Most student ministries in America could accurately be classified as “small.” A small ministry always comes with a particular set of challenges. If you’re in a small ministry context, I’m sure you ask some of the same questions I do, “How will we afford this?” or “How will we have enough leaders for that event?” Some believe that a small ministry is destined to have a small impact, but I disagree. I believe with thoughtful planning, intentional networking, and above all the work of the Holy Spirit, a SMALL ministry is capable of having a BIG impact. Here are a few points I believe will help make this happen:
Plan strategically, instead of “on the fly.” Within a small ministry context, resources will be limited. This is a given. But just because resources are in limited supply doesn’t mean that you don’t have any! Whether that’s a budget, facilities, or workers, everyone has something and often times the pivotal question is, “What is the best way we can use what we have for what we want to accomplish?” One practical step to using resources wisely is planning ahead! Don’t settle by living on a week-to-week schedule, claiming your just “going with the flow” or that you’re just trying “to be led by the Holy Spirit.” Instead, think about what you want to do and why you want to do it months before you actually do it! This will give you time to develop a game plan of how you will effectively make an impact in the lives of your students.
Partner with other ministries, instead of doing it all by yourself. In our ministry, roughly half of our calendar events take place with other student ministries in our area. Partnering with other like-minded ministries is something we have found incredibly valuable. This allows you to expand your resources, provide larger (and often more affordable) events, as well as develop vital ministry partnerships. Through ministry partnerships, we do events we would never be able to do on our own! Seek to tap into a student ministry network in your area if you haven’t already, or if there isn’t one, maybe you should start one! Developing ministry partnerships provides leverage for everyone that is involved. Partner to help your ministry flourish, and to help the ministries you partner with flourish along with you.
Push through the obstacles, and get to work. When you’re in a small ministry context, it’s easy to get frustrated, complain, and quit striving for excellence. When you can’t get volunteers to sign-up, the youth room gets flooded, or some of your students randomly stop attending, it’s easy to get discouraged. I know this from experience, and the first couple of months of my current ministry were some of the most discouraging days I’d ever experienced. But when you feel this way, remember what God has called you to. Remember He has chosen you to be at this church with these students to impact their lives with the good news of Jesus Christ! That alone is worth pushing through the obstacles, and making your ministry the best it can be by the grace of God for the glory of God. If you’re doing something and it’s clearly not working, try something else! One of the advantages of a small ministry is flexibility. Make your ministry the best you can with what you have available. Don’t defeat yourself up-front by making excuses regarding your budget, youth workers, meeting space, exc. God is not limited to these kinds of factors, and He can choose to move in your ministry in ways you’ve never dreamed. I challenge you to believe that. Don’t just believe it about other ministries, but believe it about your ministry. Believe that in your youth group, students will have their lives changed forever. Believe you will see students meet Jesus, and students become more like Jesus because of God’s work in your ministry.
This is God’s work, not ours, and what a privilege it is that He would call us to such a ministry as He has. No matter the size of your ministry, give it every last thing you’ve got, because Jesus demands nothing less. There’s no time like the present to start making positive changes, and there’s no better time than right now to expect God will do great things in your student ministry.
Mark Etheridge is the Student Pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Pittsboro, NC. He is also a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. Mark is passionate about reaching the next generation with the life-changing message of Jesus. He lives in Wake Forest, NC. You can connect with Mark on Twitter @MarkCEtheridge.