Ineffective habits in youth ministry: how’s that working for you?

[This post is part of the series on Time management in Youth Ministry.]

We humans are creatures of habit. It takes about 60 days before something is a habit (and longer for habits that take more effort), but a whole lot longer to un-change habits. This is most clear with those habits that also have addictive factors, like smoking and drinking. But even completely ‘healthy’, but ineffective habits we want to change are pretty resistant.

One of the instances where you see the evidence of ‘resistant habits’ all the time is in the Dr Phil show. People will tell him what their approach is, how they are trying to live their life, treat their spouse, handle their money, raise their kids. Most of their behavior is according to deeply ingrained habits they don’t even know they have. And then Dr Phil asks this really simple question:

How’s that working for you?

I love that question. Often people get red in the face as they try to answer it, because their life is a mess, their marriage in shambles, they are up to their ears in debt and their kids hardly ever even acknowledge their existence.

How’s that working for you?

It hits home, doesn’t it? We may have all these habits that we cling to, that we value or cherish…but how are they working for us? Are they truly helping us or are they holding us back, doing damage even?

People who have tried to stop smoking can tell you how resistant ineffective habits can be

In youth ministry we have a lot of habits. We always do the youth service on the first Sunday of the month. We do small groups according to age. We sing three songs after the message. We do a bake sale fund raiser in October. We have our retreat in May.

Some of these are time-tested, some of them are tradition and some of them are plain outdated, ineffective and stupid.

How’s that working for you?

I’m a bit of a control freak (and that’s an understatement!) which means habits are important to me, because to a certain extent I rely on them. They give me a sense of control, of security. But that doesn’t mean they’re right, that doesn’t mean they’re helpful.

I’ve had to learn to let go of the way I do certain things because another way turned out to be better. I’ve had to learn to be open to change, to other’s people’s habits that ultimately proved to be more effective than mine. I’ve had to learn to examine my habits to see if they are still the best way to do things. I’ve had to learn to constantly ask myself the question: why am I doing this this way? Is this still the best way to do this?

What habits do you have in youth ministry? What are the things that you do a certain way without asking yourself why you do them that way? Why do you do the things you do the way you do? And here’s the most important question:

How’s that working for you?

Have you ever looked at your habits in youth ministry? Do you see any habits that actually aren’t working at all, that have become ineffective habits?

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