The Numbers Game - What's Your Ministry Motivation?

I'll never forget the Wednesday night God smacked me so hard upside the head that I could hardly sleep after service was over. 

I was a youth pastor in West Texas at a church of about 500. When I had taken the job, the youth ministry consisted of about 12 consistent students. To make a long story short, the ministry surged with growth in the first 6 months to over 100. Not only were kids showing up, students were praying over each other, leading their friends to the Lord and starting prayer groups in their schools. It was remarkable. 

About a year and a half in, we were running close to 200 students every Wednesday night. However, this one night, our numbers were WAY down. I looked out, 1 minute before the countdown was over and saw the half-empty room.

My heart sunk. 

Can I be honest with you? I didn't give it my all that night. I preached with half the passion, half the expectation and half the effort. I carried myself with frustration covering my countenance all night and went home discouraged after the service was over. 

I'll never forget what God spoke to me. He said, "Why are you so upset? Why did you only serve half-heartedly tonight?" 

I tried to find the most spiritual response possible and said, "I'm frustrated with the fact that our room was only half full tonight - so many are going to hell and we can't even fill the room?"

Here's a quick tip: don't lie to God. He sees through all of our crap. 

He spoke so clearly to me - gently but firmly. He said, "Jared, it's not about that. When you have a full room, you feel it validate your gift. They must be coming and inviting because you're awesome. However, when the room is half-empty, you take it as personal rejection and feel like your gift is owed more - you're too good to only have half a room filled. It's all about you." 

Ouch.

If we were to be honest with ourselves, it can be easy to find validation in how many students show up to hear us preach. But I wonder if we are doing ministry with the right motivation. 

Here's my question to youth pastors today: what's your motivation to fill the room? Is it really for souls or is it because the number of seats filled is directly related to your sense of significance? Will you give more when you have more? Or will you steward what God has put into your hands today? 

While praying for you today, this is what God burdened me with:

May we do ministry with eternal perspective - not for temporal significance. 

 

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-Jared Ellis