A “one-man show” youth ministry will fail


1. It’s not about you.

2. Poor decisions are made without the company of others.

3. Pride or discouragement easily sink in.

4. There’s no accountability.

5. You can only reach a limited number of students.

6. Burnout.

7. There’s no one to continue the ministry when you leave.

8. The ministry is unbalanced because it’s based on only one person’s gifts.

Lest you think your ministry isn’t a one-man-show, better make sure and ask those around you.

Posted on March 19, 2008

  • Amy

    I would have to disagree. I think that would be the case with some..but not with mine. I’ve been the youth director at my church for 3 and half years. When I started there were 5 kids. Now we have about 21 kids. I do it all by myself. I think you have to have the right motivation and patience. Some people are easily discouraged and get mad. I’m very easy going and don’t let things get to me. I love all the kids in my youth group very much…we are like family. We are a small church..and if we keep growing there will be no way I can do it by myself. But it works for us right now. I have a really great group of kids that give me respect and listen. I’m blessed.

  • Amy

    I would also like to add…that I’m the youth director in my home church. I’ve went to this church since I was born…so maybe that’s got something to do with it. I don’t ever plan on leaving.

  • Well, this is about a one MAN show, Amy, so you’re exempt anyway. ;) j/k

    Although you may feel it’s working out pretty well for you and maybe you’re not falling into a lot of those traps, some of them are still true no matter what:

    You can’t reach all the students in your community by yourself. Twenty-one is great, but it’s gonna be hard to grow past that and still actually connect with them on a one-on-one individual basis by yourself.

    There’s still no one to continue the ministry if the Lord takes you home or you become ill.

    It’s still based on just your gifts. Every believer has them, but no one has them all. Thus, a ministry could be heavy on discipleship, but no evangelism. Or big on worship, but weak on fellowship. It’s impossible to have a balanced ministry without people who are passionately gifted in each of those areas.

    I’m not trying to argue — I’m glad the Lord is blessing your ministry as richly as He is. Just some things to think about from someone who’s been there, tried that.

  • Amy

    I get what your saying…but we are a very small church with 50+ being our average age minus the youth..and there aren’t very many volunteers flying out of the wood work. I don’t think it’s fair to ask someone to teach the youth since the church is paying to do that. I do agree about now having this many kids there not as much one on one time..but we do talk on myspace, facebook, msn messanger, and text message all through the week. Without that, there wouldn’t be much communication. I do agree about different gifts from different people. That’s why we have worship with the rest of the church, and then go back to youth group. Most all my kids attend sunday school and learn from different teachers then. So their not always with me. Thanks for your comment :)

  • Dave Carter

    I agree, but it really depends on the size of the ministry. I started with 3 kids just under 5 years ago, and now have about 17 regularly attending. Between the priority of my wife and children, and my full-time career (travel required, I do not have enough in me to minister to 17. If I add in the other kids I am trying to drawback or not let get too far away that number is realy around 40. Our church is about 100 overall attendance. I refuse to do it by myself, but for a while did becuase it was necessary.

    I am 100% volunteer as is most youth pastors (as I understand it to be). I have recruited an “assistant youth pastor” to help me with teaching when I’m away on business and to give the occasional breath of fresh air to the class. In addition, he heads up and coordinates all of our local and world missions projects. Working together on these makes our missions more effective. I am praying and searching for a volunteer who can develop a worship band for us becuase I have no musical talent at all, but have great desire to have quality spirit filled worship.

    I have big dreams, but small time and small budget. I can’t do it alone, but I’m working to add volunteers. As you increase in students, it’s impossible to “effectively” minister to each. The load must be shared.


  • I think that eventually you will just end up like that guy in the picture if you just do it yourself.

    Here’s a Bible reference: Exodus 18:18 “You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.”

    Knowing from experience, just 5 students in your small group can become overwelming just caring for them, listening, and praying with them.

  • GiGi

    I really needed to hear that today. Thank you.

  • @ Chris: Wow man, that's a tough place to be. Another reason why it's important to recruit some adult help is because you may be required to have an adult to student ratio. In the public schools around here it's 1 to 29. For ministry purposes, I try to keep it 1 to 8. If something happened and you guys were sued, having a ton of kids with only one adult might be used against ya as negligence.

    Check out this blog post about how to recruit ministry volunteers. Hopefully that'll help.

