3 Small Choices that Hold Your Ministry Back in Big Ways

3 Small Choices That Hold Your Ministry Back in Big Ways

Posted on Posted in Strategy

We’re all familiar with small choices that have big consequences after some time has passed.

For example:
Eating fast food will hurt your health. Not immediately, but eventually.

I still remember the first time I saw “Super Size Me,” the documentary in which a guy only ate McDonald’s food for 30 days. I was shocked by what I saw. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about.


He gained 24 pounds and had terrible mood swings throughout the month. That’s a small choice with negative consequences.

On the other hand, there are also small choices with positive long-term consequences. Changing the oil in your car is an example. You could keep driving, ignoring the “Change Oil” light on your dashboard, but that would be bad for your engine. So you get the oil changed and extend the life of your engine.

Or how about this small choice…
In 2005, Facebook (a small, little-known startup company at that time) asked a graffiti artist named David Choe to paint their offices in Palo Alto, California.

He had the choice to accept a few thousand dollars for his work, or he could take the same amount of money in the form of Facebook stock. He took the stock. When the company finally went public (almost 7 years later!), Choe cashed in his stock for $200 million (source: www.therichest.com).

The Easy Way

When it comes to your ministry, there are also choices that you make. Small, sometimes subtle choices that will either hold your ministry back or propel your ministry forward.

What I’ve found is that the choices that hold your ministry back are usually the easy ones. I’m not saying that the choices are easy to make; I’m saying we take the easy way out when it’s actually time to make these choices.

Maybe we don’t want to be disruptive. Or maybe we don’t have the energy to make the harder, better choice. Or maybe we don’t have the leverage to change things. Whatever the reason, we often take the easy way: the choice is made and the ministry remains stagnant as a result.

What I’m claiming is that if you took the harder way, did the harder thing, made the harder choice, then your ministry would move forward in ways you can’t even dream of right now.

What are these small choices?

Let’s take a look…

3 Small Choices That Hold Your Ministry Back

1. Do Ministry Alone or Do Ministry Together

You’re probably expected to wear a lot of hats around your church. You prepare messages, plan services, choose songs, go to schools, recruit volunteers, attend meetings, etc. If you try to do everything yourself, you will end up cheating both your ministry and yourself.

Your ministry will suffer because you can’t be great at everything. You’re a youth worker, not a super hero! You have strengths and weaknesses. For the sake of quality, you need to work on your strengths and hand off your weaknesses to other people.

But that’s not all. You also suffer personally because the definition of a weakness – according to Marcus Buckingham – is any activity that makes you feel “weak, bored, or drained” (The Truth About You, 85). Working in areas of weakness is a recipe for burnout. You have to stop.

Find ways to focus on your strengths and bring other people around you to help with everything else. Agressively recruit those people. Your future – professionally and personally – depends on it.

2. Value Skills or Value Feelings

You probably have a small group leader who isn’t doing a good job right now. Why don’t you release that person of their duties? My guess is that you don’t let that person go because either a) you don’t have anyone who is willing to take their place or b) you’re afraid to hurt their feelings.

You probably have a musician right now who isn’t really good enough to be leading or playing on the stage. They show up to play, but they haven’t practiced. They don’t know the words so they stare at the music stand or the confidence monitor the whole time thinking they’re getting away with it.

You know you need to have a conversation with that person, but you don’t. Why not? You’re probably afraid of hurting their feelings.

Here’s what you need to understand:
Because you continue to avoid that hard conversation, your ministry is suffering.

When I was hired at my last church, we had a student praise band that played for our Wednesday night program. We also had an adult worship leader who was pretty young. He was cool too. The students liked him. He worked with the student praise band and prepared them to lead on Wednesday nights. However, the lead singer of the band wasn’t good. He lacked the confidence to really sing and didn’t know how to lead his peers. I get it; it’s tough to lead your peers.

We didn’t have enough money to pay a worship leader, so I had an idea: If the adult worship leader would lead for students on Wednesday night, our program would be a lot better and the students would be more engaged during the songs. Plus the student worship leader could shadow him and learn a lot.

So I called a meeting with the two of them: our adult worship leader and our student praise band worship leader. I explained that our music wasn’t good enough. The program was designed to reach new students, but if we were going to reach new students, things had to be better. I suggested that the adult worship leader lead on Wednesday nights, while the student played next to him and followed his lead.

Much to my surprise, there wasn’t any pushback. They both knew that my recommendation was better than what had been happening. We made the change and our music quality went up tremendously.

Why hadn’t the previous youth pastor made that change? I don’t know, but it was a small choice that he made and it held the ministry back.

3. Work In It or Work On It

In his book, The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber popularized this concept. The idea is that we often get caught up running the day-to-day, week-to-week parts of ministries and don’t think nearly enough about the systems, structures, and goals that will take things to the next level in the future.

In other words, we tend to manage our ministries for today instead of leading them into tomorrow.

Working in it is easy because you just do what you’ve always done. There’s no push. There’s no disruption. It’s just maintaing the status quo.

Working on it is hard because it is exactly the opposite. You push. You disrupt. You dream of new, innovative, different ways to accomplish your mission. When you work on your ministry, you’re always asking the question: “How can this be better?”

Working on my ministry has lead me to things I never thought I’d find. For example:
When I wanted to make our games better, I discovered funninja.org.
When I wanted to make our stage better, I discovered churchstagedesignideas.com.
When I wanted to have good music playing before our service started, I discovered Spotify.
When I wanted to keep parents better informed, I discovered Mail Chimp.
When I wanted better curriculum, I discovered XP3.
When I wanted better pre-service videos, I found Devin Supertramp.
When I wanted to improve our graphics, I found Canva.com.
When I wanted to engage on social media, I found apps like Over and Font Candy.
When I wanted a better way to train volunteers, I found training videos from Download Youth Ministry.

You get the point.

If I had just gone ahead with the way I had always done things, my ministry would’ve gotten stuck. You have to push forward. Find new ways. Rise above the day-to-day and work onyour ministry to get the results you want.

Your Move

You can keep taking the easy way out and holding your ministry back, or you can do the harder things and propel your ministry forward. The choice is yours.

If you do ministry alone, you’ll hold your ministry back.
If you do ministry together, you’ll move your ministry forward.

If you value feelings, you’ll hold your ministry back.
If you value skills, you’ll move your ministry forward.

If you work in it, you’ll hold your ministry back.
If you work on it, you’ll move your ministry forward.

What will you choose?

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Trevor Hamaker (DMin, McAfee School of Theology) is an author, adjunct professor, and youth ministry coach. He helps youth pastors see their potential, develop their skills, and reach their goals.

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