Guest Contributor Christina Dingle, Youth Pastor
Harvesters have to trust in the unseen when sowing and reaping. After the ground is cultivated, a seed is placed deep in the ground. The nutrients within the rich soil begin to penetrate the tiny seed and it begins to grow. This is a process our human eyes cannot see. We only get the privilege of beholding its beauty after it goes through this process. Youth leaders are the harvesters of souls, seeds, planted for growth in the Kingdom of God.
In nearly twenty years of experience as a youth pastor, far too often I have seen great youth leaders walk away from their ministry, thinking they have failed. I believe this is because their ideas of successful growth are incorrect. What is successful growth? Growth in youth ministry should never be based solely on the number of members in your group rather it should be measured by the number of youth who are being impacted for God. Having a vision and going after it makes successful growth possible.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish:” (Proverbs 29:18, KJV). It is of utmost importance that you take the vision God has given you and act upon it. Do not wait for things to happen, go after them until they happen. Some may call this reckless but I call this faith, believing in God that the vision will come to pass before seeing it happen. For example in our youth ministry more often than not God will give us a vision that seems impossible and completely out of our reach. There was a time in our youth ministry when we had a vision of sending our team across country to the Pentecostal Church of God National Youth Conference and Talent Expo. We knew this would require a budget of $15,000 in order to cover our traveling expenses. We lacked the resources, man power, finances and experience yet we dared to believe. Not only did we accomplish this impossible goal, the next year we raised the bar higher by setting out to reach a larger budget for better travel accommodations. This experience revealed to us that all one must do is step out by faith and God will do the rest.In nearly twenty years of experience as a youth pastor, far too often I have seen great youth leaders walk away from their ministry, thinking they have failed.
“…All things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23, KJV). By believing, my team and I write down all of the things that are needed to accomplish our vision. We start talking about what it will look like, who it will impact, what we want to accomplish by doing it, and when it will happen. Then we go to work using our resources and the contributions of others. Slowly but surely the vision just happens; piece by piece and little by little it all comes together. This is how we obtain successful growth. We believe that if it is out of our limitations then it is not our vision but in fact God’s vision. We want to do the things that bring Glory to God. Many times people have said to us concerning our success, “Oh, they must have a van.” We reply, “No.” Some have said, “They must have a large building.” We answer, “Not at all, unless you call 400 square feet large.” Others have scoffed, “They must have a large budget.” We reply, “No, not really.” We have heard it all but we know what we do is completely out of our ability and God gets all the glory. So, much like the seed in the soil we cannot always see how we are growing but God is working on us as we move forward in our faith believing that anything he asks us to accomplish in youth ministry will be possible.
Can you see your youth services filled beyond capacity? Then what are you waiting for? Go after it, put the extra chairs out and reconfigure the space so there is enough room up front for worship. Can you see a community of young people coming together at your church as leaders learning how to be effective disciples? Then what are you waiting for? First make a mission statement, write down what the young leaders tasks will be, begin creating or finding leadership modules you can use. Then mark your calendar for enlistment day. Can you see your youth group traveling on a mission trip? Then what are you waiting for? Do the research, then choose the trip, make a budget and start planning. Share your vision with your leaders and youth. Start spreading the word to the world asking for their support. Stop waiting for the numbers, attendance, support and finances to increase. Start acting by going after what you want for your youth ministry. Vision inspires growth but you can’t just talk about it, youth need to see you be about it. Youth need purpose this comes when youth follow their leaders as they go after their vision. How can we expect growth if all we do is settle for what we can see? “But without faith it is impossible to please him:…” (Hebrews 11:6, KJV). We cannot expect growth if we never go after our visions. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead,..” (James 2:17, KJV).
Though the labor is hard and growth is not always visible in Christ it begins in the unseen realm before it shows forth. Let me challenge you to see growth from my perspective. The next time you take attendance during a service; don’t allow the number of attendees to discourage you. Rather assess the number of youth who are being impacted by God. By this account grade your success. Do not stop there press on with visions that are beyond your reach. Go after your visions until they come to pass. Vision and growth work hand in hand as they both begin in the unseen but together create the greatest works of God. Therefore, reach for the unreachable visions and cultivate successful growth in your youth ministry.