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How to Simplify Your Ministry

When you keep it simple, life is easier. That’s not to say simple is easy, it will just save you a lot of headache. When I first started out in ministry, our activities were anything but simple. It was almost as if I was auditioning to be one of the challenge creators on Survivor. I assumed teens would be able to figure out the subplots and themes, while having fun in a 10 minute game. The only thing that resulted was confusion on their part and frustration on my own. There was nothing simple about it.


That’s a question youth ministers struggle to answer. You have teens telling you they want more. You feel the only way to top what the “other” church is doing is by doing more. Complexity comes off as interesting and creative, which is true; however, if you do not have the capacity for complexity you will fail. You need to keep it simple in ministry to build a strong foundation and to go the distance of your calling. To keep it simple means evaluating certain areas of your ministry. The best places to start are with your:

Calendar: If your calendar is jam packed with events and trips you’ll burn yourself out. Make your calendar simple by creating a consistent program that you can do week in and week out. There is nothing wrong with events and trips; however, when they fill up your calendar you will have no time to do anything else. Boil your calendar down to something you know you can do consistently and effectively.

Message: You don’t have to communicate everything; however, you need to communicate something. Make sure your message has a bottom line that answers the questions, “What do you want them to know?” and “What do you want them to do?” Find one thing to communicate and find several ways of describing and clarifying it. If your message has a bottom line, teens will remember more of what you say.

Small Group Discussion: Sometimes you prevent honest and authentic discussion because you give your leaders too much to use. Keep the small group discussion simple by allowing time for awkward silence. This might be the time a teen is building up courage to share. It might be the moment something really “sinks in” for a teenager. Just like with your message, you shouldn’t feel like you need to discuss everything.

Volunteer Commitment: People will leave your ministry if they feel like they have to do everything. While you might need help in many different areas, focus your volunteers on specific tasks. As soon as they build up the confidence, they’ll be willing to step up and do more. To help them simplify and clarify what they do, try writing up their job descriptions in one sentence.

Keeping it simple isn’t always easy; however, it will have the best results. By being simple, the purpose of your ministry will be clear and people will be more confident to invest in what it is you are trying to do. To get started, sit with your team and ask the question, “What can we simplify?”  With simplicity you bring back margin, you give yourself time to breathe and focus on what’s most important: Making Disciples.

Where do you struggle most to be simple? How do you simplify your ministry?  

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Chris graduated from Xavier University in 2003 with a BA in Communications: Electronic Media. He moved to Baltimore in the fall of 2003 where he served as a Jesuit Volunteer for a year. During that time, he was a Case Manager at Chase Brexton, met his wife Kate and felt God's calling to Student Ministry. In the summer of 2004, he was hired by the Roman Catholic Parish Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland as a Middle School Youth Minister. Today he oversees grades 5-12 as the Director of Student Ministry.