When one is surfing one rides waves and the ride gets noticed and applauded. But people don’t see the lull between waves, that downtime where nothing is going on. The same thing happens in ministry, there are waves in ministry and there are downtimes.
We have all experienced downtimes, weeks of low attendance, months of low interest, youth group where it feels like the energy was sucked out with a vacuum. So, how do we minimize the downtimes? How do we plan around them and fend them off? Here are four tips for avoiding the downtimes.
1. Identify the natural waves
Just like you need a wave in order to surf, the natural waves of ministry can be extremely helpful in getting you rolling. Identify these natural waves and give yourself a boost to ride them. These waves are different depending on your context but for me one of the big ones is mid-September. Students are excited, they aren’t burnt out on school yet, they are looking for places to spend time, it is the perfect natural wave. So, I ride it. I throw big events to boost us into the wave, my leaders are extra intentional in connecting with students, we put our best foot forward in order to ride the wave as long as possible.
Identify the waves of ministry and paddle hard to catch them!
2. Become an excellent planner
Planning is one of the major keys to avoiding downtimes! Be smart in what you plan, and when you plan. This is something I learned the hard way over and over again. I have thrown amazing, big, momentum building events that went off perfectly but realized I did it a week before spring break and we didn’t have youth group that next week. The event was great but it did nothing to build momentum and it actually just thrust us farther into a downtime.
Be smart in WHEN you plan events. Plan them to support those waves not take you out of them. Check school calendars, community calendars, and ask questions before you plan events. Plan things strategically to keep you in those waves longer and keep momentum going. Also, be smart about WHAT type of events you plan and how they will help you through the downtimes.
3. Time off is not bad
One of the biggest fears I had when I started in ministry was taking time off from programming. I felt that if we took any time off we would lose all momentum and the group would never get back on track. I learned I was completely wrong.
Sometimes one of the best things you can do is take a week or two weeks off. It can actually be a momentum builder and bring students back more fired up and excited. Instead of killing yourself to push through spring break weeks, the dog days of summer, random holidays, etc. simply take a week off to break up the monotony and reset for the next wave.
4. Don’t give up, paddle harder
Some waves are harder than others to catch. Another giant mistake I made was giving in to the downtimes. I knew they were coming and I just rolled over instead of working harder to create the next wave. You know when the slow times are for your ministry. So, plan events to boost them, start epic new series that students do not want to miss, plan for some big attention grabbers to draw in new students, do things to avoid those times.
I’m not saying don’t take time off, I just said that is a good thing. What I am saying is don’t plan super lame youth groups because you know it is a downtime. It is so easy to give in and play to the downtime instead of rallying and doing an excellent job to avoid the downtime. But that is exactly what we need to do, work harder to make the down time non existent.
It is easy to get burned out and frustrated during the inevitable downtimes in our ministries. However, if we identify the natural waves, plan well, and do excellent work we can minimize and avoid the downtimes in our ministries.