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Leaving A Legacy That Doesn’t End When You Leave

May 12, 2021 | Administration, Blog, Planning, Student Ministry, Youth Ministry

You might have been in the situation before.

You are a part of a church or student ministry that has been absolutely thriving due to many different volunteers and leaders stepping up around you and working together to build a community that’s beautiful and engaging to the people inside and outside of the church walls. This is truly the best part of ministry and it’s a time in ministry that is REALLY hard to leave, but the time comes to leave the student ministry/church/town that you have poured your heart and soul into for the sake of the Kingdom. Here comes the question though, “Are you leaving the legacy of yourself and your efforts? or are you leaving the legacy of the volunteers and leaders that poured into the ministry?”

This is a question that needs to be addressed whether your ministry is soaring or plunging when you leave. The ministry does NOT need to revolve around you. I have had personal experience in this situation where I thought that I had fostered such a great team and challenged leaders to the point to where they would be comfortable to lead the program while the church searched for the next guy whether it took 2 weeks to a year to find them. While my leaders were willing to step up and begin the process of keeping the momentum and energy that had developed through an incredible volunteer team and a thriving group of students who were willing to invite friends, it didn’t last for more than a few weeks (even when I was following up with them regularly after I left.) 

What did I miss? What did I not provide to equip my leaders to press on and trust that God was taking care of the ministry far more than they could ever control?

 I did everything that I thought I could. I made sure that all of the parents that were volunteering in our ministry were committed to the rest of the school year (as I left in December). I made a booklet with all the information that I could possibly leave about previous events we have done, camp information, mission trip information, usernames and passwords and I left them curriculum printed and ready to go for the rest of the school year. So what went wrong? 

Here are a few things that I have learned from this experience and growing more in my leadership ability.

1. I set them up to fail by not empowering them to lead

Did you catch that? I did EVERYTHING to make them successful. I did. Me. Me. Me. 

I didn’t realize this until far after I had left this ministry that while I did everything that I could think of, it was not what needed to happen. Instead of prepping lessons plans and everything administratively that I could think of, I should have spent time with the main volunteers who had offered to step up and lead the program. I should have counseled them about the weight that they would have to hold by taking on the reigns of the ministry. I should have walked with them through task of lesson planning and inviting them to join me in prayer and discernment of how the rest of the year should have gone. I don’t know about you, but there is rarely a year where I plan out everything and it all runs according to plan. Life happens, community events happen, tragedies happen. I didn’t prepare them for when life threw curveball at the ministry. I didn’t mentor them through the process of how to emotionally care for their students and how to spend time connecting and visiting with the students and their parents. I didn’t warn them about the dangers of not refilling their tank spiritually when they were pouring themselves out to students week after week. 

Ministries need leaders that are empowering the people around them to do better. I mean, look at Jesus. He took 12 people that didn’t know enough about ministry (that’s why they were all working in their parents trades and not following rabbi’s) and transformed them into 12 disciples who did absolutely RADICAL things for the sake of the Kingdom. Why? Because they were prepared, they had opportunities to lead and had grace given when they failed. Jesus walked through leadership with them.

2. I didn’t give them a support system to lean on

Can I be bold? This is not the pastor’s job. I left them with no one to call for help or advice other than myself. I left them with tons of materials and answered as many questions as I could ahead of time but they came across questions that weren’t answered. They experienced problems that I didn’t list. They walked through failures that I didn’t warn about. While this is not always possible, I would recommend connecting them with a youth pastor in town that you have built a relationship with. This give them the opportunity to once again leave you in the past and push forward with the legacy of the group. This will give them someone that has advice for situations that they encounter and it will give them someone (other than you) to call for problems or advice that they may need. Your pastor has enough on his plate and while he/she probably has a wealth of experience for a few issues, they are dealing with issues and responsibilities of their own for their position. 

This also works for the goods. If anybody knows the power of community, it’s a youth pastor. We have one of most non-conversational jobs ever unless you have experience in the field. When you meet people that aren’t employed by a church most of them slightly cower and try to hide any and all negative things from you because you are “holier than thou”. Anybody experience that one?

They need to be able to rejoice in the fact that they are succeeding in ministry just as much as they need a place to turn to when they aren’t. It makes me think of Jesus and the seventy-two in Luke Chapter 10:

17The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” 18He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like lightning. 19Look, I have given you the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy;  nothing at all will harm you. 20However, don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Celebration. Accountability. Encouragement. Jesus did all of these after He commissioned his followers to go out and lead. 

3. I didn’t leave a fair chance for the next Youth Pastor

I’m not writing this at all to brag or boast in anyway (that all belongs to Jesus), but when I arrived at my last church we had one adult volunteer and 5 students showing up regularly. I prayed and worked and poured into the lives of students, parents and volunteers alike and worked to empower the people around me. The volunteer base grew to 10 parents who were committed to teach and lead students EVERY WEEK. We grew the program from 5 students to 55 students regularly. It was an awesome experience and I learned a ton throughout my time there…. but not doing well in the first two points I mentioned also meant that I failed to allow the ministry to transition well to the next youth pastor. He never had a fighting chance because the parents and the volunteers didn’t like that the ministry didn’t continue exactly how I left it. Single-handedly the biggest thing I regret in my 10+ years of Student Ministry.

I hope that this blog finds you ahead of this position. I hope that this blog finds you with ample time to amend points in your ministry where you don’t see the same failures as I did. We are ultimately all on the same team and we are all (hopefully) Kingdom-minded. Put your best foot forward when it comes to leaving a church to prepare the students, parents, volunteers and church for the youth pastor that follows you. 

 

 

 

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