Put God in a Box

How Ministry Programs Can Put God in a Box

It’s easy in youth ministry circles to vilify programs. They’re easy targets. (Attacking “programs” is kind of like attacking spreadsheets. Both are merely tools used to accomplish a task.) I think most people who knock programs are really knocking a program-driven ministry philosophy (where programs drive your vision instead of the other way around). This criticism is totally legit, in my opinion.

So I’m not here to write another “all programs are bad” post. But I am here to point out something about our reliance on them.

Here’s one of the many unintended side effects of a program-driven approach to doing ministry: God often gets put in a box.

Here’s what I mean.

The Holy Spirit is pretty rad. He works in the most awesome ways. And we know it when we see it. Yet, it occurred to me not long ago that when we organize and structure and program every last second of the functioning life of our ministry, we end up not giving the Holy Spirit a ton of room to work. It’s almost like telling God ahead of time the dimensions of the pallet He has to work with.

Now, I don’t want to push this analogy too far. Obviously, we know that we can’t limit the work of the Spirit. God’s sovereignty cuts right through our best intentions. The Spirit moves where the Spirit will move.

So maybe a better way to think about it is this: we tend to miss a lot of what the Spirit does because we’re simply not expecting to see it.

When we don’t allow a lot of room to see God at work, we’ll miss Him. If we’re only looking for Him in the 5 minutes of response time before the final song from the praise band on Wednesday nights, we’re probably missing a lot of what’s going on.

Don’t put God in a box. Take a break from the ultra-planned, hyper-programmed approach and give God room to catch your eye.

Plan to occasionally not plan. Structure regular times of no structure. Create environments of expectation in your students. Don’t be afraid to allow for wide-open spaces. It’s easier to spot the Spirit moving that way.