I grew up in a pretty big youth group in California, with a ton of kids, a ton of leaders, and an amazing Youth Pastor. I’ve long credited my Youth Pastor as one of the biggest influences in my life, and his one-on-one mentoring of me helped me to become the Youth Pastor I am today. Consistently, when I am facing a dilemma, or trying to explain a foundational goal of Youth Ministry, I think back to the Youth Group I grew up in for an example, of how would he have gone about facing this problem, or what did he do in his ministry that is a good illustration of this principle.
But recently, as I was reflecting back on my time in Youth Ministry and our Student Leadership team, God kind of opened my eyes to a major fault in the system, that really left me feeling like I was the lucky one. My Youth Pastor invested a ton of time into me, we spent a great deal of time with each other, I was constantly in his office and visiting his house, and so were several of my close friends, the rest of the student leadership team, but not as much as I was. But outside of the Youth Pastor, there weren’t many, if any, other adults with this same sort of relationship with us students.
We had plenty of other amazing and awesome leaders in the ministry, and I knew where they all lived, but our interaction with them wasn’t near what it was with our Youth Pastor, and when there’s hundreds of students in the ministry, that simply doesn’t work.
If I can only effectively minister to 12 people, my time is better spent pouring into leaders who pour into 12 more.
Many Youth Pastors have heard the saying that one person can effectively minister to 12 people, that biblically speaking, Jesus ministered to thousands, but he really poured in and made a difference with the 12 disciples, and even in that group, he had his 3 key disciples. I’ve often said that if I can only effectively minister to 12 people at any given time, I’d so much rather pour into 12 small group leaders who in turn would pour into 12 students each, because I look at the Youth Ministry I grew up and see where the majority of my church going friends in High School are at now with their lives, and I know I am one of the lucky ones because I was a part of the 12 in that group.
I can’t help but imagine, what would be different had those leaders already in the ministry taken it upon themselves to pour into 12 students, where would so many of those students be today?
Thats why I believe Small Group Leaders are so important in Student Ministry. I think the easy path is to just do it all yourself, find 12 students to pour into and go after it. But I also think that sets up a ministry for failure, when the one person doing discipleship leaves for a new ministry.
Choose the hard path, that fights to help grow 12 adults within the church body to disciple 12 students. Choose the path that makes the ministry resolve not around one person, but a community of adults who love students and are investing in them spiritually.