Down Cycle

It's my experience that ministry (and life) goes in seasons, cycling between busy and slow times. One of the hardest things for me to do in ministry is to keep momentum going during the down cycles.

A lot of ministries are hitting their down cycle right about now. Youth ministry is the exception, but most people in most ministries are away for the summer, traveling, resting, and overall checked-out until Fall. It's not a bad thing - in fact, I'm convinced it's a good thing. The hard thing is leaning into it and figuring out how to keep momentum in the time between up-cycles. Here are a few things I think every ministry leader should be doing during a down cycle:

1. Spend more time investing in individuals - This is a huge part of my philosophy of ministry regardless of the cycle, but I find it's especially important during the down cycles in ministry. The more gas you put in the tanks of people who are actually doing the ministry, the more fuel you have for the up-cycle. If you withdraw from people because it's just so darn hard to connect with them, you'll find it twice as hard to connect with them when they're gearing back up.

2. Take time to rest yourself - One of the best parts of a down cycle in ministry is the chance to get some rest. I'm awful at this, but am trying to do a lot better, because I need it. I need to recharge my batteries, and to not feel bad for getting some rest during this time. If you're burnt out going into the fall, you're useless to everyone, and one of the only ways to avoid that is by being intentional about resting. You don't have to be out of the office, but you do have to consciously throttle-down what you're doing so you aren't spinning your wheels just for the sake of the cool sound they make when they spin... the crash often follows the squeal, and it isn't as pretty a sound.

3. Be strategic in the things you do do - We've got 5 main things we want to accomplish in our young singles ministry (Intimacy, Maturity, Authenticity, Growth, External Devotion), and we try to make sure that everything we plan is focused on helping us achieve at least one of those things. But during the down cycle, I very rarely allow us to plan something that helps us achieve less than 3 of those goals at the same time. When energy and momentum is up, we can do a lot of things. When it's down, we want to be really selective and put the energy into the things that give us the best bang for our buck.

4. Keep a long-term view - There's a temptation when numbers are down, energy is down, and commitment is down to get discouraged and forget where you are in the cycle. Most of the time when ministry leaders get discouraged by the momentum they fall to one side of the spectrum; they quit or they start trying to manufacture momentum by doing things that are completely outside their normal philosophy for ministry. Neither of these is helpful. If you know you're in a down cycle, take some time to breathe and recognize the things you can do to lean into that down cycle rather than running away from it. Remember that everything goes in seasons, and that the investment you make during this time will ultimately pay off. The farmer can't reap the harvest every week of the year. Sometimes he has to plant, water, rest, and trust that the harvest will come again when it's time.