Happy New Year!

Don’t worry, it’s not January 1st yet, but for many of us in ministry, it might as well be.  Churches across the world will be relaunching this Sunday with new mottos, slogans and visions.  There might be new programs starting and new leadership taking the reins.  With this new ministry year, comes both excitement and uncertainty.

In my youth ministry, we are retooling our student leadership program, we are kicking off a daily devotion that will stream on iTunes, and we’ll reconfigure our Sunday night programming.  This may sound like a lot and it is, but I can do more…I can do better.

By all accounts, last year was considered a successful year for my ministry.  After taking over the ministry in the fall of 2015, attendance rose to four times the amount of students by May of 2016.  The ministry that I inherited was gutted and turned upside down prior to my taking over.  Some of those wounds still run deep in our ministry and as a result, there are some students that may never step foot in our ministry again.  It’s sad and my heart breaks for them, and yet, there’s a part of me that doesn’t blame them for not coming back.

So if last year was such a success, why would I change anything?

The easy thing for me to do would be to keep the same formula going.  But students’ interests are always changing.  I can’t do the same things year in and year out.

Think about the coaching landscape in professional sports.  The average coach only last a few years.  They have a certain way of doing things and that’s what makes them successful.  But after a while, the players begin to “tune out” their coach.  They have heard the same pep talks week in and week out.  The novelty has worn off and the players stop playing for their coach and ultimately, the coach is fired.

Have you ever wondered how Greg Popovich has kept winning in San Antonio all these years?  Sure, he’s had Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu.  Pop has been able to adapt his coaching to the changing landscape of the game.  A decade ago, his team knew how to control the tempo of a game.  They made their opponents play a grueling style of half-court basketball.   Last year, future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan rode the bench in favor of younger players who could run up and down the court with opposing teams.  They were successful in spite of their aging roster.  The style of play has changed and Pop has adapted to it.  Every year, his team finds a way to get better.  He gets his team to play unselfishly.  He teaches them that it’s not about one person, but rather, it’s about the team.  That philosophy has made him one of the best coaches in the history of the game.

How are you adapting to the changing landscape of student ministry?  Don’t be afraid to try something new.  If you fall flat on your face…GREAT!  At least you tried.  I’ll always remember the line Alfred said in Batman Begins: “Why do we fall?  So we can get back up.”

My challenge for you is this: as you are planning your 2016-17 year, what’s one new thing that you can offer your students?  It doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking.  It could be something small.  Whatever it is, try it.  If it’s a success..great!  Keep it or make it better for next year.  If it fails…that’s OK too.  Retool it or scrap it all together.

You can do this!

Jeff

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