I bet that the answer is, too much. There is this really strange tendency for youth workers to fall in love with their offices or cubicles the longer they stay in ministry. It is time to remember that youth ministry is a fine balance between office work and contact work. A heavy emphasis on one or the other can seriously hinder our ministry, our reputation, and even our longevity. Here is one way to evaluate your time management.
Start with 45 hours:
I know there are a ton of different expectations out there for youth workers and a ton of different definitions of what counts as work. Add to the mix retreats, mission trips, lock-ins, ect and the amount of hours a week becomes a total circus. But with all the variables, a good bench mark is 45 hours.
It may be common to have some weeks pop up that greatly exceed this number, and a week here and there where you might come in closer to 30, but for your day in, day out planning 45 is the place to start. More than this and you are a for-sure work-a-holic with balance issues, less than this and you are a slacker.
Now that we have the amount of hours on the table, what do we do with them.
How many hours are in program?
Every youth worker has different programmatic responsibilities. For me . . . I have middle school group on Tuesday nights from 7:00-8:30. I show up an hour before and never leave before 9. 3 hours I have high school group on Wednesday nights from 7:00-9:00. I show up an hour before and never leave before 9:30. 3.5 hours. I have church and Sunday school on Sunday mornings. I show up at 8 and don’t leave until close to 1. 5 hours. This means that I have 12 hours a week in program. (Good math everyone,) The remaining 33 hours time is divided in half between office work and contact work.
16 Hours of Office Work:
Office work, administration, is key on several levels. First and foremost, it actually reminds your colleagues in the office that you work there. They are hard at work and expect you to be hard at work as well. By you being in the office, you show them that you are a team player and carrying your weight. The last thing you want is for your co-workers to start to second guess your work ethic. Once they lose trust in you, it is all down hill. But more than just covering your own butt, on a spiritual level it is because we practice the ministry of presence. By simply being there, we get to be a part of the daily work of God as we are in relationship with our co-workers.
The second reason you are in the office is to actually get your administrative tasks completed. We are responsible for our programs, teaching, training, event planning, receipts, and so on. And the truth is that this shouldn’t take more than half your hours. You were hired to pull off some amazing programs, but if you can’t pull them off in half your hours, then you are trying too hard or not being efficient enough. I know you have great ideas and want to find the perfect graphic for a flyer or something, but let’s face it, it doesn’t take that long to plan out a youth group or sunday school. We need to be efficient in the tasks we have to complete so that we can pull off a program that is great but then allows us for time to do the actual thing we are paid to do, build relationships with students.
16 Hours of Contact Work:
At the end of the day, no one really cares about your program or the t-shirts you designed. What matters is the relationships that you have built with your students and with your leaders. How do you build these relationships? Good old fashioned contact work.
Go to where the students are. Show up on campus, take a bunch of them out to pizza, go to a football game or dance recital, go where they are. Invite them into your life and into your home. Open up the church gym or set up video games using the multi media devices of the sanctuary. Teach a couple of them how to play guitar. This is probably your heart, so just do it.
It is also equally important to do contact work with your leaders. Spend time your week loving on them, showing up at their work, making the church buy them lunch or dinner. Your leaders are the lifeblood of your ministry and need to be cared for and treated well.
Think of how many people you can connect with in 16 hours a week. Think of all the relational sticky that you can develop between you and your people over the course of month, a year, 5 years. Soon, no one will care at all about the t-shirt that took you 30 hours to design and order and that no one will wear, but they will know they are seen and loved by you. The only way that this can happen is by actually working hard while you are in the office so that you can spend half your time being with people.
This is My Plan:
I am in the office by 8:00 Monday, and spend all day at my desk. I make a list of all that has to happen that week, all the programs that need to be pulled off, the lessons I need to teach, and the upcoming events I need to plan for. Then it is off to the races. You would be surprised at how much you can get done when you actually sit down and just do it. My goal is that by our staff meeting on Tuesday at 10:00, all my administrative tasks are done, and all my programs are outlined ready to go. Then after staff meeting is when I write out my lessons. By Tuesday afternoon everything is really done.
Then, when I go into the office on Wednesday morning, all I have to do is shmooze it up with my staff. I goof off with them, buy them coffees, and occasionally I have some last minute planning and phone calls for an upcoming event. I don’t ever need to come in on Wednesdays, but I do because of rule number 1. The office is about reminding people I work there. Since I need to be there and all my work is done, then I can move on to more relaxing and fun things like, reading books, magazines, and blogs. I also use this flex time on Wednesday to dream and reflect, and on non-spiritual days, I will simply Facebook stalk everyone I know.
Wednesday afternoon and all day Thursday is dedicated to contact work. Students, leaders, and then more students.
This is what works for me. What works for you?