At my recent stay with my family at the Great Wolf Lodge indoor waterpark in Grand Mound, WA, I was quite fascinated by the lifeguards. They were extremely disciplined in their approach, almost robotic. They would scan the giant wave pool width-wise then length-wise, shooting their eyes across the pool and then down alongside the near wall. Often, they would use their hand to point at what they were looking at and their necks were always moving from side to side.
Admittedly, I was slightly amused at the first lifeguard I observed. Her movement seemed unnatural and forced. In chatting with a few of the lifeguards throughout my three days there (and watching the Great Wolf Lodge episode of Undercover Boss…haha) I gained a greater appreciation for their disciplined routine and of course, their important role overall.
Much like lifeguards, we youth ministers are in the business of saving lives as well. While we may not have to jump into a pool or ocean (although it’s very possible), we’ll certainly be called on to help a young person who is drowning spiritually.
Here are 3 ways to build routine into our youth ministry:
1. Have regularly scheduled gatherings. Whether it’s weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or whatever; it’s important that there is some sort of rhyme and reason to your youth ministry schedule. It will be easier for the youth to build your youth gatherings into their already hyper-busy and over-scheduled lives. Parents will also appreciate the regularity so they can plan ahead with their children. Of course, a good youth ministry will also add one-off and non-regular events for variety; this combo is the best approach. But without a regular routine of gathering, it will be more difficult to get young people to commit to coming regardless of how good the event is.
2. Be consistent with your availability. When it comes to relational ministry, be routine in the times you are available to young people. While we might say to a teen that he can “call us anytime”, it’s also important that we set parameters (whether we announce them or not). With my primary vocation being husband and father, I’m always trying to separate family time from ministry time although I recognize that they sometimes inevitably overlap. I work hard to schedule relational ministry time in to my own busy schedule, yet not cheat my family of my time with them. It’s hard, but I’m slowly learning that I don’t have to pick up every single phone call or return every text message within seconds of receiving it.
3. Set-up and clean-up. Back to our gatherings for this one. Routines can be extremely helpful when it comes to the before and after portions of our gatherings. When members of the leadership team know what has to be done and by whom and by when, it makes things go much faster. That doesn’t mean that we make a certain person do a certain job week after week after week; after all we want avoid the rut of repetition. But it does mean being strategic in deciding who does what so things go smoothly. After the regular weekly youth gathering at my home parish, the youth workers always do their best to spend a few minutes with teens as they are waiting for their rides… before they start to clean up. This is prime relational ministry time! Once the teens are gone, the leaders then go into their clean-up routine. After all, many hands make light work.
Going forward, consider how much “routine” you are using in your youth ministry. This consistency and discipline will certainly make a splash in the lives of young people…and might even save a life or two.