Adrift

Doing more sometimes means doing less

A nonprofit’s mission was to “fight hunger by teaching families to provide and prepare nutritious food.” They had amazing success with the first families they served. As parents learned how to shop for and cook inexpensive but nutritious food, they felt empowered to competently provide for their families.

Other area service providers took note of the successes and began sending over the families they felt unable to serve. The staff began to hear from their volunteers about many of the other problems families in their neighborhood faced. So, eager to serve, the founders decided to open a computer lab with people available to help with job resumes.

Then they opened a childcare center to provide a safe place for under-resourced families to send their children. All the while, the ministry wholeheartedly believed they were doing what was only natural and needed. But the people who financially supported them became confused by all the new programs and grew disillusioned.

The employees were run ragged and couldn’t communicate the company’s vision to their clients or supporters; in fact, they had difficulty remembering why they signed up for this work in the first place. Eventually the nonprofit shut its doors, leaving a hole in the community as it left.

This scenario is fictional, but the outcome is a danger to every ministry—maybe especially kids’ ministry. It all boils down to something called “vision drift.”

We may receive a clear calling or direction from the Holy Spirit as to how we should minister to children and families. Then we add more and more tasks and events until the original calling is completely unrecognizable. So how do you fight vision drift?

  1. Know your God-given vision.

What has God called your ministry to? Is it that every child knows and believes in Jesus? Is it that families take on their God-given role as the primary disciplers of their children? Does your vision work in harmony with the vision God has given your church leadership? Spend time prayerfully asking God what role He is calling you to play in your local church body.

  1. Be a specialist, not a generalist.

In any job, you will have to do things you aren’t naturally skilled at and don’t necessarily fulfill any of your passions. But refuse to be diluted! Focus most of your time on areas where you excel and where you sense God’s calling.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. Recruit team players to fill needed roles that don’t fit your skillset.

  1. Say “no” to good things.

By fiddling with language you can easily convince yourself that x, y, or z fits the vision God has given you. Maybe a particularly vocal parent believes you should offer VBS, Awana, daycare, or a MOPS group. None of those are inherently bad; in fact, they can be very good. But doing them without evaluating if they propel or support your mission is asking for burnout.

  1. Be ruthless in removing distractions.

Once you start doing something it becomes your job. Have you ever volunteered to do something, thinking it will be “just this once,” only to discover you’ve become the one expert?

I enjoy making graphics, but I’m not our graphic designer. If I decide to do all of my own graphic design, then I’m subtracting those hours from another part of our ministry—say, having lunch with a key volunteer or an invested parent.

Check your weekly to-do list and be ruthless about cutting jobs you could ask a volunteer to do or that belong on someone else’s plate, that aren’t adding value toward your vision, or that maybe don’t need to be done.

  1. Cultivate your culture.

Praise what you want to see more of, and don’t ask your volunteers to do things that devalue or dilute your vision. Model what you want to see.

If I believe soul care is an important component to a healthy team and I even write that into my philosophy of ministry to children, but I never rest and never build in rest for my team, well, I’m sending different messages, aren’t I? Define what you want to be true of your team (your values or virtues), and then don’t compromise them.

Finally, don’t allow contextualization to change your culture. Sometimes we believe we are simply finding creative ways to “contextualize” our ministry to the community we serve. But if my mission is for children to follow Jesus but I only play games and offer “moralistic” story times so they’ll think church is fun and want to come back, then I’m not fulfilling my mission. I’ve changed the culture into a watered-down version of Christianity that will neither compel nor satisfy anyone I hope to serve.

Each one of us has a role to play in the body. If we take on burdens out of obligation, or because “no one is doing it,” we rob others of playing their God-given roles in the body of Christ. So, let’s remind ourselves of 1 Corinthians 12:4–6—There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

I’m praying for all of us who labor for the gospel to find freedom in doing the job Christ prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Let us do those good works with conviction, consistency, and clarity, through the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us.

  • What is one area God is calling you to “specialize” in?
  • Whatever you regularly do is your job. What are some things that have inadvertently become your job that aren’t a part of your mission?
  • Who can you ask to come alongside you? What are some roles you’re trying to fill that belong to others (who may be able to do them even better)?
Whitney Julian

Whitney Julian

Whitney Julian is the Citylight Kids Director at the Midtown location in Omaha, Nebraska. Citylight Kids exists to help families Meet Jesus, Imitate Jesus, and Share Jesus through the Gospel, Relationships, and Service. She is married to Joe, a pastor, and together they have two girls and a boy. Prior to Citylight, Joe and Whitney spent six years living with youth at Boystown as a Family Teaching Couple. Whitney has a degree in Elementary Education, and has always enjoyed seeing the spark when a child learns something new – especially when they’re beginning to understand and enjoy the Gospel of Jesus!

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