My Thoughts on Youth Ministry (Part 2.1) – What is Success?

12Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.                                                                                         I Tim. 4:12

What is Success in Youth Ministry?

Over the past several years I’ve been to several conferences on youth ministry and met a lot of youth pastors. I often laugh because I hear the same things over and over and over again – “If only we had a bigger budget” “If we had your youth center we could do something big” “If, when, if, when, but . . . etc.” I like what John Maxwell says, “If ifs and buts were candies and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.” 


Personally, I think all of that stuff has VERY LITTLE to do with having a successful youth ministry. You may say, “Yea, Bubba, but you have a nice youth budget, a big staff, and your own youth center… it’s easy for you to say.” But I can tell you that just because we have that stuff does not mean we’re successful… it depends on how you measure success.

If you were to ask me what I think makes a successful youth ministry after 6 years of serving in a sweet one, I’d tell you this:

A Leader with a Vision – The youth pastor MUST believe in the youth ministry. He/She must believe in it where it is and must believe in what it could become. Proverbs 29:18 says, “Without a vision, people perish – it’s no different in youth ministry.

A Leader that Walks with God – Where your students are at spiritually will be a direct result of where your relationship is with God (I recognize it’s not the only factor, but it’s a huge one). Disappointed with your students spirituality? Look in the mirror…

Measuring Spirituality over Numbers: Numbers are VERY important, But Can’t be the Only Measuring Stick. Anyone can get a room filled with hundred of students if they really wanted to…. but are they giving their lives to God? Are they walking with Him? Growing spiritually? If not, I don’t care how many students fill your room, you’re missing it.

A Culture where Students can Encounter God – Buildings, Budgets, etc. are Nice, but mean very little when it comes to success – while these things might bring students in the door, it certainly won’t keep them there. What will? An experience with God, and they can do that without a youth center, a big budget, etc.. You must create an environment where students can encounter God.

Authentic Relationships – Show me a successful youth ministry and I’ll show you one where students and leaders all around have great relationships. Brad Cooper once told me that, “As we get bigger, we must become smaller.” As your youth group grows – you must find more and more ways (small groups work great) for students to find and build authentic relationships.

This is getting a little long… Tomorrow I’ll go over some more things that make up a successful youth ministry…

What do you think contributes to a successful ministry?


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