We were sitting in Starbucks with a former student in our old church youth group talking about the latest news in his life and how he has recently turned back to God after some time away.

I had a great time with him, and my thoughts inevitably turned to success in youth ministry.

There is no simple formula for success in ministry. It’s hard to put a definition on success in ministry because it’s something that happens over the course of a lifetime. Human nature and spirituality are complicated things, and spiritual growth is a very complicated process. When we throw in adolescence, things get even more difficult.

There are many of my former students who I pray will return to God. These kids grew up with Christian parents and attended church all the time. They were “good kids.” They went on mission trips, had all the right answers, never caused trouble, etc. But where are they now? Many aren’t attending church or aren’t living the way they ought to live. What could I have done differently? I have no idea.

I can only hold on to Philippians 1:6 and trust that God will continue working in their lives as they mature and experience life. I’ll keep plugging away, helping those who turn to me for help and praying for those who are struggling.

As I was pondering this question of success in youth ministry, I asked some of my online friends to write their thoughts about it here. Over the next few days, I’ll be posting a series of guest posts about the topic.