Long before ads on streaming services replaced commercials on television, one commercial took the world by storm: the Easy Button from Staples. In the commercial, someone would need an item for their desk, workspace, or office, and come to a conflict. The solution was always presented as a quick trip to Staples for everything you need, and the commercial came to a climax with the slapping of a small red button with the word “easy” in bold white lettering centered atop it as the commercial narrator said: “Staples. THAT WAS EASY!”
The commercial did such a great job at relating with everyday people because, let’s be honest, every day we could use a big red Easy Button to solve all of our problems, could we not? It would be nice to have an Easy Button when you have a disagreement with a friend, a fight with a spouse, a financial difficulty or, and especially, a problem in your youth ministry. Unfortunately, no such button exists. There is no Easy Button for a volunteer who is struggling with their faith in God, a student that is dating someone you know will lead them astray, a parent that is mad that, yet again, you fell short of their expectations, or a sermon that you, yet again, didn’t have adequate time to prepare. No, there is no Easy Button for that at all.
While it would be nice to have an Easy Button for youth ministry, and it’s wildly unfortunate that no such button exists, I remain convinced that there does exist a reset button. If you’ve ever owned an electronic device of any kind, be it the smart phone in your hand, a laptop that you work on, or even a video game console from long since ago, there are some things in life that, when they go awry, require a good old fashioned reset because nothing else will do. And while a reset isn’t easy, it’s much easier than not hitting the button at all.
There have been at least two, maybe three times, in my youth ministry that we’ve had to hit the reset button. Reasons vary, and it’s usually because seasons change. Seniors leave, Jr. High kids join, volunteers transition, the church schedule adjusts, and now what once was working no longer is. In fact, it may be true that youth ministries need more resets than other ministries. While children’s and preschool ministries typically hug the same Sunday morning schedule as the main adult gathering (which we all know isn’t moving to a different day), youth ministry takes place at differing times, such as Wednesday night and Sunday night, or maybe a different time altogether. If the Senior Pastor’s vision for the church calendar changes, you can almost bet that the youth ministry will have to pivot as well. But that’s not all.
As rapid as culture is changing, it’s not changing nearly as noticeably fast in real time as youth culture. New social media apps, language, and trends date and put away our old words, clothing, styles and emphasis faster than the speed of light, and typically by the time a youth pastor is saying the cool word, wearing the cool clothes, or choosing a cool logo/name, it’s not even cool anymore. There’s never been another opportunity like what 2020 just gave us to rethink, rebrand, and maybe even relaunch our youth ministries. Maybe attendance has dropped off. Maybe your ministry technique is changing. Whatever the maybe is, don’t panic, just pivot! It’s time for a reset. Can you relate? If so, here are some ways to hit the reset button.
- Think from Scratch
There is a reason that the greatest disruptors in any given industry are new to the game. They have nothing to protect, no sacred cows to honor, and no concern whatsoever but success. Whether it’s Uber changing taxis, Airbnb changing lodging, or Amazon changing retail, the best ideas usually start with no resources, no people, and no doubt. The quickest way to reset your youth ministry is to let go of the past. Don’t hold onto the old wineskins and pray for new wine. Build something new that holds the fresh move of God – what He’s doing now. Don’t build something you like and ask God to bless it. Ask God what He’s doing and build something to contain it!
- Go Relational
The old adage is true: people don’t care what you know (or envision) until they know that you care. If all you’ve got left in your youth ministry is a faithful core, don’t rush to cast vision. Instead, eat. Hang out. Go play ultimate frisbee. Invite them over to your house and pray and worship. Pour into them one on one as if they were the only one. This group is your future reset launch team, and the depth of relationships you build while you’ve got no other plans will allow you to soar to new heights once the harvest breaks the soil.
- Take a Trip
Seriously, get out of town with your youth group and go somewhere. A youth conference, summer camp, an inner-city mission trip. Go somewhere that’s outward focused that brings inner transformation. Worship and pray together and serve and laugh and BOND. Get your group closer to God and closer to one another, by travelling somewhere.
- Cast the Vision
On the trip, towards the end, in good spirits, gather the group around a table filled with food, or a fireplace with a cup of coffee, and talk about the wins from the trip, and share what God’s placed on your heart. Perhaps it’s a new service, a small group launch, a prayer meeting, or an outreach plan. Maybe you’re moving service nights to a different time or maybe you’re even changing the service type all together! Whatever practical change you’re making, cast the vision, make it plain, and make the ask by calling the group to pray into it, serve at it, and invite their friends along for it.
- Grow the Launch Team
While the excitement is still hot and the vision is still burning, within a couple weeks buy some donuts or pizza or crawfish or what-have-you, and have your crew bring a couple friends over for a hangout night where you can cast the why, what, when, and how of your new youth ministry. Make it awesome, have fun, and make the ask to the large group. Don’t be afraid to pass out invite handouts or share an rsvp link for your launch team to send around school to the launch night of your new service, group, or event.
Go big or go home! Feel free to use some budget to do it BIG on kickoff night. New night, new name, new branding, new social media account, new approach. If it’s not new, it’s not a reset. Welcome the friends of your faithful crew’s friends. Put up a planning center form link and get their contact info. Find out their favorite sonic drink and make a run for them during the service! Do something to show you’re glad they’re here and that they’re welcome to the table from now on.
Every ministry is different, every church is different, and the above steps may not work in every situation, but the heart behind each step is transferable and adaptable to your moment as you prayerfully consider hitting the reset button for your own youth ministry! It may take a few months, it may only take a few weeks but some things can’t be cured by mere course corrections. Some seasons require a full-blown reset. And if your youth ministry is on life support, is stagnant, barely survived covid, or just simply isn’t how you envision it anymore, it may be time to hit the button yourself.
There’s never been a better time for a reset button in the Church. I encourage you to ask God what your reset button looks like, and when He shows you, slap that thing and enjoy the ride! It’s going to be fresh, fun and filled with faith. And those three things are an Easy Button in and of themselves!
*this article was originally published in Destiny Magazine 2021 Summer Edition