“I hope you are planning to clean up the oven because there are a lot of people mad at you. It needs to be cleaned up by Thursday.” That’s what I came into this Wednesday.
Even though there had been hundreds of people and ministries using the kitchen in the last six months, the youth were the reason the oven was so dirty and we needed to clean it up.
My first instinct was to fight back. Prove why it wasn’t us. After a few moments of prayer I realized that I had neglected some of the basic rules I live by in the church. Here they are: my basic rules for making sure you and your ministry are playing on the same team.
Don’t take it personally
People are not against you or your ministry, they are just passionate about their own ministry. I would fight any day for our youth ministry and they would do the same for their ministry. They aren’t against you using their items or being in their space, they just want to have everything they need for the ministry they are passionate about. Be patient and always remember their perspective.
When using equipment—whether it’s a shovel, basketball, mop, or glue—don’t just assume that you have the right to use it. I understand they don’t need to give you permission to use it, but asking is still key. It shows respect while letting them know what is going on in “their” space.
Let them know what you will be doing, when you will need the space or item, how you plan to use it and, most importantly, how it will connect teens to Christ. Underscoring the connection to the real ministry you are doing will help you if something isn’t left exactly as you found it.
Let them teach you
You may already know how to use a spatula or glue, but that’s not the point. You will get an opportunity to build a relationship with someone new or strengthen an old relationship.
The time spent will help the youth in the long run because you can use the glue-using lesson time to convey your passion for the teens and the power of what God is doing in their lives through your church. Share your vision and maybe you will get another person excited about ministering to teens.
Stop viewing ministries and spaces as “theirs” and “ours.” Have the youth volunteer to help out with other ministries and do not be afraid to invite them to help you. We invited a 90 year-old lady to volunteer as a judge for one of our youth events. She loved it, got connected to our youth program, and also got to witness how hard we work to respect the space.
Be an example
Following 1 Timothy 4:12 we need be an example with our life and actions. We try and live that out in some regular and specific ways:
- After mission trips we get the vans professionally cleaned knowing we are cleaning up after everyone who has used the vans since the last mission trip.
- We sweep the sanctuary after worship on Sundays and again after our youth group.
The best advice I have? Stop taking things so personally — it is not an attack on your youth ministry. Connect with people and facilitate ways they can connect with your youth. Be respectful of everyone and help the youth be the leaders of the church.
And honestly, sometimes you just have to clean up after other people… that oven was incredibly messy.