Priorities in a New Position

As some of my friends know (and noticeably by the lack of my blogging recently), I have been transitioning into a new ministry position at a church family here in Michigan as Pastor to High School and College Students. Making the change was challenging and required a lot of prayer, but I am very thankful for God’s clear leading. However, it is always painful leaving students and families who I have been deeply invested in. I am glad I haven’t made too many moves in ministry. Longevity is always better if it possible in ministry.

I have been in my new position for nearly a month now and I am “finding my feet” one step at a time… As I look at what is ahead and what I have been doing, I find it very helpful to keep the most important priorities in focus as I begin this new ministry position:

1) Building Relationships will take time and it’s important to take time to build them… Not rocket science, but it is something that can easily get overlooked on a daily basis. Coming into an established student ministry means there are lots of tasks that need to get done and attended to. It’s also easy to get caught up in being overly concerned with what I call “speaking performance” and investing too mush time in trying to “knock the ball out the park” with my first few messages. Of course, people are looking and hoping I am going to do a great job, but ultimately, it is solid God centered relationships which will make the biggest difference over time. Students will get more out of my messages if they know I genuinely care about them… This will only happen if I spend time investing in them from day one. I think students are perceptive enough to know if I am there to “look good” speaking or if my heart is for them…

2) Listening First Changes Later: It is easy to come in to a new ministry and see quickly what needs to change and bring ideas from previous experience. However, I have found that it is more important to ask questions about what has been before me. In doing so I get to hear the “what and why” behind existing programs and strategies. Not only does it help me understand the culture better, it helps to see if certain ideas and programs have a deep investment from the students and leaders. It is a mistake to to devalue or knock down something that has a deep investment. Listening comes first, changes later…

3) Meeting Parents is Key: Although our job title usually centers our attention on students, it is imperative we understand the importance and impact of ministering the whole family. Given that we usually have a few hours with each student and parents have a whole lot more, we must see the importance of meeting with and investing in parent relationships. In addition, there are many parents who are understandably nervous about t me. “Who is this guy? What will he be teaching? Is he going to invest in my student or be flaky? Does he communicate with parents or will I be in the dark again? Is he British or Australian?”  (I get that one a lot since I am from the UK with a lot of Americanisms in my accent). Parents have good reasons to be nervous, so it’s important to give them a good opportunity to put their fears to rest…

4) Start today what can be continued tomorrow: I am a big believer in this practice. Even though I would like to come in and make a “wow” impact, I have to ask myself if I am able to sustain the pace / events/ programs I come in with. I think it is important to try to make a positive impact, but if I burn myself out trying to keep pace in weeks to come, ultimately the students pay for it. Instead, I believe it is better to stay focused on a few but foundational objectives coming in, but ensure I can build from there…

Well, those are my initial thoughts for now. Right now myself and my family are in the midst of painting and staging our house to sell. It has been a very busy season changing ministries and getting ready to move house, but God always gives just enough.

One Response to Priorities in a New Position

  1. Brian Ford February 12, 2010 at 9:00 am #

    Great post Phil! And valuable points. I’m praying for your transition and look forward to seeing you in Chicago for SYMC.

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