Written by Jesse Criss and Edited by Michelle Murray-Schlitt
Back in my early days of Youth Ministry (around 03/04) I experienced my very first ZERO… as in ZERO kids came to Youth Group one week. I had planned an event, bought supplies, advertised to my kids and no one came. Admittedly I had only 20 kids in my group at the time but that made it almost worse because every kid could be tracked down and accounted for. Between a wedding, sickness, school work, being grounded and “my friends not coming so I’m not coming” every single student was accounted for.
Here’s the problem, it didn’t matter. See pulling a ZERO became an entry point for the enemy to get into my heart and mind. I immediately felt like it was my fault, that I had done something wrong. Then that switched to the feelings of worthlessness and failure, and that was followed by a fear that I would lose my job as a Pastor. I had spent precious money and resources on an event that NO ONE CAME TO. My mind and my heart were working overtime to convince me that I was a failure.
Then it happened again…
Those two ZERO nights changed my ministry, but not in the way that you think. See the enemy saw an opportunity to plant a seed of doubt, but Jesus was on weed pulling duty in my life. I questioned everything and I was sure my career would be over before it even ever really began. But God had a different plan from my ZERO and He has a different plan for yours as well.
God used pulling a ZERO to teach me the most important rule in Youth Ministry,
“YOUTH MINISTRY IS NOT ABOUT ME”
See we have this tendency to think Youth Ministry is about us the Leader/Pastor. That the success of our Youth Ministries ride on how well we do, how good our sermon is or how epic and amazing our events are. Now don’t get me wrong we have a role to play, that’s why God has given us a calling to serve. But the whole thing doesn’t hedge on me.
In one of the most iconic sayings of Jesus we clearly see how salvation happens and it CLEARLY doesn’t say my name, your name or that “epic crazy off the top event you did last week.”
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. John 3:16-18 (ESV)
See pulling a ZERO taught me that, “I don’t save people”. Heck I would go as far as saying my ministry doesn’t save people either. God uses me, gives me opportunities to speak into the lives of students… but I don’t save. That role clearly belongs to Jesus and if I’m honest I like it that way better. It frees me from the guilt and burden of not being enough because I could never be enough to save someone. But the enemy likes to make us think that we can, that we can save people on our own strength. It’s 100% a lie and why I pray every single Youth Pastor pulls a ZERO because it’s the fastest way for you to learn it’s not about you.
The best part is that when you realize that it’s not on you, a world of opportunity becomes open to you because that’s when you realize that being a Youth Pastor doesn’t save you either, only Jesus can do that… but that’s another story for next time