How I Got Over Being in Control in Youth Ministry

Joseph Fowler
June 20th, 2019

One of the greatest pieces of advice that I have ever been given in ministry leadership, on any level, is that of giving up control. There is quite a difference in leading and controlling. There is also quite a difference in entrusting leadership to others, and simply shirking responsibility. It is incredibly important for a growing ministry to expand its leadership, but giving up control the right way is far from easy. And the temptation will always be to take the easy route in delegating the responsibilities that you do not want, and controlling everything that seems important (or the things that will bring you into the spotlight over everyone else). Here are some important things for every leader to remember:

Pride Comes Before a Fall

In truth, it feels good to be applauded. There are so few moments in ministry where we are able to feel important. When there is a big win on the table, and you receive credit for that win, it gives you a great sense of accomplishment. With every win, every accomplishment, a ministry tends to grow. As a leader with a growing ministry, the tendency can be to horde the responsibility, because with it comes the accolade. It will not take long to realize that, even though at one time it was a ministry that could be handled by one, or a handful of leaders, it is quickly outgrowing you. With a certain hubris, many try to maintain control over every facet of the ministry as if trying to hold together a sack of groceries that the bottom has blown out of.

I have been a part of a couple of different ministries that have grown well beyond my capacity to personally manage every aspect, and if I am honest with myself, even in my smallest context (15-20 students) I should have recruited much more help that I did. It all boils down to pride, and that pride can very well dig the grave that you might eventually fall into. The greater a ministry grows under your leadership, the greater the expectation that is placed on you. The Law of Diminishing Returns states that you will eventually get to a place where you are at maximum capacity at your current status, and things will turn downwards.

God Gifts Us All

It takes a great deal of experience and maturity to look beyond yourself and find the gifts in others. It is easy to see the gifts in our students, and applaud them for leveraging those gifts for the name of Jesus, but it is far more difficult to discern those things in adults that might come alongside you as leaders of the ministry.

A hard truth that I came face to face with as a young leader was the fact that I am not gifted at everything that is required of organizational leadership. Of course I had read 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul reminds us that we are all members of the body of Christ, each with unique gifts in which to complement one another for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God, but I did not think that it applied to my being a pastor. I had taken spiritual gifts tests, and I knew where my strengths were, but I did not realize that I had weaknesses. It was a revelatory moment in my ministry when I realized that if I brought along people who were better than me at things, the ministry became healthier. I realized that God had not only gifted others uniquely to reach students, but he had also called them specifically to student ministry. In denying them the ability to serve, I was actually hindering God’s call upon their lives.

Multiplying Your Influence

Your influence is not measured by how large a crowd you can gather, but in how many leaders you have helped raise up and send out. Anybody can gather a large crowd, but not many develop leaders who reproduce those same leadership qualities. Realize this, if you choose to rely on only your own personal influence, your ministry will be limited to only those who are showing up to your midweek service, or the small group that you lead. However, if you develop leaders, and train them with your own leadership style, then every leader that they raise up, and every person that they touch has also been influenced by what God has done through you.

Think about the best coaches in sports. Very few of them are known only for the number of games that they won, but the greatest coaches are known by the number of assistants that sat under them and have gone on to be great themselves. Wooden, Bryant, Saban…all these coaches are at another level above so many, because from them come a litany of young successful coaches using their models to win. In Genesis, God laid out a simple command, “Go and multiply.” Though he was speaking within the context of a post-flood, procreation-type multiplication, God has always made multiplication the key element of bringing his Kingdom here. Raise up leaders, and give the reigns over to them.

Joseph Fowler

Joseph Fowler currently serves as the Student Pastor of CrossPointe Church in Madison, AL. His passion is leading and equipping the next generation of the Church. When he isn’t speaking, teaching or hanging with students, you can find him at home with his wife, Kinsley, and son, Camden. He fancies himself an outdoorsman, athlete and somewhat of a gamer.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.