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Thriving in Uncertainty

This post is written by Nick Elio who is one of our DYWC Field Team Members. Nick is also the Family Ministries Pastor at Denver Community Church.


Your life and ministry has been turned upside down. With stay-at-home orders, 6ft of social distancing requirements and large gatherings suspended, it appears that your church and youth ministry aren’t going back to normal anytime soon. Freaking out yet? I know some of you are because youth pastors tend to love structure, annual rhythms, predicability and certainty.


We are already recruiting for volunteers for the coming school year. We plan our ministry calendars six months in advance. We have students fundraising for service journeys taking place the next calendar year. And we book our retreat spaces 18+ months out. Because we are youth pastors and gosh darn it, people like us.


Yet, we are in pretty short supply of any certainty when it comes to our ability to plan head right now. But the uncertainty of this global pandemic has created an opportunity for us to thrive in a season that calls for our ability to pivot, innovate and recalibrate.


I have been at my church for 10+ years now and when I got here, I had the opportunity to start our student ministry from the ground floor which meant things were really volatile in the beginning. And early on, I remember looking forward to the day when things would settle down and become more predictable. Excited to have structure and consistency; I didn’t want to feel like I was constantly reinventing the wheel. Yet, that day never came. Sure there were things I could count on but year after year our ministry remained dynamic. New leaders. New students. New problems and new challenges. Years with lots of students and years when our numbers dipped. And it took some time for me to wrap my head around the idea that this was how things were going to be. “The only constant is change.”


Enter 2020 and all that has come with Covid-19. It’s been a lot to handle but honestly, I wasn’t that shaken. Sure I have my own anxieties around my health and the wellbeing of friends and loved ones. I’m concerned for medical professions and their access to PPE in this time. And yeah, I’m worried about the effect this will have on our economy for the next few years. But when it comes to my ministry? My ministry is constantly evolving and this is just another opportunity to recalibrate and evolve.


I like to think of my ministry as an Italian sports car. Ferrari or Lamborghini. Maybe you’re more into German engineering. BMW or Mercedes perhaps? Your car, your choice. But there you are, in a car worth as much as a small house here in Denver, and your job is to stay on the road and stay alive which means avoiding the ditches on either side. To your left, is the ditch of “If its not broken, don’t fix it” and to your right is, when asked “Why do we do this?” the answer better not be “Because this is how we’ve always done it.” There is sweet spot right in the middle of the road that allows for maximum velocity and success. Avoiding these two ditches allows me to keep things that are working, but to constantly be innovating, adapting and moving my ministry forward. I don’t want to fix or change things just for the hell of it. But I certainly want to have a good reason for why we do anything and everything. And that means some things are always changing.


Maybe you are reading this and feeling like the ways that Covid-19 have affected your ministry seem insurmountable. It just doesn’t seem possible to take what you’ve been doing during your in-person gatherings and translate that into the digital world.


Maybe you’re reading this and feeling like you JUST got some momentum going in your ministry and now this pandemic has come along and messed everything up.


Maybe you’re realizing that your entire ministry has been built around your in-person stage presence and persona when you are on stage teaching or interacting with your students and that just doesn’t work via Zoom.


There are a lot of things that aren’t going to translate into this new world. And I feel pretty confident we’re never going back to the old world, at least, not the old world we remember. So now is the time for innovation. Now is the time to recalibrate what your ministry was doing and decide what you want to keep and what you want to leave behind. Maybe you inherited a ministry from someone else and you’ve been waiting for the opportunity to implement some of your own practices and ethos. Perfect! Do it. Feel the freedom to admit you don’t know what the next 6 months will look like and try a new idea every week knowing that none of us know what we are doing or what next month is going to look like.


Don’t worry, none of us were trained or taught how to pastor, teach, build and lead volunteer teams during a global pandemic. But here we are. So seize the day. This is your moment to pivot, innovate and recalibrate. You’re already driving a Ferrari! But don’t hug the shoulder holding on to “This is how we’ve always done it.” And don’t course correct so far over that you get rid of great aspects of your ministry. Find the middle of the road. Adapt. Pivot. Recalibrate and evolve. And know that what you come up with for the future of your ministry is going to be great. Just make sure you email me all of your great ideas because at this point… I am drawing a blank.

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