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It was my first year of student ministry, I was the middle school youth director. The game involved teens chugging an orange soda, eating 3 saltines and whistling. Let’s just say a girl puked, which was not a part of the plan. Fortunately, the mother was forgiving and the girl was not embarrassed. I on the other hand learned that this would be the first of many unexpected events that would occur in middle school ministry.
Deep down I have a special place in my heart for middle school ministry. When I tell people this they look at me as if I have three heads. What can I say? I love the excitement, I love their enthusiasm, the chaos and the lack of predictability. In fact, I tell volunteers embarking in middle school ministry, “The only predictable thing, is it’s unpredictability.”
Anyone who is middle school ministry knows that sometimes you just need to improvise. There are times you walk in with all the plans in the world, you’ve tested them out, you’ve gotten feedback and next thing you know they mean nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I know this happens in other areas of ministry; however, in middle school ministry you can expect the unexpected. But, regardless of where you serve if you are going to survive the ups, downs, craziness, chaos and unexpectedness that life can bring you need to know how to roll with the punches by:
- Planning Margin: We can’t be flexible if there is nothing to flex. Many times we plan each and every minute, without putting in any margin. When that happens you take a huge, unnecessary risk that can lead to major failure. Margin allows things to flow over and opportunities to breathe when things get tense.
- Putting Your Team On The Same Page: On top of knowing the plan, make sure your team is on board with what you are doing and when you are doing it. When the team is in sync people know how and when to step in when a hole needs filling. Never assume that everyone is on the same page; therefore, repeat and clarify what it is you want them to know and do.
- Embracing The Basic Mission: When all else fails, when everything spins out of control, you need to know what’s most important. In the life of small groups we tell our leaders when all else fails just share life and pray for one another. Too many times we rely on the teaching points, the discussion questions, and the agenda. When we are solely dependent on an outline we lose focus on what it is we are supposed to do.
- Filling Ourselves With Grace And Forgiveness: Things are going to happen and when they don’t go according to plan we can get angry and frustrated. With God’s grace and forgiveness we’ll be able to move through that. It might be hard; however, without God we will get burned out quick.
There are going to be times when you need to throw out the playbook, and roll with the punches. Again, it’s not just a characteristic of middle school ministry, it happens in every vision we are trying to accomplish. While a plan is important you need to be prepared to adjust, adapt and react.
How do you prepare for the unpredictable?