This week, as we launch into 2013 and get back into the grind at the office, we wanted to chat for a second about getting refocused in the new year – today, we’ll start by chatting about getting refocused in our ministries.

One of the best things Kenny and I have done for our Middle School Ministry has been to establish a rhythm of reevaluating our ministry. Twice a year (usually on the heels of a nice vacation, away from the office), we spend time talking through our vision and goals for our ministry… brainstorming new approaches and ideas… looking at what we do through fresh eyes… and being really honest about the things that need work.

We had one of those “refocusing” sessions a few days ago and we thought it would be fun to give you a little inside look into that conversation…



In the ministry world, it can be really hard to define “success.” Before we can even begin to determine whether or not we’re being successful, we need to define what “success” means for us. So how do we determine whether or not we’re being successful? How do we evaluate the effectiveness of our ministries?

I’ve mentioned before that our pastor, Jerry Gillis, is a really great leader and strategic thinker. He’s really, really smart. A few years ago, he gave our church leadership team 4 KEY QUESTIONS to ask ourselves when we’re evaluating our ministries. We sometimes call them “The 4 Tethers,” because (if we stick to them) they will keep us tethered to our church’s overall vision and mission. And we love them. Here they are…

1. Are we making SPIRITUAL FORMATION a priority?

Are we giving our students opportunities to grow in intimacy with God? Are we helping and encouraging them to engage in Christlike relationships (both with other believers and with people outside their faith)? Are our students identifying their gifts, talents, and who God made them to be? Are they talking with others about what God has done and is doing in their lives? How are we mobilizing Small Group Leaders to become key spiritual influencers in students’ lives? How are we partnering with parents, the primary spiritual influencers in the lives of their own kids, to maximize our effectiveness?

2. Are we thinking with GEOGRAPHIC INTENTIONALITY?

What are we doing to partner with the community where our church is located – schools, businesses, other churches? How are we helping our students connect and engage with people in their own neighborhoods? Are we more consumed with gathering people on our church campus, or sending them out, on mission, into their communities?


We’re one Church, one Body, with one mission – so what are we doing to love, serve, and better equip the Church as a whole? Are we mostly focused on building “our” ministry, or are we actively looking past denominational lines for ways to partner with other churches and ministries? Are we helping other churches do and be their best?


As ministry leaders, are we independent or interdependent? Are we thinking only of ourselves and the ministries we oversee, or are we actively serving and partnering with other staff members and ministries? Are we building or hindering a mentality of teamwork and cooperation? Are we linking arms with others to maximize our effectiveness?

These 4 questions have been a huge help to our ministry leaders, and to our church staff as a whole. Across our entire organization, they’ve given us a tangible way to measure our efforts as we figure out how to answer the question, Are we being successful? 

Earlier in 2012, each of our church’s ministry leaders were asked to run their ministry through this 4-part grid for evaluation. You can check out the actual report from our Middle School Ministry right here. Some things have changed a little in the 9 months since that report was created, but if you’re interested in some of the behind-the-scenes of our ministry, it will give you a pretty good idea of what we’ve been working on in the last year or so.



After we ran through “The 4 Tethers,” we found a bunch of areas of our ministry that need some work. So here are a few things we really want to improve on in SHINE! in 2013…

  • TIME WITH GOD. We created an app last year to help students get into God’s Word throughout the week – Bible passages that directly apply to what they hear from us on Sundays. But, well, we haven’t done a ton with it quite yet. We want to explore some ways to get more students (and even entire small groups) to read the Bible more actively.
  • PRAYER GROUPS. Along with some other churches in our area, we helped students launch some student-led prayer groups in their schools. But we need to find a better way to support them, follow up with them, and keep the information on those prayer groups up to date.
  • SERVICE PROJECTS. We need to do a better job of helping students begin to live on mission with God. One of the ways we’ve decided to do that is by mobilizing small groups to do service projects together. We’ve had a few successful projects happen already, but we need to create a good resource and infrastructure to make it easy for Small Group Leaders to find and pull off service projects with their students (without our staff’s help).
  • WEEKLY ENVIRONMENT. We’ve laid out a few improvements so far that we’d like to make to our weekly environments. We’re working on new fun ways to engage students when they walk in, new strategies for refining our worship experience, some technology upgrades, and tweaks in the design of our youth space.
  • SMALL GROUP LEADER TRAINING. A few weeks ago we were raving about the book Lead SmallIn 2013, I’m going to be working on a new training strategy for our Small Group Leaders that will be based on principles from the book.

So how about you? What are your goals for your ministry in the new year? What’s your system for reevaluating your ministry or defining success? We’d love to hear from you!