The photo above teaches student pastors a few important lessons. Before I point out a few of those lessons let me share a little about the photo. The band playing on stage is the Beatles. The Beatles where the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed act in the rock music era. They exploded and became one of, or not the most, famous music groups of all time. You wouldn’t think that from this photo. This photo captures their first show in London in 1961. This was before they became big. This was before people knew who they were. I’m sure at the time of this photo they never knew or expected how big they would really become. But that didn’t stop them. This is what one blogger says, “The crowd for the Beatles first show in London was especially disappointing. Yet, despite the fact that only 18 people showed up, the Beatles were undeterred. Rather than giving the small crowd a lackluster performance, the Beatles used the opportunity to “play as if they were tied.”. They gave the modest audience the same level of energy and enthusiasm they would eventually give to over 50,000 fans at New York’s Shea Stadium.” So what does this have to do with student ministry and student pastors? I’m so glad you asked!
I believe this photo offers encouragement and a reminder to student pastors. First, it offers encouragement for those student pastors in small churches with very few students in their ministry. Many times student ministry becomes a competition. It becomes about growing your student ministry bigger and better than the one down the street. Or the fact you keep comparing yourself and ministry to another student pastor and his ministry that you see online. This leaves most student pastors discouraged and prideful. The bottom line is most student ministries are not big. Most are small and consist of a handful of students. But this shouldn’t matter! To my student pastor friends who have a “small” student ministry, keep doing what your doing! Serve, love, and teach those few students about Jesus and His Word! Stop worrying about getting big, start giving your time and energy to what you do have. God has given you those students and ministry for a reason. Your called to give yourself to that group because you love them and you love Jesus.Work with what you go and be faithful!
Second, this photo is a reminder of what student ministry is all about. It’s not about numbers! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s wrong to grow large numerically as a ministry and to strive for that. I believe numbers the majority of the time is the result of faithful, excellent ministry. But not always. God may never intend for your ministry to grow “large.” It may stay small and God will still get the glory and students will still learn God’s Word. If all you do is focus on numbers than you will miss out on serving the students you do have.
Student ministry is about Jesus and students. Student pastors must work with what God has given them. If God has blessed you with a large student ministry than be thankful, serve well, and love those students. But if God has given you a small ministry than don’t be discouraged. Serve, love, and pour into the students you got. In His time I believe God will grow your ministry if He wills. If He does, amen! If He does not, amen! God is sovereign and has called you to serve, love, and pour into the students He has given you.