  • Chris

    I am approaching this with a little more frustration I think. Two and a half years ago I started a small group in the church for middle school boys. It started with 5 boys who just wanted to hang out and throw the football around; I integrated some “teaching” into our time. Since then, it has grown to almost 25 boys from churches around town.

    As you all can attest, middle school boys are a handful (gotta love ’em). I have been trying to find someone – parent, college student, etc to help me invest in these boys. But everyone is too busy or is just plain old scared by 12-14 year old boys. People will come and go and there is no consistency or commitment. Arg.

    I definitely see the need to have other people involved in this “ministry” but no one else sees the value! I can’t force others to help. But I also don’t want to stop the Group because of lack of involvement from other people. What should I do?

  • Dave Carter

    @ Chris: Man I admire your commitment and burden. We sometimes get on these message boards and talk about ideas, tips, prodecures and policies, and all that good stuff. I like that. It helps me with practical ways to improve.

    But it sounds to me like you (and me and everyone else) need the good move of God in what you're doing. What I'm saying is, I've recently been reminded (by Him) that it is He and not me who will truly accomplish the task. He uses me.

    I will pray for you. I will pray WITH you that your efforts will be fruitful in both arenas of working with the students and in recruiting volunteers.


  • Dave Carter

    @Chris. Dude that is one of the harder questions I try to answer as well. I really don't have much for you on that one except to pray for direction, and then to overcommunciate with your volunteers and potential volunteers. I like to constantly send emails and links to blogs and stuff to my volunteers. They probably don't read it, but I try to keep stuff in front of them to inspire and motivate them. Ironically, I have more trouble motivating some of the volunteers to work with the troubled youth than the normal. My issue is getting them out of their comfort zone.

    Blessings, Dc

  • Sol Garcia

    For any of you out there. I am throwing this one out there in hopes of getting some advice. I am currently the Youth Director in our church. I was the only one directing the youth until a few months ago when I got an assistant to help me. I am very greatful for the help. Currently there is a situation arising which has brought me to tears. I recently got back from attending my spouse father's funeral to a bunch of stuff going on with the Youth which I have no idea about. The Pastor's spouse has (I feel) taken over the Youth Department. The spouse is having meetings, planning activities, outings etc… and I have no idea what is going on. I am not a confrontational person but I believe that I have the need to address this problem. My assistant is also not aware of whats going on but we see things happening. What do you do when you feel like another leader (Pastor's spouse) has taken over without talking to you about the decisions that were made, if they were any? Please help I am to the point of resigning just to keep the peace between myself and the Pastor's spouse but I don't want to give up the will of God for my life. The Pastor is aware of what is going on apparently from what I have seen and the Pastor has not even spoken to me either. We are very close and feel this behavior is really hurting me in a very big way. ANY ADVICE??????

  • @ Chris: Your question really is, "How do I make people become passionate for students?" The answer is, you can't. But God can. Pray your heart out, beg God to burden people's hearts for teenagers. And then just keep pluggin' the vision God's laid on your heart for the kids.

    @ Sol Garcia: You need to talk with the lady. I know you don't like confrontation, but that's what it comes down to. Don't be mean or accusatory about it, just use lots of "I feel" and "It seems to me" kinda statements. For some help, check out my Principles for Confrontation download.

  • @Tim and Dave,

    Man, thank you guys.

    Tim, I have the same concerns that you have voiced in your reply. I’ve been working closely with the head Youth Pastor at the church and we’re coming up with some good ideas.

    Dave, thank you for your encouragement and prayers. You are right about God ultimately being in charge and working in and through our “ministries.”

    Maybe this will help a little to describe my position:
    My full time job is as the Child and Youth Coordinator for a residential care facility for single parent mothers and their kids. I oversee all services and programs to the young people that live here. All of the children and youth here have come out of domestic violence and abusive home situations. I have no problem finding volunteers and mentors willing to commit to weekly meetings and such with this group of kids. I suppose those kids’ need is very apparent.

    But when it comes to “normal” kids who, on the outside, do not have the same “issues,” people ignore them until they reach high school. At that point, people ring their hands in despair over the state of high school students, wondering what went wrong. They seem to forget that “It’s easier to build strong boys than to repair broken men” (Fredrick Douglas).

    So, I guess my question is (sorry this has gotten so long): why do people show favoritism toward one group of kids and ignore another when the need is equal between the two? How do I help bridge that gap?

