In the world of student ministry, it's easy to fall into the trap that many do -- basing your success primarily upon the number of youth that you have within your youth group. In a business-fueled world that bases success primarily on growth, it can be hard for youth pastors and leaders to look past the numbers and focus on what is truly important. While growing your youth group is an exciting goal to achieve, keep in mind that your ultimate goal is growth of a different kind: furthering the faith of the youth right in front of you who are already in your group. As you strengthen the faith of the youth in your youth group, your overall student ministry will be strengthened as a result. Deciding to take your youth on a team-building trip and understanding your role as the youth pastor can go a long way towards strengthening your student ministry.
The Mission Trip
The importance of taking your kids on a short term mission trip can not be understated. Your normal interaction with your students is likely during youth group, a once-a-week get-together that lasts a few hours before they leave, gone again until the next week. While you certainly can get a lot done during the normal youth group time, engaging your youth in a mission trip that lasts a few days or even a week can build teamwork, establish long-lasting friendships, and even make a huge difference in their faith.
If you're feeling ambitious, you can put together a mission trip to a foreign country, but trips to a neighboring state or city can be just as effective. While the youth make a tangible difference in the lives of those they encounter during their mission trip, they may not even realize the transformation their own heart is making.
The Change of Heart
Ultimately, the goal of your role is to impact the hearts of the youth within your group. It's extremely important to remember the teachings of Scripture, especially the parable of Jesus about the seeds, which makes clear that not all of those who have heard the word of God will respond positively. While it's your job to love your youth as Jesus would and impact their hearts, it is not your job (nor will you be able to) change their hearts. In other words, it's God's job to change hearts as Ezekiel reveals -- not yours.
By letting go of your stress regarding those who do not respond to the message, you'll be able to strengthen your student ministry. When you realize that you can never change another person's heart (no matter how hard you try), it releases you to do what you were made to do: love God and love others, pointing your youth towards the One who can change hearts. Communicating with other youth leaders, like those at Crossroads Baptist Church, can also help you find comfort and direction.