Why You Need To Develop A Philosophy Of Ministry

This post is part of the Foundations Of Youth Ministry series.  This is the first post in the series.  Check out the rest of the series!

A philosophy of ministry is one of the most important pieces of the youth ministry puzzle.

This simple document is foundational to developing a solid youth ministry.

But what, exactly, is a philosophy of ministry?

The Missing Piece Of The Puzzle

Simply put, it’s a brief description of why you do ministry the way you do it.  It’s not what you do in ministry.  That’s your vision and purpose.  It’s not how you do ministry.  That’s your strategy.  The philosophy of ministry states the why behind it all.

Why do you do what you do?  I think that’s a pertinent question for us to ask, no matter what flavor of ministry we may be involved in.  Why do we do it.  The answer to that question can help you become more effective in your ministry role, as well as more passionate, more organized and more  intentional.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about how to go about developing a philosophy of ministry. Several websites I’ve seen have described it as more of a strategy, or a simple document that seems to be thrown together.  I feel that these are the wrong approach to developing a philosophy of ministry.  I personally believe that this is a crucial part of building an effective youth ministry.

Let’s look at each of those four elements.

Effectiveness

Like I mentioned, a philosophy of ministry explains why you do ministry the way that you do it.  Once you nail those reasons down, your ministry effectiveness will increase exponentially.  You will know the reasons why you do things, so you won’t settle for just doing anything.  Planning an activity becomes much more focused; you don’t just pick something to fill a time slot.  Everything you do has a purpose, as defined by your philosophy.

Passion

Once you define your philosophy of ministry, your passion increases.  Because you’ve taken the time to sit down and think through the process of why you do things the way that you do them, you understand them, and yourself, better.  Your reasons for doing ministry the way you do are more focused and better understood, thereby increasing your passion.

Organization

A philosophy of ministry helps you to be better organized.  If something doesn’t fit under your reasons for why you do ministry, then you don’t do it.  As a result, all of your ministry activities, teaching plans, events, and programs dovetail together nicely.  You won’t waste as much time spinning your wheels on less effective tasks.  You’ll become more organized.

Intentionality

This is perhaps the most important reason to spend some time defining and refining your philosophy of ministry.  I’ve discovered that youth ministry has to be extremely intentional, or it won’t be effective, passionate or organized.  You need to understand the why behind everything you do in youth ministry.  For example, I hear people frequently talking about needing more volunteers in their ministry.  As I listen, it becomes clear that they will settle for anyone to fill a spot.  But I’ve discovered that being intentional in selecting people is much better in the long run.  Filling a volunteer position with someone who is a strong believer, who loves teens, who is committed to serving in this ministry, who strives to model a godly lifestyle, will be much better in the long run than filling that same position with the first warm body that comes along.  You won’t have to come back later and do some damage control, un-teaching and re-teaching your students.  Trust me, intentionality is critical.

I hope this helps clarify the need for a philosophy of ministry.  If you’d like to see an example of this, check out my philosophy of ministry.

Do you have a philosophy of ministry?  How refined is it?  Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.walkwiththewise.wordpress.com Gail

    I’ve found that if you clearly know WHAT you are trying to do and WHY you are doing it, then they become the measuring stick against all new ideas and strategy is measured against. Your mission and vision become the boundaries that keep you focused on what you are meant to do and not distracted by other kids. The better defined your “ministry philosophy” the more chance you’ll reach your desired outcomes.

    • Jeff Randleman

      Agreed. The Mission is ultimately to reach the lost with the Gospel. The WHAT (vision/purpose) of a specific ministry and the WHY (philosophy) help to determine the HOW (strategy). The HOW becomes much clearer when the WHAT and WHY are well-thought out.

      • http://timmyjohnboy.com tim

        Through my last few years in the youth ministry, the premise of this article has certainly come out to be true. I began in the leadership position with a certain amount of spinning my wheels because I had not determined my philosophy of ministry. I spent the next few years struggling in part because I failed to effectively share my philosophy with others (pastor, teachers/helpers, and parents).

        Thank you for this article.

        • Jeff Randleman

          You are right, sharing your philosophy, as well as your vision, are crucial to their success. Glad this post helped you out! Thanks for letting me know!

  • Dr Toney

    Developing a Philosophy of Ministry is the key to knowing, Being and Doing what the Church is mandated to do by Christ. I am convinced that many of our congregations, parachurch Ministries, missions are blowing in the wind when it comes to doing ministry. As we look in the 2nd chapter of Acts, we see the importance of Knowing what it was that the Apostles were called to do and later doing specific what they were instructed to do by Christ resulted in the Lord adding to the chuch daily. This happened because they knew what they were to do. There was no question as to who to carry out ministry.

    • Jeff Randleman

      I agree. Many ministries run in circles because they haven’t defined the what and the why, the purpose, mission and philosophy of their ministry. I also think that strategy is the next crucial step… the how.

  • William

    Jeff, thanks for the insight here and in your personal philosophy. I am currently in Seminary and developing my own Philosophy of Ministry and a lot of the other web sites and suggestions have been confusing, especially regarding Mission and Strategy. Everyone seemed to be combining all their efforts and beliefs into the Philosophy, the WHY we do what we do. I especially like how you broke down your own philosophy into topics or sub-categories as well. It made me think more about each topic and in developing my own. Much appreciated!

    • Jeff Randleman

      It took me a long time to see the differences as well. But once I did, I thought it would be a good idea to share it with others. Glad it helped you!