Tag Archives: planning

the two things that trump best practices every time

i was on the phone the other day with a youth worker asking for input on “where should 6th grade go” question, and a bunch of ancillary questions flowing out of that first one.

after asking a handful of contextual questions, and listening for a while, i responded something like this:

i have two responses for you. one is the BIG DEAL answer. the other is the less of a big deal answer.

anytime someone asks me a question like this — whether it’s this exact question or one like it — my first response, and the very best response, is: the correct direction for your youth ministry, the best strategy, the best mission and values, the best program is always the one that you collaboratively discern from god.

in other words: who cares what smart answer i could give you about best practices, if the best practices i suggest to you — even if they really are best practices, tried and true, tested and proven by dozens or hundreds of churches — are not what god has planned for your youth ministry?

god is actively working in the world, and not sitting around waiting for you to figure out how to most effectively copy what that other church is doing so you can “bring god” to your community. so even when it comes to a seemingly mundane question like “what should we do with 6th grade?” the best answer is always “whatever god wants us to do with 6th grade.”

that’s the BIG DEAL answer.

after that — and still well before an “answer” rooted in best practices — is the less of a big deal answer:

what is called for in your community? what’s contextually appropriate?

for example: with the “what to do with 6th grade” question, if the BIG DEAL question doesn’t give you enough guidance, then ask yourself what the local schools do with 6th grade? it’s likely that the best contextual answer is there, in that.

seriously: once you’ve looked for the BIG DEAL answer and the less of a big deal answer, there’s not as much left for your brilliant brainstorming and planning and best practicing.

leading from values vs. goals

not long ago, i started a discussion thread on the youth ministry 3.0 facebook group about how leading from values is “better” (not sure that’s the right word) than leading from goals. the response was discussion was fantastic, at least for me. so i thought i would bring a bit of it over here for the rest of you. feel free to comment here, or go over to the facebook group and add to it there.

here’s what i wrote to start the discussion (and i’m adding some illustrations here that i couldn’t figure out how to post in the facebook group!):

i was chatting with chris cummings, a young youth worker who’s been active in this group, at the nashville nywc, about ym3.0. i can’t remember what his actual question was (chris, do you remember?) that got me thinking about the difference between leading change from a set of values rather than leading change from a “strategic planning” path, with goal setting and “plans”.

i’ve been meaning to post on my blog about this for a while, and will eventually get around to it are more length than i will here. but i think it could be a good discussion for us.

when ys needed to go through some significant re-engineering a few years back, i took a group of “can do” ys staff on a retreat to palm springs. my “goal” was to ideate — to come up with a list of “actionable” new ideas (this flowed out of my reading of seth godin’s book, purple cow, which i’d had them all read in prep for the retreat). while on the retreat, the conversation turned to values (not by my doing). and making the courageous choice to speak honestly, the staff starting talking about ys’ values, stated and unstated.

we rolled with it, and created a big list of all the organizational values we could think of. some of them were “positive” — but more of them were “negative” (like, “we value control” and “we value compliance”). we spent another two days creating two new lists:
– those existing values that we wanted to particularly re-affirm
– “new values” that we wanted to embody (most of which were positively stated variations on negative values from the list).

then, we used these lists to make decisions, and have for years (though the lists have continued to evolve).

i think the notion of ‘strategic planning’ and ‘goal setting’ are 2.0 practices. they call for these leadership roles and metaphors:
– statistician
– financier
– manager
– police

but leading from values (and decision-making from values, and considering change from values) calls for a different set of leadership roles and metaphors:
– horticulturalist
– environmentalist
– curator
– anthropologist


what do you think?

how do we re-conceive our roles as youth workers in this way?

and (as i’m sure some will ask), how do we live into these roles and metaphors if our church context is enmeshed in and mesmerized by the first set?

joel mayward wrote:

The metaphor of a factory and a garden has been in the back of my mind for awhile. YM 2.0 feels more like a factory, an assembly line faith focused on doing more to reach the next step and accomplish the next goal. YM 3.0 may be more like tending a garden, creating a healthy environment for growth to occur, where maturity happens a bit more spontaneously. Factories look and feel homogenous; gardens are unique to their environment. I hope that makes sense.

mark maines pushed back a bit with:

Strategy and goal setting are not in conflict with value-based leadership. Both are essential and both must be defined in order for the organization to be effective. Its not that one is good and the other is bad. They address entirely different issues. One answers the question, what is important and how will we behave? The other, “how will we get to where we want to go and do what we believe God wants us to do? Effective leaders answer both questions for their organization.

chris cummings wrote a little poem!

Based on goals, there is success and failure
Based on values, there are stories to share

Based on goals, there is a final end point
Based on values, there is an exciting journey

Based on goals, change must take place
Based on values, change might take place (but usually happens naturally and without being purposed to do so)

Based on goals, there is an individual achievement focus
Based on values, there is a communal heart

Based on goals, accomplishing the mission is of utmost importance
Based on values, loving as we are loved is the only focus

then a few of us slugged it out over whether values change or not, whether goals are good or evil (or just distraction), and a variety of other subjects. really great discussion here that is worth plowing through.