Woodruff, Mike



I usually don’t base my principles on the name of a restaurant, but T.G.I. Friday’s has something to teach us. Namely, that Friday isn’t Monday. Why is this important? Because our productivity not only varies greatly between the morning and afternoon-most of us do our best thinking before 10 a.m.-but it also varies during the week.

The pace on Mondays and Tuesdays is far less hyper than the pace on Friday, which makes these early weekdays a good time to think, but a poor time to get things done. And we can finish a lot of projects on Friday that we never could on Monday for the same reason we can blitz through a to-do list on the day before we leave on vacation.

Learn to use the natural cadence-and natural deadlines-of the week to your advantage, and look critically at your Monday and Tuesday projects. We’re far more likely to waste time early in the week than we are when the finish line is in sight.


the fall file

For many of us, fall is the most strategic time of the entire year. If fall fares well, then more than a few kids will decide-consciously or otherwise-to make youth group part of the year’s routine. If fall events go poorly, then we’re in search of the big Mo for a long time to come.

Clearly, fall programs demand excellence and deserve reflection. And the time to do both is now. In fact, while the highs and lows of fall 2000 are still fresh in your mind, lay the groundwork for fall 2001. At your next staff meeting, ask the following questions: If we had the fall to do over again, how would we do it differently? What did we do wrong? What did we do right? What didn’t we do that we should have?

Write up your notes and file them away for further reflection in March. Then during spring quarter, you can pull your leaders aside to plan the following fall. All of your thinking and planning should be done by May, and all of the “heavy lifting”–recruiting leaders, designing publicity, booking speakers, and so on-should be done by June. That way, once next year’s race begins, you’re free to focus on students and not on ramping up programs.


the six-foot rule

Sam Walton gained retail fame by building a series of stores that pummeled the competition. And in the process, he articulated a great rule for all church staff.

When a Wal-Mart employee comes within six feet of a customer, they’re supposed to look up, smile, and say “hello.” They’re also supposed to be certain that there are never six employees’ feet-three employees-within six feet of each other. (In other words, employees are never to sit around talking to other employees.) You might consider borrowing Sam’s six-foot rule and making it your own during large group gatherings to ensure that volunteers focus on reaching out and welcoming others.


channeling change

Managing change is one of the most important skill-sets today’s youth pastor can possess. Why? Because many of those under our care-or the parents of those under our care-are change-weary. Battered by the exponential effect of more changes of more substance occurring more often, they’re turning to the church for stability, expecting God’s house to be a sanctuary from chance.

Which means that any changes you want to implement are likely to meet with resistance of the worst kind: not a reasoned opposition based on careful thought, but the raw emotions of people who just want the world to slow down.

What to do?

* Start early. The more “process” time you give people, the better off you’ll be. The early adapters will stay with you, and those who need a time to adjust will have a chance to come around.

* Keep others from planting a flag. Some people are inclined to go public with their opposition before they’ve had a chance to think it through. And when they do, your job gets harder because you’ll not only have to change their minds but you’ll also have to overcome their pride. Life is simpler if you head off early flag planting by saying, “I’m not asking for a decision right now. All I’d like is for people to think and pray about this idea. Then later we’ll have a chance to discuss it.”

* Circulate a discussion paper I use a format that includes the following: a definition of the problem; a biblical study on the topic; an outline of the historical approaches taken by the church; an account of what other churches are doing about this problem; and a list of our options, complete with pros and cons. By being upfront about the negatives, you let others know you’re aware of the downside. By asking key people, especially those who might be against the new plan, to read and then add to the discussion paper, you not only gather collective wisdom but you also give swing voters a chance to think through an issue before locking in.

* Announce new programs as pilots. Finally, when it comes time to move forward, present your plan as a pilot. “We’ve thought and prayed about this, and it seems the best way forward. So we’re going to try this for 10 weeks (or six months) and then evaluate it.”

Mike Woodruff divides his time between directing the Ivy Jungle Network-a loose association of men and women who minister to collegians-and serving as an associate pastor in Illinois. He’s the author of Managing Youth Ministry Chaos (Group Publishing, Inc.).

Copyright Group Publishing, Inc. Nov/Dec 2000

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