I have never run a business before, and I reckon I probably never will but I have to admit that I find the whole process very interesting. I am impressed by entrepreneurs who spot a niche in the market and turn it into a very successful operating business. Im hugely impressed by the pioneering spirit displayed by those who decide to start up businesses.
I am sure that running a business is challenging on so many levels and requires a huge amount of expertise. The business ultimately will succeed or fail on the amount of product they sell verses how well they manage the cost of running the business. This basic understanding perhaps proves why I don’t think I will ever run a business
The Complaints Department
So you might be wondering why you are reading “The idiots guide to running a business” but let me explain;
Ive just had another one of those conversations, you know the one. The one where a church member or youth worker is complaining to you about the fact that 10 of their best kids have started going to the new super duper youth group down the road. They are annoyed about this new “kid stealing” church or organisation and over months become so enraged about their rudeness and naivety – “We’ve been here for years, how dare they just breeze in here like that!”
Ive had this said about a church or organisation that I have worked for and the truth is Ive also thought it (and in a weak moment) said it about another church or organisation. In my wee country of Northern Ireland I hear conversations like this too often.
We all understand how difficult it can be at times to pioneer and sustain a growing youth ministry and anything that makes that job harder can be naturally viewed as a threat, especially when it’s new super duper church or organisation or a new event run by an existing “competitor”
When we perceive a threat we go into defensive mode, we retract and end up complaining and have conversations like the one I have just described.
The thing is, it doesn’t really matter what is happening elsewhere in the churches of my community, my job description doesn’t change, and I still have to do what I am called to.
So after this conversation I began to think about what my job description as a youth worker in my context is; what it is Im trying to do. After minutes of pondering, my attention span was low that day, I came up with this.
My job description is
“to show the young people in my community who Jesus is.”
I have lots of other things that incorporate into that overall vision but essentially that is what my job is about. That’s why I signed up for this job; it wasn’t for the money, social status or the champagne lifestyle. I have a passion for young people, I want to see them in relationship with Jesus and realise their full potential in life.
On a practical level, that means that I need to be meeting young people in their environments as well as creating environments for them to meet and grow. I want the amount of young people I encounter to increase all the time and I want the quality of relationship they have with Jesus to deepen. To do this I want all of these environments to be filled with young people, I want young people who have never engaged with church to come to my youth ministry.
But they are all at this new super duper church!
Back to Business Management 101
One of the safest ways of starting a business is to buy into a franchise. This occurs when you pay to use an established company’s brand name or product for your business. You get the mother companies expertise, market share, product knowledge etc and in turn you contribute to the company’s growth and their popularity.
The overall growth and success of the mother company should be of concern to the franchisee who has bought the name. How the company is perceived by the public will determine the trade that each individual store will see and ultimately your profit.
If that brand goes under so does your business, if that brand becomes multinational your business will expand and you will have more success. (Maybe I should have become an economics lecturer!)
I think God is into market growth, he tells us to go into the whole world, and he wants everyone to hear about him and longs for the world to come into relationship with him.
I’m hugely grateful that God allows me to participate in this franchise and that I am allowed to see people’s lives changed right in front of my eyes. He has given me a share of his Kingdom, a share in the Kingdoms “market growth”
My job in the Kingdom, as I said earlier, is to show the young people in my community who Jesus is and introduce them to him. I really like my job description but the truth about it is;
Im not the only person in my community with that job description.
I could write a long list of people I know who serve in other churches and youth organisations who feel that God has called them to this vision and they are all going about their jobs in their own way, the way God has gifted to them. I would have no doubts that this situation is repeated in every town and city across your county.
The Penny Drops
After this realisation it hit me;
God has franchised the work of his Kingdom amongst young people to us, not me but us.
He needs lots of us to have to have the vision to reach the amount of young people he wants to see come home. The advancement of his Kingdom can’t happen through my youth ministry alone. If we think about that in a business context it would sound ridiculous; it would be like Starbucks trying to be a multinational company but only wanting to open one store.
You see I need to be a team player; I need to be thinking about the franchisor; The Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
If I was truly concerned about Gods vision for young people I would be praying for other churches and youth organisations in my community. Praying that God would bring young people to them, that he would bless them and allow them to lead hundreds and thousands of young people into relationship with him, I’d be praying for them like I pray for me and my youth ministry.
If I was truly concerned about Gods vision for young people I would be happy that this generation was encountering him somewhere, instead of getting involved in all the other traps today’s teenager faces. I would be happy that the new super duper youth group down the road was relevant to young people in my community.
The truth is the success of these other youth ministries in the long term will allow my youth ministry to grow further. I should be trying to learn from these ministries, gaining knowledge from their expertise whilst trying to understand more about the young people in my community and reworking and expanding what I am currently doing for them.
The truth for so many of us is that we have lost the vision that called us to this ministry and have become too consumed with “owning” our young people and the glory that we get from a flourishing youth ministry.
I don’t own my young people, God does, and he knows what is best for them. My job is to pray, help and encourage them on their journey to him regardless of whether they are in my youth ministry for 18 years or 18 minutes; I want to be faithful with what he has given me. I want to play my part in their journey and I want to play it well, but I want others to play it well also.
That is a tough ask for me and it’s a journey I am currently walking but Im convinced that it is from this place that I believe our youth ministries will grow, our communities will be blessed and this generation will fulfil the immense potential that we see in them.