Mise en Place Youth Ministry
The Top Skill a Student Ministry Pastor Can Learn from a Chef
“How did you manage that much at once?”
“Mise en Place.”
Allow me to explain.
Last year, I volunteered with a nonprofit to help run their annual Christmas event for an under-served community. Because I had some amateur cooking experience, they asked if I would lead the food preparation and service. I happily agreed.
Then they dropped the bomb. “Oh, by the way. There will be 600 people there.”
All total, it came out to:
- 250 pounds of pulled pork
- 130 pounds of baked beans
- 125 pounds of coleslaw
- 250 pounds of banana cream pie.
When people asked how I successfully cooked that much great tasting food all at once, my response was, “mise en place.” Basically, “It was all in the preparation.”
The first rule of successful cooking, whether for 2 or 200, is having all of your ingredients and tools in place before you get started. The fancy French term for this is “mise en place,” or everything in its place.
Youth Ministry Mise En Place
Great youth ministry leadership is like cooking: the more prepared you are, the more successful you will be when things get busy. Many of us have experienced the inverse of this—we don’t adequately prepare and the results are chaotic.
Think about a big youth ministry event where the details got away from you and you ended up running around the entire event putting out fires. At the end of the day, if you are so stressed trying to run the program or event that you don’t have time to connect with students, then what was the point?
“Great youth ministry leadership is like cooking in that the more prepared you are, the more successful you will be when things get busy.”
The capacity to be fully present with students when they are in the building is the most important part of our job. While it can be difficult at times to get ahead, the extra effort in preparation always pays off.
This extra preparation can take a variety of forms:
- Prep time in the days advance when kids are not in the building.
- Creating a standardized event checklist to keep things organized.
- Planning out games and activities a month at a time or more.
- Batching social media and marketing work all at once.
- Committing to having your message prepared the day before program.
These types of admin tasks can quickly expand beyond the time-slots you set aside, monopolizing time much better spent ministering to students and developing leaders. Having a plan to tackle them more efficiently will help you better succeed during “game time.”
While this leadership mise en place has obvious application in getting ready for programs, events, and trips, it goes deeper than that.
“If you don’t intentionally prepare yourself for greater levels of responsibility by intentionally developing as a leader, you will find yourself stumbling when given greater opportunities.”
Long term success as a ministry leader means understanding your area of expertise, knowing how to manage and build systems, processes, and teams, and replicate yourself as a leader. It also means becoming the kind of person who can successfully handle greater level of responsibility and recognition without letting it warp your character.
If you don’t intentionally prepare yourself for growth opportunities by developing the necessary skills as a leader, you will find yourself stumbling when given the chance to prove yourself.
Every time I have ever cut myself, made a big mess, or burned myself cooking, it has been because I was rushing and not prepared.
What opportunities are you missing because you have not taken the time to better prepare yourself? Or worse, what areas have you lost serious credibility because of mistakes you made?
Back to the Basics
Commit to taking some time this week to evaluate how things have been working.
What are some areas that constantly bring stress? During program, notice how you react when a student asks to chat for a few minutes. Are you able to fully be present and listen or are you thinking about the last three things that have to get done so the night doesn’t fall apart.
Want to go even deeper?
Pull aside someone who can speak to your leadership capacity and ask for honest feedback. If you have a great relationship with your supervisor, ask them to help you come up with a plan for growth.
You will never regret spending the extra time in preparation. You never know when the next busy season or opportunity for increased responsibility is going to arrive.
Cameron Pedicord is an experienced youth worker and avid lover of all things food and cooking. He is a leadership coach and consultant to church and nonprofit leaders and regularly blogs at VMI Leadership Solutions. He works to help churches and nonprofits clarify vision and generate momentum to multiply impact. Cameron, his wife Corrina, and soon to be two children live in Northern California.