I probably spent hours gluing, taping and screwing that stupid ping-pong table together, but throwing it away was the hardest thing to do. The students loved banging on it, playing extreme versions of table tennis and arm wrestling on it’s fragile corners. But, I was done, so one day we just got rid of it. The response from the students and even some of the leaders was of disappointment. I had taken away from them the one thing that meant a lot to them. So jokingly I would question them, “Does this mean you aren’t coming back to church?”
Of course they came back. Yet, after two years of begging I finally got another one. This time I went all in and got the “indestructible kind”. As soon as the students saw it you would have thought that I had just released them from prison. Shouts of praise emerged from their lips; they had their ping pong back.
Never did I worry that the ping-pong table was the central focus of the ministry; but, there are other things and programs that if we eliminate people go crazy. Most times people will get over an eliminated program; however, I’m willing to bet there is something in your ministry where if you got rid of it, people would tear off your head.
To them it’s essential to the life of the ministry; however, to you it’s just their:
You know what I’m talking about, right? That event that you spend days upon weeks planning, only the fruit never outweighs the labor. The fundraiser that’s been a 10 year tradition; yet, it never brings in any money. The lock-in that never produces anything, but strung out, over sugared adolescence. In most cases you hate it, some people love it and there seems to be a lot of pressure to kill it. So how do you get rid of the SACRED COW in your ministry? You need to build a case by:
Listing The Pros And Cons – I know the strongest pro to ending any type of idol in your ministry is because you hate it; however, take into consideration many won’t find that a legitimate reason. There is always going to be something that we don’t enjoy, that we need to do; but, if what you are thinking about isn’t one of them, make a list. List out why you should keep it and why you should eliminate it. Granted people might not agree with you; however, they’ll respect a well thought out list.
Getting Some Backup – I’m blessed to have a pastor who will support me on 99% of my decisions. He’s entrusted me with the student ministry; therefore, I have final say. When people know that they tend to respect my decisions. But, if your pastor isn’t behind you, try to find people with clout who will support you. I know it sounds very suspicious; however, the people who might fight you, might do that because it’s you. Plus people will want to know you consulted others and that it isn’t a decision based on emotion.
Eliminating It For A Season – Lets say the emotion of getting rid of this program or event has consumed you. It’s fair to tell others that we are going to stop doing something temporarily. What that tells them is that you are willing to be wrong, you just want to see if there is another way of doing something. They’ll respect your flexibility.
Leaning On God – With conflict comes tension most of us don’t enjoy. If you strongly believe what you want to get rid of needs to go, and you know that there will be tension, lean into God. Maybe it’s spending some extra quiet time at the beginning of your day or having others pray alongside of you, just make sure you include God into all of your decisions.
We are all attached to something. No matter what it is, if someone were to take it from you, you would be upset. Doesn’t matter how much something harms or hurts your ministry, if people aren’t ready for you to get rid of it, they’ll fight. Take your time, build up your case and be as flexible as possible. When you show others that you’ve given something serious thought, they’ll trust you, even if they don’t agree.
What’s something that was hard for you to get rid of in your ministry?
Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read great articles and thoughts about youth ministry on his blog Marathon Youth Ministry.