In my opinion, and currently my experience, the weight of a small youth ministry is much heavier than running a large ministry. I want to share five weights small youth pastors have to bear that large youth group pastors do not.
The weight of loss
Bearing the weight of large youth ministry is certainly a heavy responsibility. All youth ministry is a heavy responsibility, but if you lose 5 kids from a 80 person youth ministry, you have enough momentum to gain five back.
If you lose 5 kids from a 15 person youth ministry, it’s far more devastating on the group and the psyche of the youth pastor. The youth pastor second guesses themselves, more, at such a loss than a large youth group pastor.
The weight of adjustable programming
As a small youth group pastor you bear the weight of building an adjustable, weekly program. I always have numbers on my mind, not for prideful reason but for utility reasons. Will I be able to run plan A or do I need to run plan B?
If you have a guys verses girls night and three boys and one girl shows up, plan B.
If you have small group time and you have one middle schooler and three high school, Plan B.
Canceling events because it is cost prohibitive. You need x number of students to make the money work out to where students can afford it.
Having x number of students does preclude God from showing up. God shows up no matter how many students show up. The number of students only affect the programming aspect.
The weight of leadership
I was exhausted the other night after youth. I am a proponant of students doing the ministry, but we’re just not there yet which means things fall to me like leading games, providing snacks, etc. This is more mentally taxing than physically taxing. Weekly plate spinning is exhausting.
Small youth groups do not need multiple volunteers. If my wife and I are there, that is enough. I don’t have the luxury of saying, “I don’t want to do that, I’ll give it to someone else.” If I want to do it, I have to do it.
The weight of blame
With the weight of leadership comes the weight blame. The weight of blame should be on every youth leader regardless of size. If things are not going well, I blame myself and rightly so. I’m the leader. Without other volunteers, the small youth group pastor bears this weight alone, prays alone and suffers alone.
The weight of enthusiasm
A small group means little hype. Small groups don’t jump, shout or cheer let alone sing during the worship time. The small group youth pastor bears the weight of being the happiest, hypes person in the room. I have to be at my best, even if, especially if, no one else is. If the youth pastor isn’t excited about being there, why should anyone else be?
I’m not writing this because I have some miraculous answer for this problem nor am I bemoaning my lot. I’m blessed to lead this band of incredible students and I look forward to seeing what God will do. The good news for all of us who bear the weight is that God is helps us bear the weight.
The answer to all of these problems is growth. More students = more staff = weight distribution.
I’m doing my best to find the joy in small. The hanging out, the inside jokes, the deeper relationships and watching students develop are all small joys I experience every week and I take note of them.
The small youth group is a weight I must gladly bear. To bear the burden in bitterness is to devalue the commitment of the 4-6 students who come every week and my calling to minster to youth regardless of size.
The danger in desiring to grow is looking past the students I have to the students I want and that’s not fair to students who show up regularly. I have to keep my eyes on the students God has put in front of me.
Let me wrap up with this story I found,
A young man was at the end of his rope. Seeing no way out, he dropped to his knees in prayer. “Lord, I can’t go on,” he said. “I have too heavy a cross to bear.” The Lord replied, “My son, if you can’t bear its weight, just place your cross inside this room. Then, open that other door and pick out any cross you wish.” The man was filled with relief and said, “Thank you Lord” and he did as he was told.
Upon entering the other room, he saw many crosses; some so Large the tops were not visible. Then, he spotted a tiny cross leaning against a far wall. “I’d like that one, Lord,” he whispered. The Lord replied, “My son that is the cross you just brought in.” When life’s problems seem overwhelming, it helps to look around and see what other people are coping with. You may consider yourself far more fortunate than you imagined.
If you’re pastoring a small youth group, hats off to you. Enjoy it because the only difference between a small youth group and big youth group is a different set of weights.