My youth ministry isn’t growing. If someone would tell me that, my first response would be: How does that make you feel? Because I feel a world of emotions behind this simple search term.
Disappointment, because God isn’t blessing the youth ministry the way you had hoped.
Anger, because you’ve given it your all and it just isn’t enough.
Frustration, because you’re doing the best you can under almost impossible situations and nobody is helping you.
Self-doubt, because you’ve tried everything you can think of and nothing seems to work…so maybe it’s you.
Fear, because this lack of success might just cost you your job.
These emotions are all understandable and completely valid. Let’s face it: None of us go into youth ministry because we want things to stay the same. We want to change the world, make a difference and, above all, we want growth. It’s only natural and logical and spiritual for youth ministries to grow…right?
We all want our youth ministry to grow. But when growth doesn’t happen, it doesn’t mean we’re necessarily to blame…
Everything that’s planted is supposed to grow. So yeah, your youth ministry is supposed to grow. But that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily to blame if it doesn’t grow. Let’s look at a few questions you should ask yourself about why your youth ministry isn’t “growing”:
1. Is it growing in depth?Your youth ministry may not be growing in numbers, but if it’s still growing in depth that’s actually something to be very grateful for. Numbers don’t mean squat if you’re only making converts and not disciples. Focusing on depth is always the best choice because real discipleship can lead to genuine numerical growth.
2. Do you have a vision for growth?Your youth ministry is unlikely to grow spontaneously. You’ll need a vision and a plan to actually realize growth. Do you have one and is it God-inspired? I’m not talking about following all the latest trends—that’s not going to bring you anything of lasting value. I’m talking about a God-given, unique strategic plan that fits the circumstances of your youth ministry and speaks to the needs of young people in your community.
3. Is your plan still up to date?You may have had a vision and a plan once upon a time, but is it still effective and up to date? I left my last church just around the time I felt its youth ministry needed to update its vision and plan for growth. (That wasn’t why I left—we moved to Germany because my husband got a job there.) The youth ministry had a vision, but many things had happened that had changed our circumstances, and we needed a new plan to reflect these changes.
4. Is there a shared vision for growth?You cannot make a youth ministry grow all by your lonesome self. You need a team of dedicated leaders and volunteers who share your vision. If they don’t, that’s a good place to start to make some improvements.
5. Is the church leadership supportive?It’s one thing to lay down certain expectations of growth, but if the leadership of your church doesn’t support you in any way, growth is not going to happen. They need to not just ask it from you, they need to actively support it, facilitate it and share your vision for how to get there. If they don’t, invest a lot of time in building relationships here and getting your vision across.
6. Are there circumstances that prohibit growth?There may be circumstances outside your influence that still negatively affect your opportunity for growth. In my last church, for instance, there was conflict between the pastors that affected the church and the youth ministry. We lost a lot of young people because of that conflict and there was not much I could do to help mediate that conflict. If you find yourself in a similar position, keep praying for God to solve the issues and trust Him to care for all those involved and affected.
7. Is there prayer support?I should have put this question in the number one slot because it is by far the most important aspect of a growing youth ministry. You cannot do anything without dedicated prayer support behind you and your ministry. You need people who pray for you daily, with passion and with the conviction that God is going to answer. If you don’t have prayer warriors like these, go find them first.
When all is said and done, remember that God is still the sovereign God. He will give His blessing according to His will. He may choose to make your youth ministry go through some rough waters, but do not give up. God is faithful and He will keep His promises.
As Keith Green said so beautifully: Keep doing your best, pray that it’s blessed, and He’ll take care of the rest.
Have you had periods where your youth ministry didn’t grow? How did this make you feel? Were you able to find a reason for this?This article originally appeared here.