If I have learned anything over two decades of youth work within the church environment it is that that the church is one of the most unproductive places on earth.
Yes, I said it.
If you are a youth worker, think about your day today, or yesterday, while at the church. What all did you get accomplished for your youth ministry? Maybe one or two things, maybe nothing. You probably, however, had some really long conversations with some people from the church, helped someone network a computer in their office, moved some furniture for the child care center, plunged a toilet, reset the audio settings on the soundboard, and then had your morning coffee. Let’s face it, being at the church can often take you off your game really quickly.
It is often said that it takes about 20 minutes to get focused on a task. So if you have a distraction that takes you away from what you are doing for just 15 minutes, then you are spending 35+ minutes trying to get back to what it was you were going to be doing.
So, How To Rock the Youth Minister Work Week
Get the Heck Out of Dodge: No lie, get out of the church office and be prepared to work your tail off. Have your to-do lists ready, pertinent papers, etc. Turn off Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the cell phone off for the whole day. If you can get out of the church for a day, even the hours before lunch you will get so much work done you can practically check out for the rest of the week (don’t do that by the way). You can, however, sit with the church secretary sipping on coffee for a few hours and they will think the world of you & your work will not suffer. Seriously plan out a day, or two, out of the church that you can devote full attention to the work at hand. This alone will guarantee some rocking youth ministry work weeks.
Take Care Of Yourself: The church is not always the model of healthy lifestyles. Pastors and church staff work long hours, eat really unhealthy food, burden tons of undue stress, and seem like they sleep at the church. A lot of this harkens back to those older work models where you “get there first and leave last”. Those processes are junk. They are actually unhealthy and unproductive. If you can put yourself in front of the job (keep God & family in front of it all) then you are going to find you are more productive to get done what you need to. Schedule workouts, times with family, have a set show up and leave time. Plan on the food, you are eating (Do yourself a favor and start to look up the correlation between food, energy, and cancer. Thank me later) during the week. The worst you can do is constantly visit the nearby Sonic, McDonald’s, Chik-Fil-A. Those will leave you with no energy and a booming weight gain. Taking care of yourself will go a long way in improving your youth ministry work week.
Get Something Done Each Day Early: This might be brainstorming for an upcoming retreat, outlining a lesson plan, or making a few phone calls. The goal is get something done, seriously done, early in the work day. Once you have that ‘something’ done then you can feel accomplished and take that mojo on a new project.
Test Yourself: The one thing about being productive in the workplace is that there is no shortage of methods, techniques, and advice on how to get work done. In our American culture, the notion or productivity makes money, and money is king in so many places. So there is tons to find out about yourself about being productive. You can implement a number of strategies in order to get things done in your work world. You can take a productivity quiz to find out about how you natively function getting things done. You can download all the productivity apps we suggested. All these things can be a lot to digest, but trying them out for a period of time will give you some measure of success or failure as to whether you can do them. The goal of testing these out is to create a habit. If you can create a few productivity habits then those actions become automatic. This is the basic concept covered in The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. If you need to start with something, then start with the Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity method, it is probably something you already do rather closely.
Limit the Distractions: If you like any youth minister then you are likely attached to your cell phone and have a few social media accounts that call your attention (you are doing this to keep up with the youth, right?). If you are not getting buzzed by social media then you are likely get text messages about something you said five minutes ago. If those things are not distracting you then you are getting random emails from parents and youth that took them all of five seconds to write, but require you to write a doctorate thesis in return so that they are informed and not offended. “Why was I not elected to youth council?” ”
“Why was I not elected to youth council?”
“I don’t know, maybe it is because you have not shown up to anything youth related since your had your confirmation. Plus the rest of the youth group saw through your vein attempt to add something to your college resume.”
“That’s a tough question. We try to have a fair and balanced election process for creating our youth council. The outcomes of the election are completely up to youth… blah blah”
Turning off the phone is not a bad thing. I do this often where I turn off the ringer and then stick it in a drawer at the far side of my office. I will also leave it in my car. Stop checking email every five minutes is a good way to gain your life back as well. Rarely are you getting ‘that phone call’ or ‘that email’ that warrants immediate attention. You can assess yourself with software like RescueTime, which will run in the background on your computer and analyze how much time you spent doing productive things. It is a bit humbling to see that you only spent 42% of your time being productive.
So, clean off your desk, clean out your bags, clear your distractions and get to work on that one that you need to get done. Then, get distracted. You have my blessing at that point.
Place For God: This might be last in our list, but it is not really last in priority. We just put it last because we think if you can cover some of the prior items, then this priority comes much easier. Develop that habit of placing God in regular parts of your day. Maybe the habit is doing the Daily Office or some scheduled prayer time. Set alarms on your phone to take breaks for prayer or scripture readings. If you need a starting point, then go to SacredSpace.ie right now and do their daily prayer and meditation. It is easily accessible and since you are reading this on a computer screen you have no excuse right now. The benefit from spending time with God? You will find some of that mystic energy and inspiration to do your job each day. You will find more of God within the youth ministry that you have been blessed to lead. It is an all around good thing.