Like it or not, youth workers live in a culture where numbers apparently matter. This is horrible. When i read curriculum, everything is geared towards a group of 20+ attenders. Games. Events. Everything you read (almost) in youth ministry is geared towards large youth groups. It’s almost as if people have forgotten that the average church in America is under 100 in attendance for the whole church!
Every time I go to a large youth event, they bring in “big speakers” who are heralded as professional youth workers because they are on staff at churches of 10,000+ or have youth groups that are hundreds of students. What about Bill down the road who has been doing youth ministry for 20 years for little or no pay at all and has a youth group of 8 high school students. Or Lindsay in the next town over who has been at the same church for 5 years and ministers to a group of 3 middle school girls.
Big numbers equal big success…or so we’re told. I was asked several times last week how many are we taking to our CIY Believe conference. My answer was 5. But what I was really excited about was that we had 2 of them going for the very first time, which to me is a big deal.
Numbers don’t equal success. In fact, there is no way possible that we can ever measure the success of a youth ministry. Not till we get to heaven. It’s not the work of a single youth pastor. It’s not the work of a vision statement or even a hospitality ministry.
So the next time you’re tempted to ask someone the size of their youth group, ask yourself why you want to know. Why does it matter? Are you trying to measure up to them? Are you trying to measure their success? Think about it.
Maybe you’re someone who plans a large gathering for students. Instead of asking Doug Fields to come and speak at your event, think about Bill down the street. Consider the youth workers who don’t have a line of books or merchandise.
Father forgive us for turning youth ministry into a competition and popularity contest.
My name is Dj and we have a small youth group, and I enjoy each and every moment I have with them.