Over on my Youtube channel I had someone leave this comment,
“I enjoy your podcast and store as well. I have a small youth group and been praying for wisdom how to grow Question I have and I don’t mean any disrespect at all. Why do you have a small youth group? Blessings!”
I take no offense at this question. It’s a fair question because I talk a lot about youth ministry growth. I have had success, in my over 30 years in youth ministry, in growing multiple groups with sustained numbers from 40 in one group to 70 in another but I am not a growth guru.
In fact, I’m not a guru at all, I’ve just been around for while and have served in many different kinds of churches from suburban to rural (which is where I am right now). I’ve also failed, a lot which help me understand systems and forces that create growth and inhibit it.
So, with transparency, let me offer you the five reasons I think my youth group is not growing.
Rural churches are traditionally hard youth groups to grow. According to NIH.gov
“Many rural communities are geographically isolated. Fewer people and more space can mean fewer local businesses and services.”
In my case it’s a numbers game. Most of the students in my youth ministry don’t live in the town in which they come to church. We are that two gas stations with a Subway in one and a Sneaky Petes in the other with that one Mexican restaurant.
I have only been at my church for two years and the church is 20 minutes away.
- Church (people) isn’t ready
- Students aren’t ready
- Facilities aren’t ready
We recently installed a new pastor and it will take time for him to know the area, become involved and be presence in our community.
Lack of Vision
This effects every youth ministries growth and not just mine.
We’ve all heard the verse that says without a vision the people perish or throw off restraint.
Church is important but there is not a great vision to grow. Our programs and ministries are, currently, geared towards those within our church not to those outside the church. When that vision changes, I believe our growth will change.
Lack of Steroids (Things that can inflate growth)
- Budget (facilities)
- People (no lawyers, doctors, retailers, etc.)
- Trained leadership
You can have all the steroids in the world but if you do not have a process of making disciples, you will may inflate in the short term but fail in the long term.
Those are the four main forces working against not only growth in our youth ministry but growth in our our church and even though I think a youth group can grow larger than the church it meets in and can a draw families, etc, I think there are too many problems that come along with that.
I would add that growth comes in seasons. I had a group of 9-10 students who would come regularly and then many of them graduated and most of them had to drive 20 minutes to our church. But, with their exit, there came a new opportunity to grow and we are seeing new students come in because the students that are being discipled are inviting them.
For now, I am going to minister to the students God gives me and grow naturally as students are discipled and sent out each week.
I feel I need to add one more thing, and you’d have to know me to understand, I am a type A personality. I am high energy and when things do not go my way I become unbelievably frustrated. I have to take into account that God is teaching me something during my frustration and sometime even depression and I must learn what the Apostle Paul learned during his season of frustration,
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. Philippians 4:11-13
Whether my group grows how I want it to grow is not the point, instead my focus is on what Jesus is doing in me during this season and how I can best please him.
If you’re in a holding pattern, like me, my prayer is that you will find contentment in Him as well.