I'm staring out the window of my office, listening to the creaks and bangs of our old heating system. My eyes weren’t focused on anything, but my mind was sharply focused on the problem I had just discovered about myself and my ministry.
I had been a youth minister for four years at this point and I just couldn’t escape the truth anymore. I had ignored it and made excuses for it. But the truth was that I was not seeing my ministry bear real fruit.
I was doing all the right things, going to the right conferences, playing the right music, using the right resources, but the fruit just wasn’t there.
I told myself that ministry isn’t about numbers. I told myself it’s about quality, not quantity. I told myself that ministry is God’s work, not my work. I told myself that sometimes you just don’t see the fruit until years later, long after the teens have left your parish.
But that night, I couldn’t help but look out my window and wonder why my ministry seemed so fruitless. If ministry was the joint work between myself and God, it sure seemed like one of us wasn’t doing something right. And we all know who that must be.
That’s when I discovered the two questions that changed my ministry forever:
What are you trying to do?
How are you going to do it?
As I stared out the window that night, I imagined a parent coming in and asking me these simple questions.
I could use all the right jargon and fill my answers with all the right buzzwords - personal relationship with Jesus if it was the early 2000’s, evangelization and conversion if it was the late 2000’s/ early 2010’s, or intentional discipleship and missionary discipleship in the past few years.
But even though I could make the answers sound great, the truth was that I had no clue what I was trying to do or how I was going to do it.
And it struck me that I really needed to have the right answers to these questions.
Question 1: What are you trying to do?
What are you trying to accomplish? What is your goal?
Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t we be able to give an articulate and well thought-out answer at the drop of a hat?
As you answer this question for yourself, be as specific, simple, and measurable as possible. It’s easy to get caught up in vague answers with technical jargon.
When I first started answering this question it looked something like “to form the teens in my parish into missionary disciples” or “to form lifelong Catholics”. While they sound great, they don't carry a lot of meaning because they aren’t specific, simple, or measurable.
The basic litmus test is this: if you told someone your answer, would you have to further explain to them what you mean? If the answer is yes, then it is not specific, simple, and measurable…or at least not enough.
Question 2: How are you going to do it?
What is your plan to achieve what you are setting out to do?
A good answer to this basic question is the start of a strategy. Some in the Church would scoff at a strategy. They would say you are trying to turn the work of the Holy Spirit into a business. I look at it like this:
There are a thousand things you can do in your ministry and every one of them is good. We are never choosing between bad things and good things, we are trying to choose the best things amongst an endless list of good ideas. A good strategy helps you do just that.
I would encourage you to work backward from your answer to the first question. If what you are trying to do is specific and measurable, you shouldn’t have trouble figuring out what you need to do to get there.
By working backwards you will end up with a simple roadmap to follow.
Use your answers to measure your progress, make adjustments and test new things if something isn’t working. And don’t be afraid to adjust your answers over time. That’s one of the great benefits of answering these questions. You can continuously tweak and improve your answers as you grow in wisdom and experience.
These two questions changed my ministry forever. Now, if someone asks you these two simple questions, you will be able to give them detailed and meaningful answers. But more importantly, you will have gained clarity and insight into your ministry like you’ve never had before.
Thanks as always for reading. Comment below or shoot me an email with your questions.
My name is Dominick Albano and I'm an author, speaker, and consultant.