1. You're Bigger Than Your Youth Ministry
Who you are isn't defined by the amount of students in your ministry or the DSLR shot of Wednesday night's altar call. You're not a "pastor" before you're a son or daughter of God, Himself. That's gotta be encouraging to someone out there. No matter how you feel your ministry is doing, you're value and worth is summed up in the very fact that you belong to God and that He loves you. Your call to ministry is just an overflow of God's love for you - so much that He wants to share with you the thing He's most passionate about: PEOPLE!
Don't be discouraged: you might feel like no one else in the world knows about what you're doing for the Kingdom - it's ok. Heaven knows, and heaven cheers.
2. You're Impact Is Greater Than What You Can See
Don't determine your impact based upon the response you see or hear on Wednesday night. In fact, don't even determine it by the behavior of your students. Sometimes, things go to hell in youth ministry - that's just a simple fact. Although it may seem like nothing is happening and no one is grabbing hold of the vision, don't disqualify your impact. God is doing a work "beneath the surface" in your students and it's your job as their pastor to have faith in what you cannot see.
Be careful not to speak death over your students by saying things like, "tonight was a dud" or "our kids just don't care." Speak life and cultivate the impact that you're making as you stay faithful to God's purpose in your ministry.
3. God Thanks You
When you're a youth pastor, it doesn't take too long to realize how thankless your job is. Your students, leaders and volunteers will never know how many hours you put into praying for them, serving and working behind the scenes, sacrificing your time and money and simply thinking about them. The emotional toll pastoring takes on your spirit is more than they will ever realize - and the reality is, you can never expect them to understand - that's not their responsibility. You're there to SERVE. However, it can get frustrating when days, weeks and months can go by without anyone ever recognizing you for what you've done. Instead, the "complaint bin" seems to fill up.
God is proud of you and is grateful for your ministry. Know that He sees every moment you spend crying for your kids. He accounts for every dollar spent from your own account. He is storing up your rewards as you serve and pour out your life - He thanks you.
4. This Season Doesn't Validate Your Next
I wish I would have known this while I was a youth pastor: your success in this season doesn't determine the open door in the next. Only God is the one who promotes and He isn't waiting for you to "blow this ministry up" before He can bring you to your next season of ministry. You don't need to showcase how awesome you're doing so that the "big dogs" in ministry might take notice. Thinking like this will make you manic at any sign of decline or descent. Don't let it happen - God knows exactly where He's called you to go and He knows exactly how to get you there. Even more - God knows where to find you when He's ready to take you to a new place... you don't have to make yourself known to remind Him that you're still waiting.
Focus on staying faithful in the season you're in. Faithfulness speaks much louder than anything else - it really is God's idea of success.
5. There's Always Hope
The truth is, we all want to grow our ministries. I don't know any youth pastor who has told me, "I just want a really small youth group." We want to reach as many students in our cities as possible for Christ's sake - so if you're in a slump, don't get discouraged. There is ALWAYS something you can do to grow. Whether it is an invitation campaign, school assembly, outreach event, neighborhood blitz or some sort of creative growth idea - you always have hope. Never feel like you're out of ideas - and if you are, get people around you who can help you think of new ones.
There's always hope for your ministry - the Gospel WORKS. It's our job to put it to work - and there's always a new, creative way of reaching people with the life-giving message of Jesus Christ.
6. Stop Comparing Yourself To Other Pastors
Instagram: your greatest enemy. You know exactly what I'm talking about - you're comparing your horrible night of youth ministry to the star-studded youth movement that posts the coolest shot of thousands of kids on Instagram and you sink down into a deep depression, wishing you never said "yes" to that youth pastor job. We've all been there.
Don't compare yourself and your ministry to others. Half the time, those posts are taken with the "Youth Pastor Angles" anyway - you know, the way to hold your phone and snap the shot so it looks like the room is packed when there are really only 5 rows filled and you've cropped the half-empty section of the room out?
Instead of comparing, learn to celebrate the victories of others and focus on what God called you to do. You're robbing your church of YOU if you're constantly focusing on trying to be like someone else. Comparison only breeds covetousness - which will eventually turn to criticism and cynicism.
Just. Be. You.
Jared Ellis was called into ministry at the age of 16 years old, after being delivered out of a life of darkness, depression and depravity. He has traveled all over the world, preaching the good news of Jesus Christ and has worked with some of the leading churches in the nation such as Bethel Church and Elevation Church. He pastored in Abilene, Texas for 3 years and grew a youth ministry of 12 students to over 300 - signs, wonders and miracles happening each week. Jared is the author of "Unlocking Your Destiny: Keys To Accessing God's Master Plan For Your Life." He travels full-time as an evangelist and preaches at churches, conferences and events. He is also the GE Director at Christ For The Nations Institute where he teaches and trains Youth Pastors. While at home in Dallas, TX, he serves as a worship leader at Trinity Church.