Culture -

Your ministry needs these 3 systems —

By Joe Smith

Created on 10/21/2019

Most of us student pastors and directors aren’t known for our attention to detail or our systems … We’re dreamers!

We like the big picture. While this characteristic certainly helps, it can also derail our ministries.


I’ve been in family ministry for almost 20 years and I have seen the value of having strong systems in place. Systems have a way of letting everything fall into place – from well-attended meetings and classes to efficient time management. Here are three fantastic systems I love that will help you and your ministry.


1. Your Perfect Week
A great exercise for any professional is called the “Perfect Week.” Keep track of what you do hour-by-hour for a week. Nothing too in-depth, just a sentence describing what you did. Analyze how you spend time and determine if the most time-consuming things are effective. If not, figure out ways to adjust.


Create a spreadsheet template to map out your ideal perfect week. Include time for self-care, your family and your spouse. Use this template to make all scheduling decisions but remember it’s never going to be perfect. Life isn’t perfect. Youth pastors often realize they were spending an inordinate amount of time on things that didn’t help them get anywhere.


Not only does this practice eliminate all the time-wasters, it opens up more time for good things! Jim Collins’ book, “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t” says: “The enemy of great is not bad, the enemy is good.”


You can spend all your time doing good things and ignoring the great things. You must have a personal system to help you achieve what God is calling you to do.


2. Discipleship Wheel
How can you disciple someone if you don’t know where they’re at spiritually? You have to have a system in place to not only determine that but to help walk them to the next stages. We use the Discipleship Wheel because it teaches our leaders how to recognize where their people and students are in their faith. This is an important tool for student/family ministry.


We aren’t game show hosts or party planners. Our role is to come alongside parents and equip them to be the spiritual leaders in the home. We sometimes have to be that discipleship role for students who come without parents with the mission they leave high school with an authentic faith.


Teach your leaders how to recognize each stage in the Discipleship Wheel and understand it’s not always clear-cut. People can have characteristics of more than one stage and can bounce back and forth.


Jesus had a system in place for his few. He picked his 12, then His three and then His one. He showed them how to do it. He invited them to do it with Him. He sent them, watched and debriefed after. Finally, He released them to replicate the process with others.


Discipleship isn’t linear – it’s a stumbling process that never ends. It’s not about a destination, it’s about the journey.


3. Cue the Parent
I don’t believe there’s necessarily a right or wrong system to cue parents – I just think there needs to be a system. Parents need to know they are to be the spiritual leaders in their homes and in their children’s lives. They need resources, relationships and encouragement.


I highly recommend youth leaders read “Lead Small,” and then find the best ways to cue the parents in your unique ministry. A system for cuing parents is vital in sustaining long-term ministry.


Here are three ways our ministry equips parents.


• We offer regular parenting-based small groups. Right now, we’re using “Parenting Through the Phases” as our study. This allows us to bring together parents from different stages. Not only are they being ministered to, but they are also ministering to others. Parents with kids in college can speak into the lives of parents of high schoolers … and so on – clear down to toddlers. All of this to help them parent with the end in mind.

• We use Facebook like crazy. I have closed groups for all my parents and communicate to them daily. I post articles of things they need to know about. We post our weekly talks and small group questions so that they can either start the conversation or continue it at home. I post videos and pictures of all our meetings and outings so they can see what their students are doing in real time. We use it for upcoming events, online registrations and more.

• Communication! We strive to communicate seven different ways. When we did our last parenting class called “Spiritual Parenting 101” we sent emails, posted on Facebook and Instagram, posted in the closed groups, announced from the stage, in the updates and (This was KEY) I personally invited every family in our church either by phone call, in person or text message. Then I sent out text reminders to the group the night before. Seem like overkill? It’s not! Parents are busy and need regular reminders. With work, school, sports and who-knows-what we need to have a system in place to cue parents to what’s happening. Trust me, your attendance numbers will go through the roof.


These are three systems that should be in place to help you and your ministry thrive. This is a great place to start. Don’t be afraid to ask a seasoned veteran to help, listen to podcasts and watch webinars – CIY is putting out some really good content through their WebCasts every month. You might be in a position where you need to ask the church about hiring a coach or mentor to walk through these systems with you. This is an invaluable resource to train you and help you reach your community. I can attest to seeing a major shift in ministries and in the attitudes of the church leaders because of coaching results.


I absolutely love James Clear’s book, “Atomic Habits.” He said it best …

“You never rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.”


Joe_Smith.JPGJoe Smith is a veteran of youth ministry, having served as lead youth minister in multiple churches over the past 20 years. He’s also served as a senior minister and preaching minister of churches in Florida, and currently serves on the ministry staff at Shift Church in Gainesville, Florida. To contact Joe, send emails to