Ministry. It’s a wonderful, fulfilling, and incredibly rewarding job and calling. Although the old adage, “all the glitters is not gold” also rings true here. Aside from being fulfilling and rewarding, ministry can also be grimy, lonely, and in many ways disheartening.
I’ve been doing ministry now for 17 years, and while by no means am I an expert on all things ministry, I am familiar with many of the pitfalls therein. One of the main problems I see in ministry, and I am speaking primarily in relation to youth ministry, is a compulsory and sadly all too often desire to entertain those in attendance. This is not untrue for me. Every minister I know (and that’s a large number) have this gut feeling that somehow they have to keep their audience entertained or they risk losing them. As a result we look for gimmicks or quick fixes to grab their attention and keep them entertained, but at what cost?
I’m not saying entertainment is a bad thing. I’m not saying it doesn’t have its place. I’m not even saying your youth ministries or any ministry should be boring, lifeless, voids with no appearance of personality or fun. I am however saying that if the main thing students (or anyone for that matter) know about your ministry is that it is “fun” then a disservice has been done. In my 17 years of ministry I have seen repeatedly that what sticks with our congregants and teenagers is not games or videos, but rather it is a deep caring for them and more importantly it is a continual message of the gospel Christ.
Our calling is to make much of Jesus and less of ourselves (John 3:30). We must disciple students and adults to have them go and make disciples of others. Jesus is where our focus, our attention, and devotion must point. Anything less will not do. We do those who give us an audience a terrible disservice when we focus more on getting people in the seats than we do at making those there are learning about Jesus and being given Bible as the primary source of knowledge and wisdom. If we miss this then it simply will not matter how many people show up or come to our churches. It will have been in vain.
Please hear my heart. I’m not saying your youth group or your church cannot be fun or have elements of entertainment, but if this is done simply to gain new people then it’s a terrible strategy. All the data shows that people are entertained for a while, but then they get bored and move on to new entertainment. Don’t set the bar low. Your students are better than that, and they’re smarter. Raise the bar and watch what happens.
Whether you have a youth group or congregation of a few or a few thousand the goal must be the same. You don’t have to entertain, and you don’t have to give out gimmicks or entertainment, you only have to give the Jesus. Don’t buy into the notion that without entertainment you as a minister are a failure. The only failure is when the focus shifts from the cross of Christ to gimmicks or ways to provide entertainment. Be faithful to the Gospel. Be faithful to the Bible. Be faithful to Jesus. That my friends will always be enough.