Some years ago, during a season where I was experiencing a lot of change, I had a friend who would send me a text message every month with the words ‘Pulse check’.
And, no, this friend was not expecting me to reply with my blood pressure results or heart beats per minute!
This was my friend’s way of seeing how I was tracking in life. The answers ‘Good’, ‘Busy’ or ‘Tired’ would not suffice. This friend wanted to know how I was really going. She wanted to know what was keeping me up at night, what I was excited about, what I was thinking about, and the struggles I was facing. She cared about the big stuff, and she cared about the small stuff.
During that season it was such a blessing to have a friend who cared about me, regularly checked in on me, listened to me and prayed for me. I thank God for her.
This idea of regular pulse checks has stayed with me all these years later, and I have found them a helpful tool for assessing the health and well-being of youth and children’s ministry teams also.
I believe that the middle of the year provides the perfect opportunity to perform what I call ‘Ministry pulse checks.’ A time to take stock, meet with your leaders, reflect on the first half of the year, and then spend time giving thanks to God for his gracious provisions, before looking towards the second half of the year with prayer and anticipation.
There are two areas in particular where these ministry pulse checks might prove helpful:
Leader health check
The purpose of a leader health check is threefold. First, it offers a chance for your leaders to critically reflect on how they are going as a leader. Second, it gives you an opportunity to listen to your leaders as they share the joys and struggles that they are facing in the ministry they are serving in, and to pray with them. Third, it will help you consider practical ways that you can continue to equip and encourage your leaders.
Some of the diagnostic questions that you could ask in a one to one leader health check meeting are:
What has God been teaching you as you lead this year?
How are you going with the ministry?
What is a joy and a challenge from the ministry?
Who is one child that you would like to specifically pray for?
How can I be praying for you as you lead?
How can I be helping you lead well?
It is important to communicate with your leaders the purpose for these meetings, as well as the questions that you will be asking. This will give them the chance to be prepared for these meetings. It is also worth noting that some of your leaders will constantly be reflecting on how they are going in ministry. It is, however, my experience that most leaders need some gentle encouragement in this area.
It is also helpful to keep a log of the conversations that you have. This will help as you pray for your leaders by reminding you of the different conversations you’ve had and will provide a prompt as you continue to pray for and intentionally disciple your leaders.
The Apostle Peter says,
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” - 1 Peter 5:2-4
What a joy, privilege and responsibility it is to shepherd fellow brothers and sisters whom God has raised up to lead. These leader health checks provide one way for how we can willingly support the leaders that God has entrusted to our care.
Ministry health check
A mid-year ministry health check is an opportunity for you to carve out time and space in order to critically reflect on how the youth or children’s ministry at your church is going. This reflection will enable you to honestly assess the ministries you are involved in and leading, as well as think about what might need to change as you head into the second half of the year.
I remember hearing a youth minister friend refer to this kind of reflection as ‘Balcony time’. Every year, she would take three days during the July school holidays to ‘Step up on the balcony’ and have a bird’s eye view of the ministry world below.
The purpose of this balcony time is to assess the health of the ministries. This will naturally inform your planning for the second half of the year. But it is not a tool to strategise for the future.
The following diagnostic questions could provide a framework for you as you take some balcony time:
How has God been growing me as I serve him this year?
What has been going well this year?
What has been challenging?
How are the leaders going and growing?
What practical ways can I help leaders take a step forward in their leadership?
How are the children and youth growing in their faith?
What practical ways can I equip leaders to disciple the youth and children they lead?
What is something new that you would like to try?
Those involved in ministry will know that it can be joyful, challenging, rewarding, tiring, encouraging and disheartening all at the same time. It may be that as you do a ministry health check that you see only the hard and negative things. I encourage you to remember to entrust this process to the loving care of our sovereign God and know that it is his Spirit working in us to bring about his purposes.
I have had the wonderful privilege of being a children’s ministry advisor with the Youthworks Ministry Support team for almost 10 years now. It has been my experience, that the healthiest children’s ministry teams are those that have children’s ministry workers who regularly take the time to pulse check the health of their leaders, as well as the ministries they are leading.
If you would like some support in conducting your own pulse check, each term Youthworks’ ministry advisors host youth and children’s ministry network meetings across the Sydney Diocese. These networks come in different shapes and sizes, but the key purpose is to provide time and space where like-minded vocational youth and children’s ministry workers can share in the joys and challenges of ministry to young people. If you would like to be part of these regular networks, then please contact your regional ministry advisor.