Too Much Change

Up until recently, I had worked with the same person side-by-side in full time youth ministry for the past five years. She and I developed a vision for our youth ministry, a framework, and a culture. We decided together what aspects of youth ministry we were going to pay most attention to, and what aspects we were going to ignore (because, let’s just be honest, we all ignore some stuff that we shouldn’t, don’t we?). It wasn’t easy from the beginning, but over time it had grown into a very easy partnership. Our communication with each other was effortless. The youth ministry structure was, for better or for worse (probably both in some ways), a reflection of our very similar personalities. I probably could’ve pretty comfortably done youth ministry that way for the rest of my career. It was nice.

But then, four months ago, she left.

And her leaving wasn’t a bad thing. God was shifting her into an exciting new area of ministry, and we both knew it. But it’s still true that whenever something finally becomes easy, and then a key contributor transitions away, it leaves you with questions about what things are going to be like going forward.

Enter my new partner in ministry.

In terms of ministry thinking, she’s very different from my previous co-pilot. She values different things. She possesses different skill sets. She notices different flaws. So over the past four months, I’ve had to relearn the world of youth ministry from a totally different perspective. Our ministry has started trying things that we never would’ve tried under the old regime.

Except an all-nighter. No chance we’re ever trying that.

Being the more experienced youth ministry veteran of the two of us, my role has been to help steer the passions and ideas of this new co-pilot even though she’s proposed some things that make me want to take a nap. I’ve had to veto some things that don’t fit in with the culture of our church at large. I’ve had to challenge and help reshape some things that are good ideas in theory, but need to be thought through more fully. And I’ve had to, almost against my will, acquiesce to some ideas that are genuinely fantastic despite my personal allergy to them.

Have you ever been me?

You ever been in a season where things seem to be changing pretty rapidly? Ever feel like you’re hard-pressed between your personal preferences and your genuine desire to see the ministry flourish? Have you ever gotten so used to doing things one way that doing them another way almost feels borderline offensive?

If you have, then the gospel lens I want to propose here is for you (and me).

Because I just think it’s really interesting that the unchanging God of the universe has chosen to shift His operative structure throughout human history. It hasn’t been stagnant. It hasn’t been the same. It hasn’t been same old same old. God is a God who knows all things and never changes, and yet despite the fact that His nature has never changed, His mode of operation has: From the early days of Adam and Abraham to the Mosaic Covenant with the people of Israel, up to the New Covenant established through Jesus, with the inclusion of His Spirit living inside each and every believer.

 Our all-knowing, unchanging God saw fit to be flexible in the structural shepherding of humanity. And while I don’t think that means we need to go around constantly changing things in ministry just to change them, I do think a gospel lens would lead us toward flexibility when we find ourselves in seasons of structural and programmatic change in ministry.

So use wisdom. Not all new ideas are good ideas. But be open. Be flexible. I think this is a means by which we reflect the gospel in the way we lead ministry.

Mike Haynes is a full-time youth pastor and the creator of G Shades Youth Ministry Curriculum. Feel free to reach out to Mike anytime over email at mike@gshades.org
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