After thinking about what I wrote in part one of this series, I asked Sara Eden to give us her thoughts about Success in youth ministry. If you’d like to contribute, please feel free to contact me.

Dennis asked me to write a post on how I would identify a successful youth ministry. What success in youth ministry looks like and how it can be defined. I was psyched about the project… until I sat down and started working on it. It quickly became clear to me that I have no idea how to measure success in what I do. No wonder I am so easily discouraged!!

After struggling with where to begin I ended up where I should have started in the first place… prayer. With the Lord’s help, I’ve come to this discovery (a brand new one for me): In my mind, success is about accomplishing a task, achieving a goal, being victorious. The problem is that youth ministry is an on-going process where the goals and tasks are constantly changing and there isn’t a finish line this side of heaven.

There’s always another fire to put out, another parent to reassure, another student to reach or redirect (or the same student needing to be redirected for the millionth time) … I don’t feel like I’ve achieved success because there’s always so much more work to be done!

So instead of a list of things that would make our ministry successful, I ended up with a list of things I want to be constantly striving for…

  • I want to be a part of students’ lives.
  • I want to speak the truth.
  • I want to provide a place for healthy community.
  • I want to encourage students to ask the tough questions.
  • I want to see students meet Christ for the first time.
  • I want Christian students to be reintroduced to Christ in a new and very real way.
  • I want students to pray.
  • I want to see a passion for social justice and a desire to right the wrongs in the world.
  • I want to see students bringing friends to church.
  • I want the spiritual journey to be exciting.
  • I want to help students choose the narrow path.
  • I want to show love and teach love.
  • I want to nurture lifelong faith that can weather the storm.
  • I want our youth leaders to know that they are an important, irreplaceable part of a team…
  • …that their opinions are respected and their dedication is appreciated.
  • I want parents to feel that we are walking alongside them on the difficult road of raising teenagers.
  • I want our church to encourage students to rise up as leaders and pioneers in our midst.
  • I want our community to be a better place because of the work the Lord does through us here.

With God’s grace, if I constantly strive for these things, when I do reach the finish line, I will have succeeded.

Sara Eden Williams is the Director of Children and Youth Ministries at First United Methodist Church of Williamson in upstate New York.

She blogs at and can be found on twitter @saraden.