Do you, as a youth minister, desire to have influence among the young people in your church and community? If you’re like me, being able to influence students with the life-changing message of the Gospel is the goal you’re aiming for, but it is also one that can often seem difficult if not impossible to reach.
The problem that many youth ministers/ministries face when trying to gain influence among the young people of their churches and communities is that they try to gain that influence based solely on a strong desire or assumed “right” to speak in to students’ lives. Without laying down some essential “stepping stones”, you will never be able to have the impact you hope to have on teenagers and their families. However, if you build a path toward influence by focusing on a few basic steps, you will see your influence increase and God begin to change lives and do something great in and through your ministry.
Instead of focusing on the end-goal, focus on each of these in progression to build the path to influence:
Intimacy – Before you are able to influence anyone, you need to be influenced by your Heavenly Father. Spending consistent time with God in prayer and devotion is the well-spring from which all of the following steps toward influence flow. Without being plugged in to the Source of the life-change you desire to see, how are you ever going to see your ministry become a catalyst for that life-change?
Inspiration – Spending time with God in worship, prayer, etc. will ultimately lead to inspiration. If you are consistently and earnestly praying for God to move amongst the young people of your church and community, He will eventually answer that prayer by inspiring you to some sort of action or next step to take toward that goal. He may speak to your creativity, your leadership, your passion, or your pastoral heart; and when He does, you will know!
Implementation – It’s important then to act on the inspiration that God has given you by implementing whatever changes, new strategies, creative programming, individual or group mentoring, leadership development, etc. you’ve been inspired to do. So often we feel led in a fresh direction, get inspired to do something, and then fail on the follow-through. This may be the hardest step on the path to influence because it often requires the most work or encounters the most resistance from our critics. But remember to be faithful not just to your inspiration but to the One who inspired you in the first place!
Interest – If you’re lucky, whatever changes or new directions you’ve implemented in your ministry will begin to generate interest among the youth of your church or community. It’s important that you construct your ministry so that what you’re doing captures the attention of students. Lack of interest or boredom among the young people you engage can not only kill momentum in your ministry but can kill your passion as well. Remember that patience is key – it may take months or even years to see the fruits of what God is doing, but staying true to what God has inspired you to do and working hard to implement that is one sure way to make sure that interest is generated and that those fires stay hot!
Involvement – Once students begin to take interest in what your ministry is all about, it’s time to get them involved. Make sure you have a process in place that moves youth along the most basic path of involvement: fringes -> committed -> core. You should be taking those students that are interested in the message of your ministry, helping them to own it for themselves, and then equipping them to be leaders.
Influence – Once you have generated enough interest, and students begin to become involved in owning their own faith and growing in to leaders, congratulations – you’ve gained influence! You will be amazed at how deeply you’ll be able to impact the lives of those young people God in His grace has seen fit to send to you. And remember – it all started because you relied on God and your relationship with Him to be the source of this influence, so remember to give credit where credit is due.
This may not be a sure-fire way to grow a giant-sized youth ministry, but it is a practical approach to gaining the ability to make a difference in the next generation of students for God’s Kingdom. Good luck in your adventures in YM!