I remember when I first started out in youth ministry. It was all about the numbers. I felt successful when I could brag about the amount of kids I had showing up on a Sunday night. This gave me a false sense of validation and patted my growing ego. I soon found out though, that my ministry lacked depth and to be quite honest, I didn’t even really know the kids, because to me, it wasn’t really about relationships, it was all about results.
It took me awhile, but I finally got off my high horse thanks to some friends of mine who weren’t afraid to speak some hard truths into my life. They said, “Heather, you’re biggest concern is your image. Kids feel like your unapproachable, because you aren't authentic. You care more about programs then people.”
Ouch, they were right. I had to humble myself in that moment and choose a new perspective on how to do youth ministry. Now, four years later after this confrontation with some trusted friends of mine the ministry has reached a point where we’ve grown in life changing ways.
You see, truth is, if a kid knows you care, it doesn’t matter how good your program is, because if they know they are loved, they’ll keep coming back. A kid can see right through an individual who cares more about the number they are in the seat, than the person they are deep down inside. The kids who enter through the doors of our youth ministry are longing to be known, accepted and loved. It’s when we make a conscience choice to stop running after our own egos and start caring about the individual that our ministries start to grow in making true disciples of Christ. C.S. Lewis says, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less often.”
Now that I’ve stepped away from obsessing about the numbers, God has been blessing our ministry with even more fruit than before and believe it or not, our numbers are growing too.
Here’s some questions to ask yourself to find out if you’re on the right track:
- When someone asks you about how things are going in the youth ministry, what’s the first thing you tell them about? How many kids are coming or what God is doing in the lives of the kids that are coming?
- When you have an outreach event what is your goal? To get as many kids as you can or to make connections with the kids that do come and have excellent follow up to get them plugged into the church after the event?
- How do you define success? A big youth group or investing your life, energy and heart into a few students with results you might not see for years?
If you want to get some ooh’s and aah’s from the church congregation, go ahead and tote the numbers, but if you really want to create a ministry that will has a lasting impact on the kids who come into your ministry, start by humbling yourself. Then, start pouring your life into a few, creating an atmosphere of Christ-like love. God gets behind ministers like that and when He gets behind something His power and grace makes things grow.