Silos or Segments?

October 14th, 2017

I was once accused in a staff meeting of existing only in my ministry “silo”.  The statement was made by an honest and sincere staffer that I believed was committed to what we were doing in the youth ministry. Because of who he was, I could not easily dismiss his observation. But I was still angry.

After the meeting my anger began to subside enough to at least begin to understand that maybe on some level he was right. I took some time and did some navel-gazing and came to several difficult conclusions about the youth ministry—

  • We did OUR events and rarely invited other staff members to speak into them or attend them.
  • We promoted OUR ministries regularly in social media but didn’t use our platforms to highlight special things that were happening in other areas of ministry
  • We headhunted the best and brightest volunteers in the church for OUR ministry and unintentionally left other ministries struggling to “staff” their areas.
  • We highlighted positive numbers in OUR ministry reports even as we knew that other ministry areas could not do the same.

Two tough questions began to form in my mind after my “silo” accusation—

  1. Was my pursuit of being the “special” ministry and the “one that works” in the church nothing more than my insecurities being played out in my vocational life?  Probably.
  2. Was this approach what was best for the church as a whole?  No.

A change needed to be made.

[bctt tweet=”Zig Ziglar, the motivational speaker and business leader once said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”” username=”ys_scoop”]

What if our version of “success” in the youth ministry shifted to include helping other ministries in the church succeed as well?  

What would that look like in your context?

Here are some easy ways to begin to address the slow creep of “silo-ing” in youth ministry—

Invite others into the Youth Ministry

We know that good youth ministry is not a program.  Good youth ministry begins with a church that values young people and determines to disciple them well.  Though your children’s pastor passes off kids to you to lead in the youth ministry, they do not stop loving them!

Invite opportunities for key staffers like a children’s pastor, college pastor, or any pastor for that matter to speak into the lives of your students. Perhaps invite other ministry leaders to be present occasionally to serve, to speak, or to observe your ministry. Their ministry of “presence” will be noticed and appreciated by the youth.

Advocate for All

Those meetings we tend to despise can actually be helpful to others if we approach them with a good attitude and humility. We are at the table because we have been invited to participate. Our finger is on the pulse of a great number of families in our churches.  Because of this, the mandate is to speak up and to share a helpful suggestion or a caution if a decision might be a blind spot for another staffer or a hindrance to ministry.  Our commitment to other ministries in the church will be appreciated as we advocate for ministry health in every area.

Share Volunteers

Our children’s pastor once quipped in a meeting that they had spent years equipping and training adults to do children’s ministry and then once they were really “getting it” they were lost to the youth ministry.  

She was right!

Just because a child graduates from children’s ministry and moves up to youth ministry does not mean their parents need to go as well. Consider encouraging folks to continue serving in the children’s ministry and to be what you are asking other folks to be for their children in the youth ministry.

“Lock” Up

A Lock is a mechanism that allows boats to travel between different water levels when it would otherwise be impossible. When a boat travels through a lock they are passed through a series of chambered segments where the water is physically raised. As the water raises, the boat is lifted and passes through to a new segment.  The process continues until the boat reaches the other side of the impediment and can continue its journey.

If those of us in youth ministry can begin to see ourselves as one of those chambered segments and not the entire “lock” we will begin the important shift of valuing the spiritual development of all ministry and not just our own.

Effective discipleship demands that we receive youth from the children’s ministry well and that we pass them on to adult ministry well.  We DO NOT want our students to leave our youth ministries believing they have achieved all there is to achieve in their faith and have “done it all”  Unfortunately we can subtly communicate this when our preparation for their life of faith does not value what comes before or what follows after the youth ministry.  

So, where are you?  Are you a silo or a segment?

I encourage you to spend some time with that question and to humbly receive the answer.

Some things are too important not to share—the lives of the young people we steward week to week in our ministries included.

Tony AkersTONY AKERS has been in ministry to youth and families in large and small churches for three decades. He is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary and just entered his 14th year in ministry at Trinity United Methodist Church in Huntsville, Alabama where he serves as the Director of Disciple Life. Tony is also a youth ministry coach and writes fairly frequently at WWW.STUDENTMINISTRYSOLUTIONS.COM


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.