Success in youth ministry is different from success in the business world. Since a youth minister’s goal is not simply temporal, but rather eternal, our focus is different.
In all other realms of business success can be measured in tangible ways. You can look at the pie charts and graphs. You can see the income vs. expenses. You know if more people are using your product or service. These are the end results.
But in youth ministry, success is not measured in numbers alone. Sure, numbers can help you gauge your outreach or influence in the community, yet I do not think numbers always equal success. There has to be more to a youth ministry’s success than the number of students who show up.
In youth ministry, success is equal to life change. Life change for the students and their families. Life change that leads toward becoming more like Christ. When you think about success in terms of life change it becomes that much more difficult to qualify. You cannot qualify life change in terms of attendance, verses memorized, or even knowledge of doctrine.
You cannot base the success of a youth ministry on numbers alone. There will be students who do not seem to be affected in any positive way while they are involved in the ministry. Does that mean the ministry is being unsuccessful?
If youth ministry success is measured in life change then I think each student will have different variations of success during the years they spend in youth ministry. For one student it might be a success to get them to come to a Bible Study. This step might be the beginning of life change. For another student, their next step toward being like Christ might be to go on a missions trip. Is it unsuccessful youth ministry if only 10% of your students go on a missions trip?
Successful youth ministries do not focus on overall numbers and statistics. They focus on individual students’ growth. Unfortunately, there are other people who may try to change that focus. There will be caring adults who want you to adjust your focus away from spiritual growth and onto numerical growth. These people will work to change your mindset. They want you to see students as numbers more than individuals. Do not allow these people to deter you from focusing on the individual life change of each student.
Defining successful youth ministry as life change means that I go about my job focused on that end goal. As a youth minister, my role is not to bring in big numbers, it is to make disciples. Numbers might come, but they do not mean I am being successful. If the students are becoming more like Christ, then there is a successful youth ministry!
Mike describes himself as I am a child of God, husband of Amy, father of Nathan, Wes, & Moriah, friend of some, worker of youth and reader of books. He blogs at reflectionministry.blogspot.com and can be found on twitter @lilkup.