I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now!
Starting out in youth ministry can be a very daunting journey, and sometimes we feel that we are not ready to take the reins of a youth ministry. This is serious business, after all, we are in the care of student’s spiritual lives. I personally did not have this feeling starting out in youth ministry, I had the opposite more obnoxious feeling. I thought the books and articles I read, and the classes I took in seminary would catapult me to youth ministry super-stardom. I had written down goals for my youth ministry and how I wanted it to look in the future. I saw myself as the youth pastor who could help a church grow their youth ministry and help them grow in their faith along the way. After being in youth ministry for a while, I have come to realize three truths that I think every youth pastor should realize.
1. Youth Ministry is more than goals on a piece of paper.
Do not get me wrong, there is nothing evil about setting goals for your youth ministry. When we run afoul is when we think can do ministry from a strict set of goals we have written down. Youth ministry is very fluid and different from church to church. One ministry event might work in one church, but not another. Each youth ministry has its own atmosphere and culture. We think of youth ministry as just goals on a piece of paper, we are forgetting the most important part of youth ministry. It is the students in the ministry, each student is much more complicated than just a few notes on a piece of paper. Yes, goals are good, but our personal goals should not get in the way of God’s plan for our youth ministries.
2. Youth Ministry is more than numbers (Cliché I know)
This has been said a million times, but it should be said a million more times. The reason being, because as humans we forget a lot. I understand that there is great pressure on youth pastors to increase the size of the youth ministry. For this reason, we sometimes equate large numbers of students with spiritual health. Large numbers could be a sign of God doing great things in a youth ministry, but it also could be a sign of something else. I know personally in my youth ministry, I could get larger numbers relatively simply. If I just make the youth ministry a party 24/7 and always have free food, I would have more students come. If we are only focused on the numbers, and getting students in the door, we can forget about maturing them in their relationships with Christ. A group of 20 spiritually mature disciples of Christ will do much more for the kingdom than a 100 of the opposite. The way we know if large numbers are a sign of God doing great things is when those large numbers are from disciples making disciples.
3. Youth will forget the majority of what you preach on Wednesday nights.
Preaching on Wednesday is vital for a healthy youth ministry, but it is only a small part of your youth ministry. I know personally I wanted to give souring sermons on Wednesday nights, and I imagined a multitude of youth accepting Christ. In reality, I found out that relationships are where you build a youth ministry. Knowing the students’ lives, and praying with them is where you see growth. They will grow more spiritually from the relationships you are building with them, then an amazing sermon you gave last Wednesday. Relationships are tough, and they take a long time you form, but they are totally worth it.
Ethan Winfield is a Student Pastor in Tennessee at First Baptist Church of McKenzie. He has a passion for developing people to be more like Christ. His hobbies are naps, eating popcorn, and watching Alabama football!