There are a few things I regret as I look back on my years as a youth pastor. I think all ministers have regrets. If you don’t have regrets then you aren’t taking enough risks, but that is a whole different post.
One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t do more when I had less. I wish I had done more when my ministry was just 10 people to build strong relationships with those 10 people than worry about growing that 10 to 30 or 40. I miss those early days now. I miss being able to have meaningful personal contact with each member on a regular basis. I miss being able to take a trip in one van and get a chance to know all of them on a deeper level. I miss youth meetings where we could have discussion.
I also missed some opportunities then to really impact students. At the time I was very busy designing web sites and trying to come up with marketing plans and events that would reach more people. I wish now that I had forgotten about all of those things and spent more time investing my life with the people that I had.
Because that is what I want more than anything right now, more time to just hang out with, and mentor through daily interaction these wonderful youth that God has let be a part of my life. Our group right now is splintered into 2 very distinct cliques. There really isn’t animosity between the two groups, they just never interact. So I find myself bouncing between these groups to try and build relationships. I am also trying to bridge relationships between the two groups, but with teenagers that is akin to trying to raise the dead—it can be done, but God has to do it.
I never realized in those early days how much I would long for the time when I could invite the whole youth group over to my house to play games. I never knew that I would miss being able to call everyone every week. There are some really remarkable things about having a larger group and since there are still at least 500 students in Eufaula that aren’t involved in church I see the need to grow even larger, but I can’t help think that I missed out on something remarkable back in those early days.
So this is my advice to youth pastors who are still in those small days, don’t long for the larger groups. Cherish what you have and pour your life into your small group. The life change that God can bring through those youth will be exponentially larger than anything you can do on your own.