People all the time ask me "how do you define success?" or "how do I know I am being successful?" It fills blogs, books, and staff meetings. It is the make or break for many in youth ministry, and often is the difference between keeping or losing a job.
It is tricky question with a sometimes an even more tricky set of answers, especially when the answers are more crockpot than microwave.
The answers comes after having been in youth ministry for over 20 years and they are not "silver bullets". These are some of my own reflections.
Here is How You May Be Able to Define Success in Youth Ministry….
5 to 10 years from now
Year #1 is getting to know the ministry, church, area, people and the history. Year #2 is forming and shaping what your ministry needs to look like, whom it is going to target, and what your vision for your ministry approach is going to be. Year #3 is when you actually start running your own youth ministry. SO...minimum you cannot start defining "success" until at least year #5 at a place, probably longer!!
Success can be defined by LONGEVITY!
When they choice to serve
While we like to fill our lessons with information and a couple Greek words, success in ministry cannot be seen through how much knowledge and facts we have imparted. Often in youth ministry we spend much of our time studying and then delivering lengthy amounts of information, but our students in actuality really do not retain much of it. There is no quiz or test at the end of our ministry to assess how much our students learned or the amount of facts they remembered, so that we can know whether or not we "passed" or "failed".
What we can observe is life, actions and service. Are the students we have served turning around and applying what they have heard in serving others? This is not the obligatory annual missions trip and holiday service project, this is something that lives beyond our efforts.
Success can be seen when students make their own PERSONAL DECISIONS TO SERVE!
When faith and story is shared
For many in youth ministry and often in the church the definition of success is found in numbers. Numbers in the seat...Numbers of salvations...Numbers of rededications... Number of baptisms. These are all easy ones and "warm fuzzy" way to reassure ourselves we are not failing. All of those things are wonderful and I do not want to belittle those things, but those numbers are often "false positives" of success in ministry.
Consider some different numbers:
- The number of students and young adults that honestly, confidently and regularly share their faith in a personal relational way
- The number of students that can tell you the entire story of the Bible and its connections to the Gospel, throughout.
- The number of people coming to Christ, not through an event, a forced encounter, but because someone was willing to share their own faith story with them in an authentic way.
Success can be defined by AUTHENTIC FAITH STORIES ARE BEING SHARED
In the Family.
Youth ministry is about us ministering to young people. We dedicate hours to loving, leading, and learning. We sacrifice so much in the hope that young people will want to follow Christ with their lives. We take our youth groups away to camps, retreats, and trips. We put on concerts, events and overnights.
We pack our schedules and work extra hours. We work so hard for the mission and the calling. We look back after years of serving a group, a church or a place. We remember the names and faces of so many students that we have poured into. We may however have missed the most important young people that we are called to and in end have failed after all because...
Success in Youth Ministry can be defined when MY OWN PERSONAL CHILDREN CHOOSE TO FOLLOW CHRIST!!