Last week I had some writing to do and found myself for a variety of reasons, sitting for hours in a coffee shop that has free wifi and that I don't frequent that often: Panera Bread. I used to have this rule that I can't go there without my wife, but I ventured out and decided to sit there in a cubicle, plug in my computer and go to work with free coffee refills.
In youth ministry, this is both a truth and a lie.
TRUE- GET IT WHILE IT'S HOT: There are seasons and moments where as a leader, you have to read the times and seize the opportunity for change. Here are some:
- SEASONS: The fall when school restarts and the new year after Christmas break are moments when it's easiest to launch new programs. Both are "hot bread" moments when people are ready for change and if you want to change your service times, your ministry structure, or your programs, these are time when change is hot and people are more apt to expect them. Good leadership leverages these moments.
- WHAT YOUR AUDIENCE IS SAYING: Reading an audience is not an idea, it is a necessary skill of all up front leaders. You cannot run a game, give a talk, or lead a group in musical worship well without the ability to read your audience. This is more art than science, but one will quickly discover that if you don't seize critical moments, they will pass and an inability to read a an audience that has left you can bomb an experience instantly. If a game is a miss, smart leaders either adjust it on the fly to fix it or cut it short and call it a failure before it kills momentum. Worship leaders figure out when people are engaged and when they are not and make changes to tempo and engage the audience with instruction accordingly to keep them with you. Teachers change tone, volume, pace, interaction level, ditch or add a story... all for the same purpose.
- WHAT GOD IS DOING: God-honoring leadership also follows God's unique move when it's out of season or not on the plan. Especially if a student shows up with 10 new friends, if an audience has been moved to tears, if the response to a service project was overwhelming, then you go with it and follow the Spirit's lead. Don't wait to respond, do it now while the bread is hot and the people are hungry.
FALSE- LET IT COOL DOWN FIRST: There are also mythical "hot bread" moments where someone irresponsibly flips the switch and says, "we gotta do it now or we're gonna be in trouble." Sometimes that's a lie. Here's some I tend to doubt are as "HOT bread" as they seam:
- CRISIS: Every crisis has a "hot bread" feel to it. This relationship, this conflict, this concern must be addressed NOW. This fire will burn down the building for sure. However, not every time someone pulls the fire alarm in youth ministry, should the building be evacuated. Smart leaders learn to discern through the panic and look for other signs. They don't jump just because others are in crisis. Like a healthy first responder in an emergency 911 call, they stop, think, pray, and respond with wisdom that many in the middle of the crisis simply cannot.
- GOSSIP: Youth ministry is the land of "so-and-so said" and "such-and-such happened". If you try and become the gossip police and shut down every irresponsible thing said in a small group, typed on Facebook, or put into the air, you'll do nothing else for your entire career. But if you learn that some gossip is more deadly than others and let some simply die of it's own stupidity- stepping in only on the one's that are lethal- then you'll discover that not all moments are as "hot" as they seemed.
- CRITICISM: Want a great way to ruin your reputation and your ministry? Just respond to every criticism while it's hot and let nothing cool down to evaluate what's inside. Wise leaders learn that some things are better dealt with when they're cool. Giving an angry critic enough response to calm them down before diving into their concerns is wise. Taking time to think and pray and sleep on it for a day before responding to a critical email is healthy. Some things are simply better enjoyed when they have had time to cool down.