As youth pastors, we don’t like to talk about numbers. If we do, it’s with wailing and gnashing of teeth, as we imagine the elders shaking their heads in frustration at the job we’re doing to reach the students in the community.
Or we laugh at the image of the same elders shaking their heads with concern because the numbers are up but the students you’re reaching are causing problems—serious problems—like an occasional swear word and wearing earbuds on church property.
Here’s the truth: Numbers matter.
Try as we might to help leadership see the student ministry discipleship process as more than a head count, it remains one of the universally accepted currencies of “health” in youth ministry. Here are a few numbers to keep an eye on:
After work, we changed clothes in the restroom and then ran through Taco Bell on our way to the church. Life as a bi-vocational pastor is a bit hectic.
If you aren’t careful, you could find yourself with a burnt out adrenal system, wondering if God stopped talking or if you took a wrong turn somehow.
Elijah knew what that felt like. Sitting on the side of the desert, alone and completely burned out, he asked God to kill him.
There are a lot of things we can do to help avoid burnout. However, when we reach the edge, there are a few things that we must do in order to keep up the crazy pace so we can impact the world God has called us to.
One of the things that a few church leaders have questioned me about recently is my repetition in saying, “The best is yet to come,” or that the next Sunday or event is going to be “the best ever!”
Honestly, I’m glad people have talked with me about it because it has allowed me to reflect on why I am always saying those things. There are several reasons:
It’s His church and not mine.
It’s His church and not yours either.
Settle that or nothing else will matter. Get it wrong and everything else you do will be off-kilter.
The moment you think it’s your church (you’re in charge) or my church (someone else makes the decisions; you have nothing to do with what happens), we’re all in trouble.
It is indeed the Lord’s church, and He is its sole owner.
For the first 15 years, my ministry had been built on an invitation model. In essence, I was saying, “If you come to my camp, my conference, my church, or if you will read one of my books, I can share truth and hope with you.”
But in 2003, my philosophy began to change because God began to amplify the Great Commission in my heart and He began to refine my demographic.
Up until that point, I felt like because we were doing some outside-the-box events and hosting some aggressive conferences that some other churches might not have, our outreach model was effective—but even our outreach was inward. If they wouldn’t come where we were—and many would not—we had no way to reach and influence them.