When I first started in youth ministry, I was ready to take on the world. I was fresh out seminary, newly married (am still), and felt like I could do great works. The youth group that I started in with was a jr. high ministry that had exactly 2 students (one boy and one girl). I was (am still) working at my dad’s church so I knew I would have a little leeway in growing the group, but was surprised by how fast the group grew.
We had a huge spurt from people finding out we had a Jr. High specific ministry, and that was awesome. We grew from two to almost twelve in just a few weeks. However, tragedy seemed to strike. At the peak, it had come crashing down when we dropped to around four students. I was deeply hurt by this and did not know what to do.
The night we reverted back to two, I almost panicked. I sat in the jr. high room and wondered what I could do next. During those weeks, I tried events, invites, and all sorts of gimmicks to get students to come back. I looked around at other churches in our very small part of Texas and wondered how their youth groups were growing, but not mine. I finally decided to seek some wisdom. I emailed a youth pastor I had worked with while at seminary. He had been a youth pastor in Utah, and even with the state’s strong affiliation with a certain religion, he had the largest youth group in the state. While he did not know me well, I figured I could just use his wisdom.
He told me exactly two things:
1. Don’t compare yourself to others.
2. Love those kids.
He explained how comparison is not from God and we should focus on Jesus and only Jesus’ purpose for our lives. With that, he told me to love those last few kids with all the passion I had.
I checked my heart and realized that is exactly what I needed to do. I prayed and asked God to forgive and to give me wisdom. I started loving those kids like never before and soon, our little jr. high ministry had grown back to more than it was before. Not as quickly as I would have liked, but God had a plan. Soon after, I was made youth pastor of our whole youth group and we continue to grow.
I wrote this article because I know how hard it is when you see others around you growing and you seem to be shrinking. It is painful, but do not go by man’s comparison, just turn your eyes to Jesus and love your kids whether you have four or 40. Those students need someone to model the love Jesus has for them. Be that person.
Philippians 2:3-4- (ESV) - “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”