Steve Henwood asks whether we grasp how big an influence our own profile has on the ministry, for better or worse? 


Are you gifted at working with grown ups? Do you have a passion for seeing 18s-105s coming to know Jesus and walking with Him?

We looking for our next Adult Worker and it could be you. Apply now.


Said no church job advert ever! Of course not. For starters, what kind of adult worker? - Project manager? Evangelist? Associate Pastor? Worship Leader? Students Lead? Any of those roles could fit the description above, as would a dozen more. Yet, change the text from “adults” to “Children / youth” and suddenly the small-ad looks a little more familiar.

To be clear, there’s nothing specifically bad about the job title “Youth Worker.” Someone who works with youth – seems reasonable. We’ve got to be called something. But youth workers, like ‘adult workers’, come in all shapes.


Know your shape_v1


Change the Shape, Change the Ministry

A church I knew had their YOUTH WORKER move on. So, they advertised and hired a new one. On the surface it looked a straightforward swap. A good one. Both were mature Christians, effective communicators with a heart for young people. Underneath though, the church had actually replaced a ‘strong youth discipler/pastor’ with a full-on ‘youth evangelist’. Over the next two years, the 100+ Fri night youth ministry crumbled, while youth outreach and mission across the town exploded.

While that may provoke thinking for you recruiters and line managers out there, I‘m not really talking to you right now. What’s next is for the people already in post. If you are you responsible for leading and steering children’s/youth ministry - this is for you.


The self-aware minister

Let’s consider that ‘youth evangelist’ story again. The church might not have known much about the new Youth Worker, but what if he did? He arrives knowing that even with the best will in the world, he’s not going to lead the youth group the same way. Against his inclination, he spends precious outreach budget and time on team away days, meetings with church leadership etc. Over time, everyone (well, most) sense God at work and pulls together to plan and manage the change. There’s still pain, loss and bumps, but now the story unfolds differently. 

Bottom line : Knowing something of your own shape equips you to resource the ministry effectively, address the gaps, manage others’ expectations and guide the church leadership in their strategic decisions and other appointments.


Know your impact

Who you are directly impacts everything you touch. Planning, spending, programmes, every exchange with volunteers, church staff and young people, it’s all unique to you. Most of us don’t factor that in enough. We just assume that our priorities are the right ones, because, well, it’s obvious.

You need to know you. This isn’t some side hussle of self-discovery. It’s a ministry priority. It’s not a short-term project either. You will change, grow and learn (hopefully!). This means you are constantly adapting your conclusions. And always remember, God has the final say on who you actually are and what you are capable of doing (Exodus 4:11-12).

Let’s dig a little deeper.







Get started

There’s a host of ways of coming at this. When anyone say the word shape, I inevitably bring to mind Rick Warren’s acronym S.H.A.P.E. If you don’t know it, look it up. There are Spiritual Gifts tests aplenty online too. Some reasonably good, others less so. Start somewhere, just don’t take every metric as gospel fact. Do the tests, pray and listen, talk to those who know you. Grab a notebook and take notes.


Look at your work so far

What have you initiated? What do you prioritise in the sessions you run? What are the bits of this role you particularly love? Add £100,000 to your budget, what would you do (24/7 prayer rooms? Youth outreach café? Intern programmes?) and why?


Look at what you don’t do

What are the tasks or ministry areas you avoid? Are there particular things you dread? What are people repeatedly chasing you to do?


Look at what others do

There are things my counterparts in other churches do that I will just never do. That’s fine. We prioritise differently with what we have. But, by knowing this, we are doing so deliberately.


Listen to what others are saying and critiquing.

These are indicators of areas you are not covering effectively enough, (weaknesses, missed opportunities or important issues that lack your attention). Yes, they could also be the distorted priorities of others with different shape agendas or people off-loading personal gripes. Either way, ignoring it is how you lose team, annoy colleagues or build a reputation for being blind to certain key aspects of ministry.

(TIP : All challenges will feel like personal criticism. Filter them. Forgiveness, personal prayer and worship are crucial to this. It prevents your heart hardening, and leaves you open to the Spirit’s real instruction).







You shaped ministry

It is a common inclination to build things entirely around your skill set and personality. If you are somewhat a lone worker, left to just get on with it, then you are almost definitely doing this. 

Don’t wince. This isn’t as egotistical as it sounds. There are things you are good at and they produce results. Why wouldn’t you keep doing that? Nonetheless, creating a ministry which is primarily an opportunity for you to express all your best attributes is not healthy in the long term. You can already list reasons why not.

Leaders who are great communicators? Teaching heavy programmes. Heart for social action? Campaigns a plenty. Pastoral carers? Evangelists? Intercessors? - each one will mould a different space.

None of these are wrong, and none of us can do everything. What we are aiming for is that everything we do is a self-aware, prayerful, strategic choice rather than an unwitting default.

Start to identify the places that fit with the vision and plans but that are lacking because you too are lacking in those areas.







As you begin to clock where you are lacking (and so is the ministry), you have 3 choices:

  1. Skill up
  2. Recruit others
  3. Prayerfully and strategically let it go


Skill up where needed.

You will need to learn new tricks. You can’t be the answer to everything but nor can you delegate everything. Go and learn. And no, saying “I don’t need to do safeguarding training again, it’s not my gifting” is not allowed, nice try.


Gather others

Look around you. They are possibly already there. Quiet, peripheral helpers. People who have just come alongside you. Probably because they’ve already clocked the areas you are missing and (because of their shape) have stepped in. If they are there, it’s likely you are not using these people to their full potential. Book a coffee and draw them into this conversation.


Release others to do their thing

While things don’t matter to you (which is why you’re not doing them) they matter to others. You know, the “we really should be doing x” people. Sometimes it’s right to reply “It’s not a fit for us.” But often we say no too quickly because of our personal preferences. Some great ministry has happened when I’ve swallowed my ”no” and instead said things like “what would you need to make it happen?” “What if you had some budget for this?” “How can I help?”


Be open

You don’t have to pretend to be good at everything. Your colleagues already knows you’re not. (It’s okay, they know). That shouldn’t stop the ministry pressing into areas that aren’t a natural place for you. Bring together the key players and say “I think this is a priority for us but it’s not really in my skillset. How could we take this forward?”


Don’t Overthink it

Over time, you will become aware of areas where you lack. Don’t overthink it. Yes, you are not good enough to do everything this job can demand. No, your weaknesses are not automatic disqualifications. You are not called by God to do everything, only what He is asking of you. He knows your shape and He’s using exactly that. Remember too what the internet meme says, “When God calls you He also factors in your stupidity.”


And Finally

Prepare yourself for this reality : when it’s time for you to step down, your God-appointed successor is going to do it differently. They will change things. They will even likely let some of your most preciously grown plants wither, as they prioritise the briar patches you ignored. Don’t grieve it and never slander it. It was never your land anyway. Pray for it all and trust that God can handle this new steward with all their weird inclinations and priorities. After all, He coped working with you, didn’t He?