The Difference Between Program and Ministry

Years ago, I sat in at Youth Specialties’ National Youth Workers Convention, listening to Kara Powell, talk about her research connected to the new Sticky Faith book. I remember her on the main stage talking about programs being a tunnel to ministry but not being our ministry.  She warned the crowd to make sure to be careful to not trade program for ministry.  Even further back, I remember the late, Mike Yaconelli, speaking similar words of warning and inspiration over a crowd of youth workers. Like the grandfather of youth ministry that he was, he lovingly commanded us not to go back to our churches and get sucked right back into a system of programs, losing our pursuit of true ministry to students.

Pursue Ministry, not programs

Twenty-five years into youth ministry, I still find myself having to be reminded of these words. The difference between program and ministry.  A few years ago, I intentionally decided to make myself and my team at the time a shortlist as a reminder for the year to pursue ministry and not just put on a program.   I attached the list inside each leader folder as a constant reminder.  I am now once again, going to be providing a similar list to my new team at my new church as a foundation for our coming new year.

Here are just 15 of those reminders for your year as well- the differences between “Program” and “Ministry”. May this list help you and your team, as you move forward into the year as well.

15. Program is about Quantity; Ministry is about Quality.

14. Program Spends money; Ministry Stewards money.

13. Program is about Tradition; Ministry is about Trajectory.

12. Program has Shoppers; Ministry has Members.

11. Program Plans; Ministry Prays.

10. Program meets a Social Need; Ministry meetings a Spiritual Need

9. Program seeks Success; Ministry Seeks Blessing.

8. Program is a Job; Ministry is a Calling.

7. Program is another Option in a busy schedule; Ministry is a Priority in a busy schedule.

6. Program is Led by a Leader; Ministry is Guided by a Team.

5. Program is about what People can Get; Ministry is about what People can Give.

4. Program is about Bodies in the Seats; Ministry is about Hearts in Eternity.

3. Program Teaches; Ministry Disciples.

2. Program is about Entertainment; Ministry is about Relationships.

1. Program is about Individuals; Ministry is about a Community.

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