Where are you going? I still remember the first time I was standing on the platform of the Victoria line and a woman came up to me. She spoke broken English to me while trying to relay what I said to her back to her family in a language I couldn’t quite make out. They were on holiday and trying to make their way around London and see all the sights. They were trying to make it to see Big Ben and had been traveling around the tube line for over an hour when I met them at Victoria Station. They had traveled up and down the line trying to find Westminster station but they couldn’t find where it met up with them. They were close but on the wrong line.
Luckily, I was able to walk them over to the District line and get them on the right train. “Two stops then get out at Westminster. Head up the lifts then head outside. You can’t miss it!” A thank you was all they had time to shout out as they rushed off the platform and onto the train before the doors closed and they were on their way to the next stop of their tour of London.
Where are you going?
Where are you going? It is an important question to ask yourself. There is a reason career counselors and employers alike ask questions like “Where do you see yourself in five years?” They want to hire someone who has goals and a vision to get there. In my experience asking that question to other youth workers or more specifically to future youth workers when I speak at youth ministry courses I am amazed how few of them have an answer.
Where are you going? Proverbs 29:18 tells us that “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” In 1 Chronicles 12 as David builds his army he lists “From Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do 200 chiefs.” David had thousands of fighters but he needed visionaries.
Where is your youth ministry going?
Where are you going? Does your youth ministry have a vision? When you look at your lessons, programs, camps and trips do you see the road ahead? After you have run them do you look back and see if they achieved the goals you set for them? When you plan them for the next year do you add new goals to them or adjust them to improve?
Where are you going? I ask because vision is so important to what we do. The landscape of youth ministry is covered with churches that lack vision and as a result, only two things tend to change over time. First, their numbers decrease. Second, their youth workers come and go. It would be easy enough to blame the churches, the board or the pastors for this lack of movement but the blame rests as easily on us. If there is no vision for the youth ministry then it is our responsibility to help create one.
Vision + Observation
Where are you going? Don’t let the need for vision get in the way of the development of one. Vision is connected very closely to another word, observation. The truth is that in the ministries I have served in I have often walked in with a vision. I know my style of youth ministry and what I am gifted at doing and so that plays a large part in the vision I plan to impart.
I also don’t enter a ministry call without looking at where I think that ministry needs to go and praying through it beforehand. That, however, doesn’t mean my vision doesn’t change. I have tried to make it my habit to change as little as possible when I enter a new ministry. I learned the lesson very early on that for change to succeed you need people supporting you. So, for my first year, I try to simply observe. I meet with people, talk to them, hear about what God is doing in their life and ministry. I absorb as much information as I can and try to let that inform my decisions and set my vision.
Where are you going? Let’s say you set a vision, you observe what you need to inform your decisions, you set your goals, you achieve them. You have reached the so-called promised land. Things are going great and your ministry is thriving. Yet for those who have vision there is always a new horizon and the all-important question, “What’s next?”
Where are you going?
Denny Burda is the Senior Youth Minister at St. Paul’s Howell Hill in the United Kingdom. After over a decade in youth ministry in the States, Denny, his wife Merina and their cat Elliott followed God on their big adventure of a new life in a new culture.