This Was My Worst Idea in Youth Ministry

Ben Marshall
April 27th, 2020

A couple of years into youth ministry, and for the first time, I had a great idea.

As we all do. 

I was unhappy with the motivation some of our students had in wanting to jump into mission trips. It seemed to be more about the experience and what they got out of it, rather than serving for the glory of God and becoming mission minded followers.

It was because of this, I had the best worst idea for a “stay-at-home” mission trip. I put together a great plan, had it all set to go, even made up some graphics, and was super excited about it! 

I pitched the idea and kept talking about it in person, at youth group, in parent emails, and all avenues of communication. And…I had four students sign up. That’s it! Adding insult to injury, they were the ones who would have gone on any mission trip ever, no matter where it was or what we were doing, because they love to serve and have a great heart. 

To put it into perspective, we had closer to 25 the year before. It was a big flop for our youth ministry.

What did I learn? Hearts aren’t changed because I changed the program.

It is very possible that the motivation I was unhappy with in many of our students was unbeknownst to them. It was possible they wouldn’t have been able to articulate it, but their actions spoke volumes.

The following year we went to Costa Rica and had so many interested that we actually had to make some difficult decisions on who was able to go. 

Was the difference because of the location? Probably. Was the motivation what I wanted it to be? No. But while we used the location that year, we taught their hearts more about serving wherever you are, even if the location isn’t new and shiny and exciting.

I learned to meet students where they are in order to lead them to where they needed to be. 

Failure is a great teacher, if we are willing to listen.

Ben Marshall

Ben just recently became the Pastor of Student Ministries at Pathway Church in Beaver Falls, PA. He has a passion for discipling youth and young adults, helping them realize their God-given potential and developing next generation leaders. Ben is married to Connie and they have a two-year-old daughter, Aliya. Ben’s hobbies include kayaking, running, reading, playing guitar, soccer, and football. Follow him on Twitter @benmarshall3, Instagram @ben_marshall. If you want to continue the conversation or respond to what Ben has written, send him an email at bmarshall@lifeatpathway.com.

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