7 Mindsets Depleting Your Leadership Strength
The easy path in ministry doesn’t exist. The easy path in Christianity doesn’t exist.

7 Mindsets Depleting Your Leadership Strength

by Isaac Bennett
6/12/17 Training and Events

One of the main reasons that people quit youth ministry is because it gets difficult. Often it isn’t that the Lord is initiating an assignment change, we’ve simply gotten discouraged. Part of this is rooted in the honest reality that secretly we’re fickle people who really believe the grass is always greener somewhere else. It’s not. No matter where you go or what you do in ministry, you will find it difficult.

The easy path in ministry doesn’t exist. The easy path in Christianity doesn’t exist (John 16:33; Matthew 7:13–14; Luke 13:24; Romans 8:17–18). Let the Lord be the one to change your assignment. In addition, wrong expectations can set you up for discouragement, leading to the premature termination of an important work. Here are some mindsets that can adversely affect your leadership, leading to unnecessary turmoil.

1. Avoiding prayer meetings and a radical gospel message

As a minister of gospel, prayer and the Word of God are your bread and butter. Not only do they strengthen us personally with encouragement and zeal, but they are the tools that God has ordained to bring about the deepest change within the spheres of our influence. Give the ones who want to be fiery permission to be fiery. Don’t be afraid to call prayer meetings and invite the youth to seek God with you and your team. They don’t have to be mandatory. You might be surprised at who shows up. (for more see: “Stop Trying to Make the Gospel Relevant to Teenagers”)

2. Find your closest friendships within the youth group

I am all for contextual mission. Paul told believers to associate with the humble. Translation: care about things for the sake of others, things that do not interest you. To be frank, teen pop culture should not be interesting to a twenty-five-year old. As an adult leading younger people, fight to find peer friendships that meet the relational needs for where you are in life. In our closest friendships, there is a “give and receive” exchange that happens. A fourteen-year-old cannot hear the burdens and dreams of your life and adequately give you the advice and encouragement needed in relation to those things. Over time, this trend can create funky relational or emotional dynamics that you want to avoid. The last thing this generation needs are twenty-five-year-old peers. They need fathers.

For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. (1 Corinthians 4:15).

That said, don’t put yourself on a lofty mountain of mysticism and become overly critical of teen culture.

3. See youth ministry only as a training ground for ministry promotion

“I am just biding my time until promotion comes.”

This all too often becomes the driving motivation in staying with the youth ministry. If we see teen ministry only as a training ground for bigger and better things, we miss the here-and-now glory of partnering with Jesus in preparing His Bride. God’s people, like teenagers, are not to be viewed as training ground to promote us into the “real ministry.” Teenagers, like college students or adults, are the body of Christ. Getting a vision for their destiny can require some effort; not because it’s hard to find, but because it’s hard to see past ourselves. That is the real battle.

4. Allow teenagers to guide the course of the youth ministry

People are opinionated. Some are very vocal about those opinions. Often strong opinions can seem like inspired ideas simply because they’re present and frequent. This isn’t always true. Teens like to give their opinions often. You will have two to three that will tell you every week what is good and what is bad. Mostly, they’ll tell you what is bad. However, the leader needs to realize that they’re ultimately responsible for the course and content of the ministry. It falls upon them. If the pastor is displeased with the ministry and calls the youth leader to his office, the teens don’t come. Ministry often requires a marathon pace outlook. It’s difficult to have this outlook if we fall prey to weekly whims. I’m not saying to remove teenagers (or others) from voicing opinions, I’m saying to carefully weigh the multitude of opinions that you will encounter.

5. Self-evaluate your success by numbers attending

More numbers means more success, right? Growth can be indicative of health but isn’t necessarily the key determining factor. It’s easy to make numbers the only standard of success. I frequently hear,

“I’ve been leading youth ministry for four years but my group is only nine people.”

Here’s the lie: we often view smallness as insignificant therefore conclude success lies only in large numbers. Yet, think of how many “big things” exist that heaven actually views as insignificant and meaningless. Smallness does not mean unsuccessful in the eyes of the Lord. Jesus said that being a “good servant” requires faithfulness in the small things, not extraordinary numbers.

“His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’” (Matthew 25:21)

6. Self-evaluate your ministry fruit based on the spiritual depth of the teenagers you’re leading

You won’t see the fruit of your ministry for ten years. There, rest easy (and don’t quit). Talk to guys that have been youth ministry long enough and you’ll hear that you have to lead in it long enough to see the really good fruit. Stay with it and I promise you’ll get calls from the twenty-two-year old who might say,

“Thank you. You were right.”

Youth ministry is mostly about sowing in hiddenness, staying faithful, and speaking the truth in love for years. The flash-in-the-pan moments of excitement are few and far between. Get a vision for faithful sowing and long-term reaping.

7. Prematurely evaluate effectiveness

Often, we begin new initiates, messages, or directions and come to conclusions too quickly in regard to their effectiveness. Having your eye on who a teenager will be, rather than who they currently are, is key to maintaining a fruitful ministry. This is what makes the difference between being a spiritual father and being a teacher.

A father has the ability to see past deficiencies expressed through immature behavior and mindsets and to see greatness. The father is enabled to approach the child with a hopeful, tender heart because he’s seen the end from the beginning. The teacher only sees what is before them: brokenness, deficiency, and a mountain of need. We can come to premature conclusions about our own leadership calling if we only observe the moment. Avoid being driven by immediate results. Give it time.

One of the great keys to ministry success is having the right perspective.

Right thinking = right feeling = right living

So, find friends and mentors who will ask the difficult questions and reveal the real fears of your heart. Also, take time to pray and to ask the Lord to reveal to you your wrong ways of thinking. I’ve found that most of my ministry angst lies in unfulfilled expectation rooted in one of the mindsets above.

What about you?

Come and join us for our annual Fascinate conference as teens from across the nation gather to respond to the Lord’s call with times of prayer, worship, and biblical teaching July 26–28 in Kansas City.

Isaac Bennett


  • Lead Pastor, Forerunner Church

Isaac and his wife, Morgan, are full-time intercessory missionaries who serve at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri. They have five children. Isaac is the lead pastor at Forerunner Church and an instructor at the International House of Prayer University. The Bennetts’ heart is to see day-and-night prayer established across the earth and the next generation called into wholehearted love for Jesus.

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