It was a difficult time. A year had gone by and the same six teens from the student band were the only ones coming every week to our student program. I felt like a failure. I remember sitting down with my pastor, waiting for him to say, “You’re done.” Instead, he told me the biggest secret to growing a ministry:
IT TAKES TIME.
I had only been in youth ministry for a little over a year, but it felt like forever. The problem is that I expected instant results. I was frustrated trying to unlock the secret to growing a ministry. But, all I needed was time and:
If you are just showing up each week expecting teenagers to come, you’ll be disappointed. Your ministry needs a strategy, which comes from a solid vision and mission. You need to know:
Who You Are Trying to Reach?
What’s Competing in the Community?
What Is the Biggest Opportunity for Growth?
Answer those questions to unlock the secret of how you are going to reach the next generation. Your plan will have flaws because people and circumstances change. Tweak it and adjust it, but keep with it.
You need to trust the people around you. Build trust in your pastor, your coworkers and your volunteers. If you cannot build trust, you will not be able to expand your capacity as a leader. Trusting means delegation and allowing others to give you insight.
In addition, you need to trust God. That means embracing desert periods where nothing seems to go right. Take those times to lean into Him. The more you trust God in your ministry, the more willing you will be to take risks.
Again, growing your ministry takes time. But you also need patience for volunteers to step up. You need patience for the word to get out. You need patience to see the foundation of your ministry grow. To build your patience, make sure you are pacing yourself. Set goals and take time to rest.
Youth ministry is not meant to be done alone. On top of building a solid volunteer core, you need to surround yourself with accountability. Find men and or women you can go to when you:
Have a Problem You Cannot Solve
Have to Make a Big Decision
Need Honest Feedback
Leadership can feel lonely. Find people to walk alongside of you to cheer you on.
To make the plan work, you need to go at it consistently. That means getting back up after you fail. It means trying something more than twice. If you only try a program one or two times, you are only seeing a few of the problems. Sometimes you need to knock off the rust and get through the newness before you make any significant changes.
There is no secret to growing your ministry. The numbers will come once you put the system in place and start turning the wheel. Just give it time. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who has been doing youth ministry for a while.