Have you ever found a bump on your leg and wondered where it came from? Just kidding… I’m not going to talk about that kind of growth. Instead, I wanted to share some things I’ve been seeing lately in my ministry experience in the areas of spiritual and numerical growth.
Recently, we made the decision to split up our middle school and high school youth group programs. This is a big change, for many reasons. It is our first attempt at a mid-week program. It is our first large-scale effort to split the two programs. And it is creating more space for numerical growth, which is something we have been lacking in recent years.
One of the things I am most excited about is getting to teach students more on their own level, instead of trying to reach a range of 7-8 years at the same time. We will also generate more opportunities for older students to serve younger ones. However, the thing that initially drove the decision was not either of those things. Instead, it was the opportunity to grow in numbers.
Do you ever get an idea in your head and get stuck on it, only to realize it is not what God wants stuck in your head? Yeah, that happens with me all the time, including this instance. I have realized this summer that God wants me to stop focusing on growing a large group, but instead, to help the students He has given us grow deeper in their relationship with God. And then, He will take care of the growth by utilizing these disciples to do the work of the church. What a concept!
So often in student ministry, I think we get focused on large numbers. And big groups are not a problem, but when we are only tuned into getting more people there, we often overlook that many students are just that — there. They are often lacking a deep relationship with God. They don’t know what it looks like to walk daily with Him. They are making choices that are jeopardizing their witness to others. They are living a life that does not honor God all the time. And they are not fully experiencing the amazing life God has planned for them.
Don’t get me wrong, though. There are a ton of people that need to hear God’s message. However, I don’t know if that is the youth pastor’s job to reach them. Perhaps God is calling the youth pastor and other leaders to invest in students and their families, discipling them, and then send them out to do the evangelizing. After all, they are a lot closer to their peers than we will ever be.
How do I plan to put this into practice? As of now, I don’t plan on using any state-of-the-art curriculum or brand new book from a best-selling author. Instead, I plan on following Jesus’ example to the best of my abilities. I am going to walk through life with teens. I am going to discuss real life issues with them, and we will figure it out together. I will teach when necessary, but other times, I will ask questions that prompt them to think. I will not answer every one of their questions, but I will often ask another question in response. We will have fun together, and we will experience all that God has planned for us on this earth.
That’s my plan. What’s yours?