Does your youth ministry seem cluttered, like you don’t have room to think or make a decision? Do your youth meetings feel like a whirlwind with =out purpose? I have three areas you can begin to de-clutter your youth ministry and find the freedom and clarity you desire.

Think of your youth ministry like tool room. It’s packed with tools. So many tools that you’ll never use the vast majority of them. You pick up tools because they are shiny and new and think, “I’ll get this, just in case.” The problems is, it’s getting so crowded you don’t know where your essential tools are like a hammer or a screwdriver.

This is a problem if you like getting things done. So much time is wasted looking for the “perfect tool” that you bypass the essential tools that fix 90% of your homes problems.

Youth Ministries suffer from similar “clutter”. There are so many youth ministry tools from books, to curriculum to video and more out there it’s hard to mentally and spiritually navigate what you and your youth ministry really need.

Clutter comes in all forms in a youth ministry, cluttered calendars, offices, meetings, messages, and relationships. More often then not we reach a point, just like our tool room or our clothes closet, where we start ignoring it and the clutter starts to overwhelm us. I want to help you declutter your youth ministry so you can be lean, mean and effective.

The problems with clutter is that it can

1) Impede movement – both mental, emotional and spiritual movement

2) Create confusion – there is so much stuff you have a hard time deciding what’s worth your time and what’s not.

3) Overwhelm you to the point of shutting down.

Tidying expert, Marie Kondo, has six basic rules of tidying.

Rule 01. Commit yourself to tidying up.
Rule 02. Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
Rule 03. Finish discarding first.
Rule 04. Tidy by category, not by location.
Rule 05. Follow the right order.
Rule 06. Ask yourself if it sparks joy.

I’m no Marie Kondo, but let me offer three areas of your youth ministry you can start to declutter today.

Clean up your calendar

I used to fill up my calendar for the sake of looking busy. Busy does not mean fruitful. Put things on your calendar that reaches people for Christ, builds community or moves your leadership vision forward. Know why you’re planning what your planning.

“Clutter may rob us of the life we imagined or prevent us from creating a new vision for our future.”
― Lisa J. Shultz, Lighter Living: Declutter. Organize. Simplify.

Your calendar is both a compass and a map. A calendar is a reflection of where you want to take your program, what you want students to achieve and who you want to reach with the gospel.

If all you want to do is feed kids a steady diet of fun (there’s nothing wrong with fun btw), you don’t need a calendar, but if you’re leading students somewhere big, important and worthwhile a clear and clean calendar will make it easier to navigate.

If you’re needing such a tool, you can take a look at the My Youth Ministry Playbook.

Clean up your youth meeting

You only have a set amount of time to your meeting, yet so many youth workers try to jam so much into the meeting, the purpose of the meeting is lost in the noise.

Each meeting is different. If your night is a fun night, don’t try to jam in a long apologetics message or three more chorus’s of a worship song. Make fun the focus. The same is true of your meetings where the focus is worship. A little fun at the beginning or the end is fine, but too much “fun” will distract from the intention of having a worship night.

If you struggle with meeting prep, let me recommend My Meeting Playbook that will help you stay on track.

Clean up your messages

I used to love to riff in my messages. I would go wheeling down rabbit trails like I was the Dukes of Hazard and like I had all the time in the world. I would take too long and have parents waiting at the door. Let’s face it, I was selfish.

I used to clutter up my meeting with so many things and then expected everyone to wait until my message was over because it was the most important thing all night, right? Knuckhead. Let me help you avoid my mistakes with a few message tips.

Start with the end in mind. What do you want to happen?

Make sure every point and illustration leads you to this end and cut out everything that does not.

Use a single illustration to make your point.

Put a clock on the back wall so you know what it is or set your phone alarm to go off.

Use humor, but don’t feel the need to be funny with every point.

If you use notes or slides as your notes, stick with them to a degree.

Use a tool like Read-O-Meter to find out how long it takes to read your article. I took my article The One Thing Youth Workers Do Not Want To Throw Away and copy and pasted it in t Read-O-Meter. The article has 670 words and will take you 3 min and 21 seconds to read it.

Then, I took one of my messages, which I offer to you free HERE, called Three Kinds of People To Serve. I cut and pasted the text into the Read-O-Meter and it is a 4 minute and 34 second read. Now, that is not the same as preaching, but again, it gives you a ball park figure. You can see by the video, I preached for 28 minutes. This includes the introduction and the closing.

Consider that your message, overall, will take you 10 minutes as you make points, ask questions and interact with the audience. Your illustration will most like take five minutes and your closing will take 5-7 minutes. That makes a 20 minute message which is right where you want to be with a typical youth group message. Camp, retreat and revival messages will vary.

Still not sure if you want to de-clutter your youth ministry? What could you do with all the “extra space”? Build more relationships? Make parents happier? Keep your youth ministry on track? All do-able if you’ll take the time to organize, throw away and streamline how you do what you do.

“Instead of thinking I am losing something when I clear clutter, I dwell on what I might gain.”
― Lisa J. Shultz, Lighter Living: Declutter. Organize. Simplify.

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