Jesus-Style Youth Ministry: Youth Ministry by the Num83r5
group magazine: November-December, 2005
by Steve Argue and Dave Livermore
Ministry isn’t about the numbers. Right. Nice “Christian” answer. Most of us know better than to come right out and ask, “So how big is your group?” Stealthily, we find creative ways to get at the information. We ask things such as, “So how many trips are you doing this year? How many schools are represented in your group?” As we hear the responses, we start to play the comparison game.
While “numbers don’t matter,” numbers impress board members and, if we’re honest, we have to admit that we feel successful when a big group shows up for the retreat. We also take it personally when no one shows up for small group.
Maybe it would be better to think of numbers like we think of temperatures in the daily weather forecast. They’re indicators describing aspects of the day, but they can’t convey whether the day is good or bad. Rather than getting rid of numbers altogether, the challenge is to avoid using them as the driving indicator of our success or failure.
It’s time to consider a different standard. Instead of measuring impersonal “ministry programs,” what if we start by measuring ourselves in the following areas:
Measuring Our Relational Vibe—Most youth leaders are “people” people. We love hanging with students and sometimes even their parents. But we all have a saturation point. Perhaps we need to evaluate our success with questions such as, “Am I lacking the energy to respond to the endless emails in my inbox? Am I hiding behind email so I don’t have to pick up the phone to talk with one more person? Do I cringe when the phone rings?” Sometimes these are indicators that we need time to stop and refuel.
Measuring Our Authenticity Vibe—Most of us have learned the art of feigning transparency without truly sharing what’s going on. Some of us need to work at dropping our guard and letting people in. We need to ask things such as, “Who knows the real me? With whom do I share my struggles? What areas of my life am I avoiding? Who am I trying to impress?” Burnout rarely comes by surprise. It’s usually the result of starved relationships over time.
Measuring Our Worship Vibe—Few things impress parents and the rest of the congregation like a full fall program for their kids. But it’s easy for a frenzied schedule to suck the life out of us. What if we measure the fall’s success with questions such as, “Am I living from event to event? Is my creativity waning? Am I more energized by the numbers of students that show up than by what occurs in the lives of a few?” Maybe it’s time to slow down the schedule and get re-centered. We’re entering the
Advent season. Why not use this time in the church calendar to guide us into true discipleship—for us and for our students?
These kinds of indicators are trickier to measure but may help us see and value what really matters. If you feel stuck as you read this, we have some other numbers that are important. Fill in the blanks below; then make these phone calls:
A friend with whom you can be honest
A mentor from whom to seek advice
A counselor you can trust
A travel agent to help plan the vacation you’ve been promising yourself or a loved one
For any youth leader, these can be the most important “numbers” for your ministry.
Steve Argue and Dave Livermore are co-founders of Intersect, an organization designed to connect and coach emerging leaders. They live in Michigan where they also serve in leadership roles at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. They’re also part of our Presenter Team for this fall’s Group Magazine Live one-day training event—go to www.groupmag.com/gml for more information.