“He Must Increase, But I Must Decrease” – John 3:30
My favourite worship leader is Matt Maher. Among the many reasons why (in no particular order): He’s a brilliant musician, he’s an intelligent writer and storyteller, he has a profound understanding of church, he’s a lot of fun to be around, he’s Catholic, he’s Canadian, he’s been a long-time friend to both the Archdiocese of Vancouver and to me, and we’re the same age.
Among his many endearing and inspiring qualities is his humility. He always ensures that the worship is about Him and not him. I’ve seen him leading 18,000 youth in spirited praise only to quietly walk off the stage without fanfare so as to not interrupt the worship. Matt doesn’t need the adulation…and when he does receive it he’s quick to direct it all to God.
Matt literally and figuratively becomes invisible when he leads worship. And it’s a beautiful thing.
It reminds me of John the Baptist. John was to prepare the way for Jesus knowing that he in essence was destined to play “second-fiddle.” He was obviously fine with it, as he proclaimed with great humility: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Here are 3 ways that we can apply a humble attitude in our youth ministry:
1. It’s about God and not about us. I’ve heard many youth ministry mandates and mission statements to the effect of “leading young people closer to God” but I never heard one that says “leading young people closer to the youth minister.” Yet many times we forget that it’s not about us. I’ve written before about my early youth ministry career. In my efforts to become a popular, yet competent, leader, I volunteered to give every talk, be in every skit, and lead every group discussion. While it made me feel good, it took me a while to discover that I was holding other people down—people who were just as popular and much more competent. Thankfully, this phase only lasted a short while. At least I hope it did.
2. Ask for help. Even Jesus needed a dozen apostles to help him carry out his ministry. So what makes you think you can do things on your own? The “Lone Ranger” mentality almost never succeeds, rather it can lead to burnout, depression, and a plethora of unfulfilled promises and unclear expectations. You can decrease by recruiting leaders to help you, asking parents to take some ownership in the ministry, and delegating and trusting tasks (large and small) to others. It will prolong your youth ministry career and make the ministry much stronger overall.
3. Realize when it’s time to move on. As good as you may be (or think you are), you are not irreplaceable. The strongest youth ministries are those that have ongoing leadership training and even a succession plan. I think of athletes like Brett Favre and Michael Jordan who had difficulty walking away from the sports that made them so renowned. If you’re getting complacent or if the ministry is not growing, then it may be time to take a hard look at how effective you actually are.
As you examine your effectiveness in youth ministry, ask yourself: “In what ways must I decrease so that He may increase?”