Youth Ministry at Half Time: Delegation

The first Youth Ministry at Half Time article can be read here.

Things Only You Can Do

Maybe this is a type-A thing to do, but I made a list during my youth ministry half time. What follows is some personal brainstorming. It is my attempt to identify things that only I can do and things that need to be delegated.

Three Problems and a Confession

Before you get any grand ideas about my organized brain, please know that what you are about to read is born of exhaustion, not forethought. I feel like I have never been more tired or more discouraged. In a little bit of space, carved out by not having to preach Super Bowl Sunday, I tried to diagnose what was going on. I identified three problems:

1.     I have no more time. I began to feel that no matter what I did, I was barely treading water. My weekly responsibilities are barely getting done, and I am always exhausted come the end of it. I find myself wishing for extra days in the week.

2.     I have no more attention. The 40-hours-a-week job that I have probably occupies 60-70 hours’ worth of headspace, or at least demands that much intellectual energy. I feel this most strongly on Sunday Nights (when our student ministry meets). It’s not just that I have to be present then, but I also have to collect money for camp, make the announcements, make sure someone is running slides, ensure the worship team is OK, the room is prepped, and figure out some game to play. Oh, and preach.

3.     My emotions are being stretched thin. And it’s not just me that frequently feels exhausted and discouraged. My wife “hates” Sundays, and there are times when I see my daughter for less than one hour – total.

So, seeing little way forward, I went ahead and made a list to try to ennumerate the realities of my time usage. I hope some of these categories will be helpful to you.

What I Learned and Am Learning

My intuitions were right; I am treading water. Forty hours of my 40 hours (and, who only works 40 hours?) are already accounted for. I am left with no time to do what I need to do—like strategize for our future, plan our Spring Break trip, or train my leaders—and no time for what I want to do, like write this blog.

I’m learning that ineffective time management means I am an ineffective pastor. There are some things only I can do, and (right now) I do not have the energy to do them well. That’s not a personal problem – it’s a pastoral one. I am indirectly neglecting to care for my students by directly neglecting to manage my time, attention, and emotional state.

I am learning there was a reason setting tables was delegated in Acts.

Some Tentative Solutions

Thinking through my schedule this way has helped me think differently about my week and come up with some creative solutions. Here are some of my thoughts:

A) Give myself two consecutive preaching weeks off every three months, which will yield 20 hours (over those three months) to:

            1) Brainstorm/Strategize for Student Ministry


                             -Sermon Series

                             -New Directions/Structural Changes

             2) Write for Rooted

             3) Plan Upcoming Events

             4) Prepare to Train Leaders

B) Train my leaders simultaneously with my students.

Once every three months (after my two week break), I will come back and train my whole youth group on topics normally reserved for the leaders (“What to do when a student says they are gay” or “How to be a healthy small group” or “How to lead a Bible Study”). There is nothing in that content that my students wouldn’t benefit from hearing too. Why not train them together?

C) Empower my interns to run more of Sunday Night.

This gives me more energy and headspace throughout the week, and on Sundays in particular. I can delegate collecting money, running slides, and organizing games to those interns. I can also have them set up, with a checklist that I provide. That alone allows me to come one hour later, and gives me an extra hour with my family.

Things Only You Can Do

By isolating which things only I can do, I gave myself the freedom to release more duties to others. And by honoring others with increased responsibility, I free myself to be a more effective pastor. Although your context may be different, I hope my thoughts will aid you in making the decisions of delegatation (should they be needed).

Seth Stewart is a husband and a dad, and after a decade in student ministry is now working as the Editor-in-Chief at Spoken Gospel. Spoken Gospel creates online resources that point to Jesus from every passage of Scripture. Seth spends his day writing, speaking, and being his family's chef.

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