If you’re just starting out in youth ministry, I pray these tips will be a help to you as you jump into working with students. The way a ministry starts will determine a lot of where that ministry will go. Take it from me: Leading a ministry from the ego hurts everyone involved in it, including yourself. The goal is to get away from the ego-driven ministry in order that Jesus’ work truly happens. Here are the first five of my top 10.

1. Be more in love with Jesus than with his work.

Some look at this and think, “Duh. Of course.” But it’s not as open-and-shut as so many believe it to be. In fact, in Revelation 2, Jesus had to warn the church at Ephesus to remember their first love because they’d gone off and played church without him. His warning was so strong that he told them that if they didn’t repent, he’d come and remove their church. And you know what? He did. Besides, how can we teach students to have a life-changing love affair with Christ when we ourselves aren’t experiencing that very thing?

2. Run away from the numbers game.

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Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with taking attendance or with using numbers to track growth (to some degree). However, I’ve also been around long enough to show up at youth ministry conferences and hear us ask each other, “So how many you runnin’?” Remember this: More people involved in a ministry does not automatically mean a healthy ministry. But fewer people involved in a ministry doesn’t automatically mean healthier either. Numbers will change. Your ministry to the ones who show up, whether five or 105, should be done with your all anyway. Try not counting attendance for one month and see if you experience freedom from the monster that can be found in the numbers.

3. People before programs.

Try to think of the most influential messages that you’ve ever heard. Hard to do, huh? Now think of the most influential people that you’ve ever met. Programs are helpful in doing ministry, but people are the reason that we do programs. Creating and providing healthy Christ-centered relationships is key to a ministry. It’s the kind of thing that causes Jesus to cry out, “Great job, good and faithful servant.”

4. Learn balance.

I love my job. I love my calling. I have to make myself not work. That’s how nuts it is. But youth pastors need to make sure that we’re living balanced lives. Understand this: You will never be done. There will always be one more thing to do. Because of this, learn when to turn the computer and cell phone off so you can do something that you like, just because. What a concept! Take up a hobby. Hang with friends and family. Whatever you like doing. Just make sure that you do it. It’s not a healthy thing for a youth pastor’s best friends to be the students that he/she is supposed to be ministering to in the youth ministry.

5. Keep your priorities.

Running a healthy ministry, while at the same time running your marriage into the ground, isn’t something that’s pleasing to Christ. Doing ministry while losing your love for Jesus is unacceptable. Remember this: You’re not that important (there, don’t you feel better?). You’re not. I’m not. We’re not vital to the plan of God (remember Balaam’s donkey—if God can use a donkey to accomplish his will, he can use anyone). God is going to accomplish everything that he wants to accomplish. I’m not called to bear the load of ministry upon myself. Rather, I’m to place the load of ministry on Christ. I get to be involved in this call with God, not show him how it’s done. There seem to be too many “martyrs” out there who have sacrificed something/someone in the name of Jesus that Jesus never wished for them to sacrifice.


Brian Holland is a youth pastor in Pomona, California.

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