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Balancing office administration with building relationships

Administration and relationships

Even though I haven’t been in my new youth ministry position for even three months yet, this time of year is when my church does their annual reviews for each employee, so I was included in the process anyway. I did my review with our Sr. Pastor last week and then sent this email to my adult volunteer team a day or two later.

On Monday I had my job assessment review with [our Sr. Pastor] and we determined that I’m not spending nearly enough time hanging out with students. Actually, I’m not spending any time at all. I briefly mentioned this at the [adult volunteer] retreat and said that I spend all my time doing administrative stuff because there’s a lot of up-front foundational work that needs to be done [in my new position]. Although this is true, it’s not really a valid excuse for ignoring time with students outside of church. I prepare and teach up to 4 Bible lessons every week, work with [other youth pastors in the area], balance expenses, coordinate communication between everyone, plan multiple youth meetings, continue my education on youth work, Belize missions trip, Student Leadership Team, etc. These are all things that only I can do and I’m glad to do them, but there are also many administrative items that could be done by almost anyone. I know we’d all agree that no student cares how much work I do in the office. Office work, although necessary, isn’t what changes lives. I was hired partly because of my relational heart for students since that’s what the church (you guys included) said it needed. So here I am in the office instead.

Hanging out at the schools, athletic fields, band concerts, and cafeteria is where I can make the greatest long-term impact. I would also love to do more lunch meetings with students, informal hang-outs at my house and maybe even help coach the wrestling team later this fall, but in order for this to happen, I need your help in a couple ways:

1. If you know of something that needs to be done that doesn’t HAVE to be done by me, consider taking a lead roll on seeing it accomplished and just let me know about it.

2. Be willing to let some things slide. I’m going to be more intentional about leaving the office to hang out with kids, which means that a lot more things will be left undone (right now I usually don’t even take a break to eat lunch). From an eternal perspective, I believe this is the best use of my time. Five years from now will it really matter if there’s a youth bulletin insert and a PowerPoint announcement slide every Sunday?

3. If you have extra time you’d like to donate once in a while, let me know and I’ll be happy to delegate things your way. I want to respect your time as volunteers and make sure that the time you give is spent serving in a capacity that utilizes your gifts and passions. However, if you have some time above and beyond this, I can totally use you.

I’m going to start asking myself two evaluation questions:
1. Is this something that could be done just as easily by anyone else?
2. What’s the worst thing that could happen if this isn’t done?

If it’s something someone else can do just as well as I can, then I’ll let someone else do it. If there’s no one to do it and the cost of not addressing it is less significant than taking time away from personally investing into a student, then I’ll probably let it slide. I can’t do everything, lines need to be drawn somewhere and priorities need to be set. Hopefully these two questions will help guide those priority decisions.

If you have any questions or concerns, please come to me directly. Thanks, guys!

I appreciate your help and your support as we reach these teenagers together! You guys are already doing so much. Each one of you is leaving fingerprints on lives that will be forever different because of your heart and dedication to teenagers. Together I know we can change the future one student at a time. God bless you all!

Since sending this email with the Sr. Pastor’s approval, one volunteer came in to the office to balance the youth group checkbook for me. Others have stepped up to take lead rolls on various upcoming events. I also learned that one of our church’s secretaries will be doubling her office hours in two months, partly to help alleviate a lot of my office administration. Woo hoo! Thanks, church!


Posted on May 9, 2007

  • This is a church that gets it! It is great that your pastor actually challenged you to get out, I am sure that there are tons of people that will read this and wonder why their pastor doesn’t do the same. Hopefully what you have going on will spread to the other churches in your area! BTW- AWESOME VOLUNTEERS!

  • Hey there. I am glad that you had time to reflect. There were two things in your email that “jumped” out at me. I may hit both of them. Here is one of the statements:

    These are all things that only I can do and I’m glad to do them, but there are also many administrative items that could be done by almost anyone.

    What are some of the the things that only you can do ?? I would be very careful in that terminology. I think that I know where you are going with it but I am wanting to see.

    Hopefully, everything begins to go in the direction that you want. Make sure that you are not afraid to let a few things slide. Also, you can pass off items and let people do them – even if you would have done them “better”. Do not hold onto something – because you can do it better.

