This is a question that I get from a lot of my youth ministry friends… and just ministry friends, in general. We are constantly reading books, looking at articles, perusing websites & social media, and going to conferences that are led by people who seem to have multiple staff members at their disposal and talk like the only way to lead ministries that grow is to get additional staff members. Or… at least it seems that way. The reality for most of us, however, is that our churches are not at the place, numerically or financially, to support multiple staff in each ministry area. Some churches are fortunate enough to have this blessing… and that is awesome. But some churches will never get to that point, and that is not wrong.
The parable of the talents in the gospels is not about how much you were given in the first place… but how you steward what you are given and use that to increase the kingdom. Some of us are at 5 talent churches, some at 2, and some at 1. Notice that the master doesn’t say, “Well done, good and successful servant.” He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” He doesn’t compare the 2 talent to the 5 talent and ask why he didn’t do as much. He just asks, “How did you steward what I gave you faithfully?”
I felt like I needed to get that out of the way before I went any further with this post… because, early in my ministry career, I believed I was doing it wrong because my ministry was smaller and didn’t look like the bigger churches that I tended to look at and compare myself to. And guess what I began to attribute that to??? Yup. You guessed it. I attributed it to the fact that I was all by myself in my ministry area, and that if I could just get another staff member with me… it would grow. But the reality was that my church was not in the place, financially or numerically, to make that happen.
So what do you do? Do you just give up on growing your ministry and your leadership? The answer to this is NO. The answer is: you get CREATIVE.
A lot of HOW you go about this will be determined by 2 factors:
- Size of your ministry area
Let’s say you are a youth pastor at a church of 200. A healthy youth ministry at that size of church would be around 20-25 students. Be very careful about comparing the size of your youth group with churches of thousands who have hundreds of students. Remember, God isn’t asking why you aren’t doing that… He is asking you to faithfully lead and advance what HE HAS GIVEN YOU. The 10% rule is a really good starting point for youth ministry when it comes to the size of your overall church attendance. If you grow BEYOND that 10% margin… that is awesome, but you don’t want to get into the 25-30% range because your ministry isn’t the only ministry in the church and you will begin to tax your volunteer ability at your church. Growing your ministry at this level will be all about adult volunteers that you can recruit to your team. A good rule of thumb is 1 adult per every 8 students. This is about the size of the middle school ministry that I started with 17 years ago… and, to be completely transparent, sometimes I covet those days when I think about the ease and complexity of ministry back then versus now. But… it comes with its own setbacks, so I’m not complaining at all. When you are at this stage… hiring an additional staff member is a pretty ludicrous expectation. I just need to keep it honest.
Where this becomes complicated is when your church gets to the 1000 or 1500 range, and you’re averaging anywhere between 95-150 students. The odds are that you have an amazing core of volunteers who show up consistently and faithfully every week… probably to the tune of 20-40 strong. But the reason that this becomes so complicated is because you, as the youth pastor, cannot do everything in your ministry. You’ve realized that you cannot minister to every student personally, so you’ve recruited your volunteer base to do that. But your ministry has reached a complexity point where you might need an additional staff member. But what do you do if that is not a reality? What if you’ve asked and the answer is “NO” or “we just can’t right now”? This is where you have to get CREATIVE.
2. Style of your leadership
God has gifted each and every one of us differently. Some of us are wired up with tons of compassion and empathy and are AMAZING when it comes to personal ministry with people. Some of us are wired up with great up-front gifts to teach and motivate people. Some of us are wired up as team builders and organizers and directional leaders. Do you know which type you are? Which type you are will be OBVIOUS. If you are a personal ministry person… you will find yourself spending a lot of your time and energy meeting with people one on one, trying to meet specific needs of people, and doing a lot of counseling. If you are an up front communicator, you will spend most of your time and energy coming up with content to teach and you’ll find your comfort level of leading from that place. If you are a directional leader or team builder, then you will find yourself naturally and constantly building teams around you, no matter where you find yourself. None of these styles are better than another, you just need to know which one you are so that you will not compare yourself to someone who is nothing like you, and so that you can begin to identify what it is going to take to go about getting creative to grow your ministry area.
The size of your church and the style of your leadership will dictate HOW you will need to get creative to build your ministry.
Next week I will talk about some of the CREATIVE ways I have used to grow my ministry areas when staffing dollars were not available.