How do you define success? What makes you "successful"? For the last eight years my definition of success has been changing. When I first started in Youth Ministry I thought that success meant that there were 30+ kids coming to youth group on Wednesday nights, two houseboats full of kids during the summer and houses bursting at the seams for winter camp. At the time it was great. I felt successful. But as anyone in ministry knows, things change.
The 30+ kids aren't coming all at one time anymore. I've struggled through a couple of years of single digits with one of the groups. We haven't been able to fill two houseboats and the winter camps have been sparser. If I limited my definition of success to numbers, I would probably say that I was failing in ministry. Thank goodness God has been working on my definitions.
For me today success looks like three amazing students standing before a congregation sharing their hearts. Success comes through the sounds of a student writing, recording, producing and distributing his third CD (which I got to be a back-up singer on...dreams DO come true!). Success comes when students are excited to hang out at a church picnic, playing silly games and laughing alongside the young and older. Success comes with current and former students wanting you to come and play baseball in the park, no matter how slow you run or bad you throw or that you can't catch. Success is measured by the notes that cover my office door saying "Thanks". Success comes in the quiet moments when a student shares their story. Success comes in the form of hugs, smiles and laughter as well as pain, sorrow and grief.
It's easy in Youth Ministry to think that success comes with numbers, but really it's so much more and oh, so simple. Really, success comes when you hear a student say "I love Jesus and Jesus loves me". It doesn't get much better than that.