Have you ever heard the old saying “All good things come to those that wait?” I know I have. As a matter of fact, I heard it over and over and over again as a child. It was normally when I was eagerly anticipating (read; wearing my mother out) about something that was still a long way off. You know what I’m talking about. Christmas is still 5 months away, but that new Toys-R-Us catalog comes in, so you mark all the pages and circle your favorite toys, and then speak endlessly for the next two week of all the things you hope to get. And yet, it’s a fruitless exercise, because no matter how much you wish it to be so, you can’t make 5 months go by any faster. At the end of the day, 5 months is 5 months.
However, there are some things you can definitely control. Some progress exists because you made it happen. You didn’t graduate from high school because you sat in the classroom and absorbed the knowledge being handed down by osmosis. No, you made it happen. You didn’t obtain your current job by sitting on the sideline hoping someone would call you. You made it happen. If you’re married, you didn’t go to bed single one day and the next day just happen to wake up married. You made it happen.
Well, Student Ministry isn’t a spectator sport either. The kids in your youth group, if they’re anything like the kids in mine, come from a myriad of backgrounds. Some come from well-established, stable, godly homes, where Mom and Dad are still married, scriptures are regularly quoted, and prayer is a nightly routine. Some come from broken homes. Some come from drug-addicted homes. Some come from home lives so terrible it wouldn’t be entirely appropriate to even discuss it. All of that, and we haven’t even began to discuss cultural differences or varying worldviews.
With all of this diversity in our youth groups, how do we have a successful, growing, vibrant Student Ministry? Well, I’ll tell you how NOT to have one; wait for it to happen. Wait for the “difficult, indifferent” group you have now to give way to the “on fire” group that your sure is coming. If you are lucky enough to have some younger ones come up that are on fire for God, they won’t be long once you get ahold of them; not with that attitude. How about this: wait for a better curriculum to come along. “This curriculum just doesn’t work for my group; maybe the next one will be better.” Wait for someone to come along and help you with the “day-to-day” stuff in your youth group so you can “focus on building a better program.” Whatever the case may be, the perfect way to have an ineffective student ministry is to wait for it to happen.
The truth is, we don’t “accidentally” change our world. We don’t “accidentally” inspire our students to be greater than what they are. We don’t “accidentally” mentor young people into the future leaders of the church. We don’t “accidentally” connect our youth to an experience with God that alters their entire destiny. No…the truth is, we have to be intentional.
So what kind of youth group are you intending to build? How do you measure success in your youth group? I found, about a year or so ago, that I was running a rudderless ship. I knew I wanted my youth group to grow, but I wasn’t giving them direction. I had the privilege, around that time, to hear David McGovern speak. He mentioned this concept of being intentional in your youth ministry, and he asked us a simple question: Where is your end zone? A football team knows they’ve been successful when they reach the end zone. What’s the end zone for your youth ministry?
I spend some time in prayer, and then I sat down with our youth team, and we wrote our Mission and Vision statements. Here they are:
Mission: To connect young people to God, to connect them to each other, and engage them in ministry NOW (yes, NOW is actually capitalized in our mission statement).
Vision: Developing young people whose walk with God is so strong it is evident to others around them.
It’s a lot easier to be intentional when I look at these things. So let me ask you…what is the point of your current lesson series in your youth group? What is the point of the fundraiser you’re doing next month? What is the point of the next fellowship or outreach event you are doing? What is the point of taking that young man to lunch, or inviting that young lady to go shopping with you? What’s your end zone?
We are so much more successful when we do things on purpose. I’m challenging you…pray on purpose. Fast on purpose. Teach on purpose. Mentor on purpose. Be intentional. If you do, you just might see the revival you’ve been waiting for.