A few years ago, I was in a meeting with my pastor to discuss youth ministry. He was very happy with the direction we were headed and all we had accomplished, but he could sense some frustration in my voice and body language:
“Eric, I sense some frustration coming from you? What’s the matter?” he asked me.
“Well, I mean . . . things are going great. There’s no doubt about that, and I know we’ve improved a lot over the years, but I just don’t get why we don’t have more teens coming,” I responded.
Then he paused, looked at me and said something I’ll never forget:
“Eric, Jesus walked the Earth and only 33% of the world is Christian. How can you expect to do any better? God isn’t calling you to be successful. He’s calling you to be faithful.”
Boom. That was it. My pastor had just given me a spiritual roundhouse kick to my face, and it was the wake up call I needed.
For a long time I had focused so much on the numbers and all the things I was doing in ministry that I neglected to see all the ways God had been moving. To be honest, I had gained a Savior Complex.
I thought that I was the only hope for the teens that came in my door.
I thought that if the teens did not come to my Life Nights on a regular basis then their soul would be in jeopardy.
I thought that I had to say “yes” to everything and keep adding more and more events to reach as many teenagers as possible.
My ministry had become about me, and while my motivation may have been pure, there was one BIG problem: I’m not the Savior.
Now that may not come as a shock to all of you, but I think it’s something many us in youth ministry struggle with. We put the weight of the teens’ salvation on our shoulders, when clearly we were not designed to hold that weight. Salvation comes from Jesus Christ, and maybe we just need to remind ourselves of that when it comes to ministry.
You know why?
You know those teens that come in your door? They can find Jesus in other places too.
You know those teens that refuse to come to your Life Night or Edge Night? Their souls can still be saved.
You know what happens if you say “no” to adding one more event on your schedule? Teens can still get to heaven.
Because Jesus is the Savior, and “…for God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
As Youth Ministers we have a vital role to play, and God has called us all to this ministry for very specific reasons. This great responsibility requires that we work as hard as possible, but we need to change the way we look at success. Success is not about the number of teens that come, the number of events that we do, or the number of hours we spend in our office. In ministry being successful, is about being faithful.
Question: How do you define success in youth ministry? (Share below).