  • Pingback: There Are No Lone Rangers in Youth Ministry « Cooperland()

  • Nick

    This makes us realize how interdependent the members of the Body really are. If God wanted a one-man show, He would’ve given all the spiritual gifts to one person, including the unwritten gifts of youth ministry: guitar playing, a good singing voice, skateboarding and surfing skills, and cool video making skills.

    It takes a whole lot of faith and trusting in God and in other people to lead through your weaknesses.

  • Crystal

    I totally agree! I am not the Youth Pastor at my church but I am an adult leader. I have to ask though, (to Tim) does your staff actually do the ministering on your youth nights? We have had 10-12 adult leaders and around 6 student leaders for about a year now. The youth pastor has been the one coming up with the messages. Just this year he started doing curriculums and incorporating us into teaching. (Some weaks even leaving him out.) I personally think it is a good idea. Any experience with this?

  • @ Crystal: I’ve done (and do) all of the above, depending on the context. For example, our Wednesday night Jr. High meetings are based 100% on the adult volunteers in a small group context, but our Sr. High large-group meetings are based mostly on me for teaching and on me and other adults for relationships. It’s never based only on me, but neither do I swing to the other end of the pendulum and remove myself completely, ya know? The point is to work as a team to balance each other and support each other.

  • Jill

    In my opinion, our youth leader is a one woman show. To sum her up in a nutshell would be to say she is all about management and control, making her a very poor leader. She came to our church at a time when there was a vacancy for christian education, she ask for and was granted the position when little was known about her. Now while our youth leader is on a year absence to fulfill other obligations, she ask for and was granted his vacancy too. While she is great in planning activities for the youth, more time is spent going over the rules than the actual activity. It seems as if others have to run everything by her first for approval. Her decisions in the past have negatively effected my teenage daughter and I have spoken with her about my concerns as well as to our pastor. His response was to garner sympathy for her as she has very poor self esteem, personal problems, and is in need of this position to fill a void in her life. He says she never meant to do harm and her actions are not intentional.

    I am now at a loss as to how to handle the latest which occurred with her. The youth went on a 5 hour drive to a weekend retreat. My teen was the last to sign up, but the moment she did, I got a call from the youth leader asking to borrow our van for the trip. One of the chaperones would be driving it. My husband immediately obliged, offering the van as his way of giving back to the church. The drive down was uneventful, but on the return and before leaving the retreat, my teen was told by the youth leader that she and her friends would be switching to a different vehicle because others wanted to watch a movie on the return. As my teen was removing her belongings from the van, she got to thinking that her dad would be unhappy with others taking over the use of the van for its entertainment value, kids playing with the electronics which are easily broken,and how she herself was never even ask if the decision to switch would be agreeable. She then when back to the leader with her reasons and concerns, but the leader refused to address her concerns. Our teen then called home, got the situation corrected and our daughter stayed with our van. After the call home, the youth then had a Bible study lesson…the topic…how a good christian should be giving, sharing, and never selfish.

    My teen no longer has a desire to attend church until our orginal youth leader returns. We feel as though our generosity and kindness was taken advantage of. I have not spoken to anyone about this. I believe if I did, I would be told once again that no harm was ever meant to be caused.

  • @ Jill:

    “His response was to garner sympathy for her as she has very poor self esteem, personal problems, and is in need of this position to fill a void in her life.”

    And this is the kind of person your pastor supports as a spiritual role model?!! Is he out of his mind? Would your church ever hire someone like this to be the sr. pastor of your church? If not, then the kids must be less valuable than the adults in your congregation. Seriously, that girl needs to go. She needs to fill the void with something that doesn’t involve risking kid’s spirituality (like your daughter’s).

    And all the other things you mentioned just confirm that “one-man show youth ministry” will fail, especially when there’s no accountability and much-needed confrontation obviously isn’t taking place.

  • @ Jeff: I see no issues with a single person in vocational youth ministry. The argument against it is that there's greater risk and less maturity, but that can be just as true for someone who's married. Regardless of whether someone is married or not, anyone and everyone in youth ministry MUST have boundaries and accountability, and that doesn't look any different for a married person or a single person.

  • Jeff

    Tim, what’s your view on a youth ministry pastored by a single person (man or woman)? Some stand strictly against this, some don’t mind. Personally, I think if a person is qualified so be it and marital status shouldn’t have anything to do with it. We currently have a youth committee of both genders and that wouldn’t change, but at the moment have no sole “Youth Pastor” and I really think it hurts the group as there is no real sole authority for the youth or even committee.

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