“Groundhog Day.” You know what I’m talking about. It’s the movie where Bill Murray plays a reporter that goes to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to see if the town’s mascot and groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, is going to see his shadow on Groundhog Day. While everything seems normal at the beginning, the “fun” begins when Bill Murray gets caught in a cycle of living the exact same day over and over. No matter how much he recreates the elements of his day in attempts to break the cycle, he never really changes the outcome of the day.
Sound familiar? For many of us, our leadership contexts are reflective of this same cycle. We feel like we’re trapped, knowing that we have to change something in order for our ministry to become healthy and progress, but we never really end up changing the outcome. This leads to our ministries becoming stale, boring, and irrelevant. Why is this? Why is it whenever we feel the Holy Spirit begin to move us to progress that it never seems to work out? We ask ourselves, “Did I miss God, or worse, does God even want to use me anymore?” Now before you type up that resignation and move to Seattle to become a barista, let’s pump the brakes a little and bring some clarity to this issue. When God starts to bring change to your heart He’s not asking you to recreate your ministry, He’s asking you to redefine it. Did you hear me? I said…
Don't recreate your ministry. Redefine your ministry.
For this to happen, there are three perspectives that I believe are absolutely vital as we lead our students, our leaders, and ourselves into a place where we see our ministries become healthy.
1. Recall the Truth
There have been more times than I can count where I have wanted to quit ministry because it was hard, even rationalizing that God was moving me on and that I wasn’t God’s man for my context anymore. Know that if you believe that, you believe a lie. One of the most self-sabotaging things we can do is believe the lie fed to us by the Enemy that we are washed up and irrelevant. When we believe this, we take on a spirit of fear and that spirit was never a part of God’s original design for our lives. It is here that we MUST refuse fear and doubt in favor of perfect love. Your calling is still sure, your gifts are empowered, and out of all the people God could have called to your context, He called you. Once you grasp this, then it will change your ministry into a movement infused with power and purpose.
2. Remember the Vision
When we come to an impasse in our ministries we often throw away the vision and start over. Whether our ministry stops growing, becomes mundane, or loses momentum, we automatically assume that the original vision isn’t relevant. But before we allow that kind of thinking to take root, let’s not forget that the vision came from God. It’s just as good today as it was the first day you received it. Throwing away the vision for your youth ministry in favor of something else is like throwing away the Ark of the Covenant in favor of the golden calf. Don’t let the Enemy rob you of the very thing that first ignited the fires of youth ministry in your heart. It doesn’t take you recreating the vision, just redefining how it works.
3. Redefine the Process
If you have the first two perspectives nailed down, this one will be easy. The most important thing in redefining the process is to ask yourself, “Does my ministry behave in a way that reflects the vision God gave me?” If it doesn’t, don’t change the vision, instead redefine the systems you have in place so that they reflect the vision. As a result, the correct behavior in your students will naturally follow suit. For example, if you struggle in creating a platform for getting your students to tithe, don’t toss out the vision and chalk it up to your students being apathetic about giving. Rather, redefine your approach to tithing by shifting the systems you have in place so that your students engage the way you want them to. The key is to never stop tweaking your systems until they create the behavior in your students that honors the vision.
Hear me when I say that you have come too far and have invested too much to throw in the towel at this stage. Your calling is still necessary and what God has given you is needed in your context. Never forget that you are God’s “Plan A” for the world He has placed you in, there is no “Plan B,” and he is absolutely cool with that. As you take those necessary steps in redefining your ministry and bringing health to it as a result, know that you do so with all of Heaven at your back and God’s purpose at your front and that you have it in you to bring health to the spiritual life of those around you.
To read more leadership and ministry insights from Terry Parkman, you can check out his personal blog here.