  • Tim

    @ Chris: The hard part is that churches tend to base success on what is tangible. Like, at the end of the day, they like to see a check-list of things that were completed. The problem is, that’s not how it works when investing into students’ lives. There aren’t always those tangible task-oriented accomplishments to “check off.” Sometimes the fruit doesn’t come until years later and that’s hard for some people who like to-do lists.

    @ Jeff: The things I’m referring to there are tasks like balancing expenses, making flyers, typing up announcements, sending mass emails, organizing event sign-ups, maintaining the student directory, calling businesses for price quotes and even leading games. There is so much office work that almost anyone can do. It’s not like that stuff has to be done by me.

    And I totally agree with letting people do their tasks even if I could do it better. I’m more interested in seeing people (especially students) take ownership over the group than I am in doing it better myself. In fact, in many areas, it takes more of my time to help someone else do something that it would for me to do it myself, like teaching a student how to prepare and teach a Bible lesson. The process is sometimes more important than the product.

  • I definitely hear what you are saying. I’ve been at my current church for two years serving as an Associate Minister of Youth. When I started, I had an admin. assistant for 15 hours/ week. Then, it increased to 25hrs./week. Now, it’s 40/hours a week. Even at 40, we still don’t get everything done. But, the flip slide, as you noted, is that I’m with the youth almost everyday. I take pizzas to school during lunch hour, have Bible studies at my house on Wed. nights, lots of ice cream trips with various kids, and time spend just hanging out. Good luck in all you do.

    Blessings,

    Jacob

  • Curious Tim…I’ve been thinking on this post every since you posted it and talking with a local youth pastor today brought out some thoughts. Of course I might be off in this. Obviously certain eyes might be reading this thread so I can understand how or if you answer this.

    It seems to me that youth ministers are pushed into an inordinate amount of evening time with teens. In an every increasing push for activities…why is the youth ministry and pastor challenged to spend and perform extra amounts of time and is it really feasible.

    Why is there this need to push youth pastors to sacrifice their family to create entertaining events in the hopes this will tie teens into the church? With the amount of teens that leave the church every year upon graduating are we just continuing a trend that is not working.

    We have a youth ministry of around 120 to 150 and to spend equal amounts of time with each one would be insane and unfair to my family…this year for me to go to all the senior graduations would require about 20 to 30 plus hours…not only that but am I only feeding into the already me attitude that is prevalent in church. Training people to over-rely on their pastor and under-rely on their God. Do Senior Pastors model this or are youth pastors only expected to do this and why?

    Can you still grow a youth ministry in size and depth without this? I would say yes to this question because it is how we built it here.

    Don’t know if you want or need to address the questions, but just wanted to drop in my thread of thought.

    Thanks for your faithfulness.

  • Tim

    Good thoughts, Jason. For the record, I always do my best to be honest and authentic regardless of who’s reading this.

    You’re right, it is impossible for a youth worker to hang out with 100+ students on a one-on-one basis, but I think that’s the other extreme of what this email was trying to communicate. There has to be a balance between doing the office work and building the relationships. If I spend all day every day sitting in the office, I’m neglecting the relationships. If I do nothing but hang out with kids, I’m neglecting the administration that keeps the ministry running smoothly.

    I’m not going to hang out with every kid in my youth group. I’ll pick a couple and just invest into them. Picking those kids is hard, but given some time, it usually becomes clear to me. God lays certain kids on my heart based on their life circumstances and spiritual needs. I don’t apologize for this, either. The criticisms of “Tim is picking favorites” has never come up because the rest of the kids and the parents know my heart, but if it ever does and some kid really wants to meet with me too, I’ll totally do it!

    As for all the other kids I can’t meet with on a consistent basis, that’s what I have adult leaders for. I train them and attempt to “reproduce” myself by teaching them to be as effective as possible in the lives of their kids. Part of my team’s vision is to see every student in our community connected to an adult mentor who will invest into them personally. The only way this will happen is if others team up with me to love on kids.

    I dunno if that answers your thoughts or not, Jason. Please post any follow-up questions. This is a good discussion and great dialog to have.

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