Dodging Bullets: Last Minute Lisa

Last Minute Lisa

Lisa is a passionate youth leader.  Her kids love her and the church is happy that they brought her on staff.  Lisa doesn’t build margin into her life to plan and foresee obstacles in her path.  Lisa sees her objective as a youth leader as being there for the teens.  She will go heads over heels to be there in their time of need, meeting them, attending their games and even volunteering in their school.


Lisa’s students are heavily engaged with Lisa and she feels that she is doing a “good enough” job.  Yet, parents have started to complain about a lack of communication and feeling misinformed or not given enough notice for major events.  Lisa feels that students are her job and does not have the time to do all the administrative tasks required to pull off events and trips.  Parents are increasingly frustrated with changing dates, times and prices for events as Lisa, can’t seem to get her act together.   Lisa starts feeling support slip from her students’ parents as they allow their kids to attend other youth groups.


Leaders start making comments about the content of her messages, that they seem to ramble or do not have coherent points.  Several times other leaders have had to pick up the pieces of her non-planning attitude to help throw events together at the last moment.  When confronted about the apparent lack of planning in her messages, she simply replies that she wants to be flexible and “allow the Holy Spirit space” to talk about what is going on in teens’ lives rather than waste the effort on a message prepared ahead of time.  Many of the teens pick up on this and become dissatisfied in youth group and some even drop out.


Parents and youth leaders agree that Lisa is a great person and love her heart for ministry.  They grow increasingly frustrated as their pleas for planning fall on deaf ears.  As the chorus of irritated parents grows the Personnel Director Veronica meets with Lisa to urge her to spend more time planning and administrating youth ministry.  Lisa gets defensive as she feels that she is being asked to betray her calling as a youth worker.  Lisa works harder at being a relational youth worker to prove to her detractors that her model is better than theirs.  Nobody is seeing the results that they would like.  Parents lose faith in her; leaders start finding other ministries and Lisa sees this as their problem for not being servant-leaders.


2 Peter 1:5-7

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence,

in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence,  knowledge,

and in your knowledge, self-control,

 and in your self-control, perseverance,

and in your perseverance, godliness,

and in your godliness, brotherly kindness,

and in your brotherly kindness, love.

Even though the Personnel Director loves her as a person, she can’t tolerate all the dropped balls, last minute events and the wake of dissatisfied parents.  They call her into the office and inform her that the church will no longer need her services.  Lisa leaves feeling hurt and unable to reconcile how things could go so wrong when she loved her ministry so much.


Questions for Reflection

–       What is the difference between a have-to and a want-to?

–       How do you balance the fun and chores of youth ministry?

–       How do you discern truth when people criticize you?

Lisa has a great heart for ministry.  She is a person you would love on your team.  However, administration and planning are not in her strengths.   Here are a few lessons you can learn from Lisa:


–       Realize the higher up you go into youth ministry leadership the less contact you have with students.  So a youth worker can spend 75-100% of the time with teens, a leader needs to spend at least 50% of her time as an administrator and a Pastor/Director needs to spend 75% of their time doing administrative work.  Lisa may benefit from working under someone, or working in a secular environment and using her job to fund her youth ministry habit.

–       You need parents on your team.  Communicating with them should happen frequently.  Paper, email, web, text and phone are all open for use and should be used to communicate with parents.  Use several if not all available forms of communication repeatedly to ensure it was received by those who need it.

–       Build times into your schedule for visioneering and for planning.  Visioneer tasks relating to your long-term goals and making the ministry better.  Long-Range Planning should happen on annual, semi annual and monthly intervals.

  • Major Events should be started 6 months to a year in advance.
  • Details should be solidifying 3-4 months in advance.
  • Schedules should be sent out semi-annually as well as monthly.

–       If you don’t know how to be a planner, find someone who does.  Either have them mentor you, or have them take over.  The trick in ministry is finding someone who compliments your weaknesses, rather than building a team of clones.

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