Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders How to Find the Balance Between Relationships and Programs

How to Find the Balance Between Relationships and Programs

I was talking with a youth pastor friend of mine the other day. He’s a great friend, but he’s also a great youth minister. I can point to his youth ministry as one that really works. It’s healthy. It’s vibrant. It’s solid, all the way around.

Over breakfast yesterday, my friend said something that really caught my attention. It was such a wonderful insight I thought I’d pass it on.

We were catching up, just reflecting on some of the positive developments in his youth ministry over the past few months. We talked about the number of teenagers who recently have come to a saving relationship with Christ. We were once again blown away by the awesomeness of God and the power of the Gospel.

One of these new Christ-followers had been in the midst of a pretty troubled time. God really lifted this young man out of some significant struggles. As my friend was talking about how this guy was becoming a part of the youth group, he said in passing: “I realized our discipleship groups probably weren’t the best fit for him. So I asked our adult volunteers if someone would be willing to disciple him one on one. An adult volunteered, and they’ve been in an awesome discipleship relationship since.”

I was instantly hit by the power of this simple observation. In just a short statement, my friend communicated an incredibly healthy view of program-based ministries. Here’s what I mean.

This youth pastor friend of mine attends a large church. They utilize a program-based ministry model to help facilitate their ministry vision. The discipleship small groups he was referring to are one of their programmed ways of facilitating in-depth discipleship. They run a program-based ministry model. But there’s a big difference in program-based and program-driven.

The decision not to shuffle this student into the “logical” programmed ministry is a reflection of the right way to approach a program-based ministry.

My friend recognized the program he had set in motion to meet the “in-depth discipleship” aspect of his ministry philosophy wouldn’t be the best way to serve this particular student’s needs. And so, he went outside his programmed ministry slot to find the best way to help this guy grow closer to Christ.

This might seem like a small thing, but for many people who utilize a program-based ministry model, this line of thinking is foreign. It’s simply a step of the process that isn’t usually considered.

Having a day to think about it, here are my observations.