I have been working in youth ministry for going on 9 years now. Over those years, I have had lots of highs and lows....oh and made plenty of mistakes along the way too. I have wrestled with and doubted if I'm supposed to be doing this or if I am even making a difference in this work.
On Saturday, I was reminded yet again that sometimes ministry cannot just be about the numbers. Because at the end of the day, its all about souls not numbers.
Our diocese was offering a day workshop through St. Paul Street Evangelization in equipping and teaching young people how to share their faith, particularly in street evangelization. Not the screaming-preachy-nut job on a corner but with love and kindness. I was really excited to see the offering and encouraged our team of youth leaders at church to attend.
Well Saturday was drawing nearer, and I had 1 young lady who wanted to go and was free. Honestly I felt defeated and frustrated. I started doubting if it was even worth taking her all the way downtown to the seminary for the workshop. In my mind, I was basing the value of this opportunity on the amount of young people going. As the weekend drew closer, I really debated calling her and canceling because we "didn't have enough people."
One night over dinner, I was just overwhelmed and crying about it to Jim over spaghetti. He gently reminded me that what kind of message would I send to this teen girl in canceling an event because she was the only one who wanted go. It could send a message of "Well, we only do things if there popular or enough people sign up." He told me that even for this one young lady it could an opportunity for her to grow deeper in faith.
And you know what? I took that one young lady to the workshop and I am SO glad I did. I was amazed at how much I even enjoyed it and took away deeper conviction and idea's to implement in our youth program. One the way way home, I was asking this girl what she enjoyed, what surprised her, and what struck her most about the workshop.
Her answer was so simple, but made me glad I took her. She said, "Well at first when they were talking I was scared to talk about my faith in such a bold way (street evangelization) because I didn't know if I could do it; I didn't know what to say. But they showed me talking about faith/God doesn't have to be scary and I can do it anywhere--in big or small ways. God uses it no matter what."
As she was talking I just smiled thinking, "Okay God, I get it." Hearing her share on the way home with me reminded me not to judge the value or impact of something based purely on the numbers. Yes, numbers matter to a certain extent. But when ministry becomes solely a "numbers game," it raises the bar for burn-out and comparison.
Our youth program may never be the largest in terms of actual numbers. But as long as our purpose remains helping young people to know Jesus more that is what is matters most. Jesus wasn't all about the numbers game either. Heck He had 12 guys in his posse, but even then they weren't perfect and certainly wavered in the commitment to Him.
Ministry, discipleship, and all that good stuff is not about how pretty or big we make it. Its really not about how much I can do, but how much I get out of the way and allow God to lead and work through me wherever He has me.