Programs define what you do; Culture is determined by who you are.
Recently a friend asked me to define the culture of Broken Bay Youth Ministry. Whilst I was able to share a few thoughts off the top of my head, I realised that there is no definite answer at the moment. The challenge for us at the moment is to define the culture that we want to develop in our Diocese. The challenge for you is defining it in your ministry.
The reason this is so important at the moment is because we have a number of parishes that are looking to begin a youth ministry. What will the youth ministry feel and look like? What will the parish begin with and what we will recommend they don’t do? Ministry is more than a program it is relational, it has a look and a feel. This look and feel is the culture of a ministry; it is this unique culture that makes your ministry different to the one down the road.
Here are four questions to ask about the Culture in your ministry:
- What will you begin? When you are sitting down looking for ideas, some ideas are attractive and you would like to give them a go in your ministry. Perhaps you have seen another ministry in your area that has a better feel or a more positive attitude than where your ministry is at the moment. In your ministry you could begin a whole number of activities or programs, but which ones would support your mission, your style or culture? In your ministry what behaviours or attitudes could you begin or encourage that would strengthen your ministry?
- What will you promote? When you look at your ministry there are things that you are good at and you should promote them more. We all promote our events or programs but we should promote the strengths and passions within our ministry. There are also behaviours that you want to encourage and celebrate. Perhaps you can celebrate people who “go the extra mile” in service so that you promote a culture of service. In your ministry what is the behaviour and attitudes that you could promote to new members?
- What will you stop doing? When you look at your ministry closely you will see things that you don’t like. You need to stop doing those things and teach people what you do want. For example you may have a culture of lateness, so teach people about the value of being on time by starting meetings on time, even if people are not there yet. You may have a culture of “it is will be alright on the night”, so change the culture by asking people to submit their program a week before an event. You just have to stop certain behaviours so that new people will pick up the behaviours that enhance your culture.
- Major on the Majors and Minor in the Minors. What ever you repeat as the leader, others will think is the Major thing. If the leader of a youth ministry majors on social activity, then young people will think the major focus of the youth group is having fun. If the youth ministry leader focuses on Bible study or catechesis, the young people will see that as the major focus. If people keep referring to your ministry as “small” and talking about the attendance then people will think numbers are a major issue. Remember to keep you focus on the major reason your ministry exists. For example, Broken Bay Youth Ministry exists to assist parish based youth ministry, so social events or mission trips are nice but they are a minor part of our focus. What are the behaviours and attitudes that enhance the major focus of your ministry?
By reflecting on these four areas in your ministry, people will pick up more of the positive behaviours that you want to develop in your ministry. Your ministry will feel more like you want it to feel and look more like what you want it to look like.
Mark McDonald is the Diocesan Coordinator of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Broken Bay. You can follow Mark on twitter @mrmarkmcdonald