We live in a world where the slogan, “Bigger is better,” is often true. Companies often do better when they increase in size (some prime examples are Amazon and CVS). Bodybuilders would argue this point, too, and they would crush you if you disagreed. Bigger mountains usually give better views when you reach the top. People often want bigger beds to sleep better. Often, this mentality is carried into the church setting.
While it is great to get more people in church, where they can learn about God’s love and the hope of salvation, I also hear people complain about churches that get too big. One of the reasons people do not like larger churches is that they cannot know everyone in the same way they know people in a small church. The same goes for student ministries.
Over the past (almost) eight years, I have seen God grow this student ministry in both depth and numbers. It is weird for me to think back and realize that just a few years ago, we were barely getting any high school students to attend our group. In fact, a couple years ago, we were ecstatic when we had 15 students. Now, we are upset when we only have 15-20 students, and we sit around wondering, “Where is everyone?”
This summer has been a time of experimentation for our student ministry. Over the past several summers, we did the same thing, but I felt it was time to try something new. So, we did. Instead of meeting on a regular basis with our high schoolers, we encouraged their small groups to continue throughout the summer on their own. On top of their weekly or every-other-week gatherings, I scheduled several high school events and trips ranging from game nights to white water rafting.
Instead of having a ton of students show up each time, though, we had just a handful most occasions. While many student ministers would be upset, I chose to look at the bright side. Over the years, I haven’t been able to get to know our students as well. It’s the natural thing that happens when you grow in numbers. This summer, though, I have been able to really pour into the small amount of students that attend each event. Something else that has been helpful is that it’s not always the same students at each event, so I have been able to really get to know about half of our group over the period of a couple months. I may have never had that chance if we were bringing in 40-50 students each time.
I don’t think I will stick with this same style of ministry next summer, as I did find myself overbooked (maybe I’ll share more on this in a future blog), but I will treasure the times that I had this summer with the few that showed up to each event. I pray that God will continue to bless those students and my relationship with them in the coming years.
So, is bigger always better? No, I don’t think it is. People often downsize their homes to be more comfortable. There is a growing population moving to the suburbs and rural towns instead of the big cities. I’ve driven large cars that are much more awkward than my smaller sports car. And smaller groups of teenagers are much easier to connect with in a student ministry.
What are some of the areas of your ministry where you have struggled with small vs. large? What has God taught you through it? Please share in the comments!