Photography by Matt Wyatt

The Separation of You and Youth Ministry

Last night’s youth group gathering was a first for me. Essentially, there was no youth group gathering as many of our students and parents were out sick. Only two students came which consisted of an odd juxtaposition of the oldest high school guy and the youngest junior high girl. My game which required at least four students to show up was no longer plausible and without an adult female leader there, small groups were not an option.

In the end, I decided that the older high school senior could accompany myself and the other male volunteer who came, to men’s group while the junior high girl could help out in the children’s ministry.

A simple solution. But I wasn’t happy about it. My head hung low as I walked into the already in progress men’s group and sorrowfully announced our low numbers that evening.

If there is one thing we have placed an emphasis on over the years, rightly or wrongly, it’s numbers. For the first few minutes, I sat and pondered all the ways the numbers were a reflection of my inability or lack of organization, or enthusiasm, or determination. My mind continued to fill in the gaps for me; my games just aren’t fun enough and the lessons must not be relevant.

To my surprise, the men’s group started to examine questions and feelings of doubt as part of their study. It challenged me to ask where to these questions came from. It quickly became obvious to me that these weren’t questions I was wrestling with, they were lies.

My immediate surface level concern was numbers when in that moment it should have been that I had several students and families not feeling well and they needed prayers and text message check-ups. My immediate deeper concern was that there must have been something wrong with me (how easy our minds go to the worst possible outcome!) when it should have been “I wonder what God is up to?”

If you find yourself in a different environment interacting with a group of people you don’t usually see a lot of than that should always be a red flag to ask this question.
As servants of God we must always remember that working in the background, foreground and all around the ministry He has entrusted us with, is the will of the Father. To think that every time our students don’t show up because they’re sick must really be a subliminal message is not only conceited, it is blindness to the bigger picture of God.

I’ve been reading this book titled Ministry in the Image of God. It is a book that reflects on the relationship of the trinity and how it is a model for pastoral ministry. The author writes:

“In the daily grind of ministry it’s easy to forget whose ministry it is. Although we desire to serve Christ and often ask him for help, we assume that it’s our ministry and we are principal actors. This common understanding is partially true, but the profounder truth is that the ministry we have entered is, first and foremost, the ministry of Jesus Christ It’s His ministry more than ours.”

You see, often times as pastors, we too closely associate our efforts with our ministry when in fact it is the will of the Father we have been asked to carry out and God’s provision that allows us to make any effort in it at all.

In the end, Jesus asks us to feed His sheep. We must always remember they are HIS sheep. He asks us to feed them, but He dictates how, when and where they are fed. I don’t know which sheep I fed that evening, but that’s ok, it may have even been my turn to be fed.



3 replies to “The Separation of You and Youth Ministry

  1. Numbers are defiantly something we can get tripped up with.

    I just finished a trip to Jumpology (a wharehouse full of trampolines) and only had two students show up.

    A little backstory.

    It was a very low key that I hardly announced, didn’t give the details too until the day before, and was designed to be small so I could hang out with a few kids.

    I got exactly what I intended . I had two guys, one I got to really go into details about dating/marriage during lunch, and the other made a comment that made me realize a huge need whithen our ministry and inspired me to start a new series.

    Yet, even though I accomplished What I set out to accomplish, I still felt like the low numbers somehow where a reflection on me as a leader.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jared. I watched your video and you make some great points. Unfortunately, I think all of us YP’s from time to time fall into the trap of evaluating by numbers instead depth of relationship. It’s interesting because by focusing on the numbers we actually sabotage ourselves.It’s great relationships that inspire teen to invite their friends and subsequently make the numbers go up.

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