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The Problem With Perfectionism In Your Youth Ministry

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Image courtesy of shutterstock.com / (c) Andrii Muzyka

I spent a whole summer working on small group curriculum for our middle school small groups. I invested hours of research and writing, trying to build the perfect set of questions and reflections that would enable teens to go deeper in their relationship with Christ. In the end this curriculum was never used. Why? It was too complicated. 

I had spent too much time making sure it was perfect that I ended up losing focus and creating something mostly unusable.

There is nothing wrong with wanting your ministry to perform at a high level. In fact excellence is a great value to embrace; however, it can be confused with perfection. That happens because of the pressures you face in your ministry. Maybe you are pressured by the pastor to produce high numbers. Maybe you feel like you have to compete with the ministry down the road. Or maybe you could simply be a perfectionist at heart. 

While you should strive for excellence, you need to be careful it does not lead to perfectionism. Why? Because that could lead to:


Micromanaging Leaders

When you doubt your team’s ability it’s easy to micromanage them. If you want to raise up leaders, you need to be able to sacrifice in the short term to grow long term.  Delegation means often allowing things to fail or suffer in quality in the short term. A perfectionist will struggle with this.    

 

Ignoring Paradigm Shifting Ideas

Change brings messiness and that can be a nightmare for a perfectionist. Being perfect means sticking with a solid plan; unfortunately, that solid plan might lead to standing still. A ministry is a movement, which means it needs growth. That might mean learning how to fail forward.

 

Workaholic Culture

It’s easy to get stuck in the details on a certain project or initiative. If you aren’t careful you can end up wasting hours on tasks and responsibilities that might not matter in the end. While it’s good to be passionate about your craft, it is unwise to ignore your other responsibilities like relationships with God and family.

 

Inauthentic Ministry

If you strive for perfection you might come off inauthentic in your ministry. People might see it as entertainment, or a show to trick people into believing in their following Christ. Perfection might also set an unfair standard where teenagers might not feel worthy to come to your ministry. An authentic ministry means admitting our imperfections and humanity.

How do we avoid the negative side of perfectionism? Here’s a though: To avoid perfectionism, yet strive for excellence, it’s important to have vision and accountability in our relationships.

There needs to be people and purpose that reminds you what you are called to do and who is calling you. Review and analyze your programs, ask people for insight and allow God to take control, so that you avoid the pitfalls of perfectionism.

How have you overcome struggles with perfectionism? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

 

About the Author

Christopher Wesley

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. With over 9 years of youth ministry experience you can read more about his journey on his blog at http://christopherwesley.org.

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2 comments

Yeah, good article. I once crafted a youth service from start to finish, even carefully selecting the worship songs to match the message. It was so well thought out and planned. Of course, God didn't show up, and it was a miserable night. On the way home, I asked God about it, and He said I didn't allow Him in my well-crafted plans. I don't think I even prayed about the service ahead of time. Oops. "The best laid schemes of mice and men..."
by: Doug Overmyer May 21, 2013 10:24 am
Doug, Thanks for sharing. Too many times I've not included God in my plans. Its a habit that takes time to develop; however, the more we allow him to work through us the more we'll be able to move through the messiness of ministry.
by: Christopher Wesley May 22, 2013 1:33 pm