Grace, Numbers, and Value

This year, many youth positions will open up across the nation. Many of those positions will be filled with very similar people. Why does student ministry have such a rate of attrition?

If you are in student ministry, you probably have an idea why there are so many transitions. The number one reason for dissatisfaction in a minister is the number of people affected by their ministry. If the number of people attending goes down, then the magnifying glass comes out.

I was once told by a pastor, “I know we talk a lot about grace, but when it comes to your job, it’s performance.” I was stunned. Why is it that grace is a major tenet of the church and Christianity in itself, but not a practice among the leadership of the church?

I learned something about grace and measuring performance that day. Grace is something that can’t be measured and can’t be contained. Performance is something that is always measured and acts as a ceiling on our self-worth. The astonishing things is that the church hasn’t figured this out. Grace is something that is freely given to people who accept it. It doesn’t increase your self worth, and it doesn’t make anyone arrogant.  Performance, on the other hand, is what you use to measure yourself and gain self worth. It is demanding, giving you equal measures of self-contempt when you aren’t fulfilling expectations and contempt for others when you are exceeding expectations.  Most importantly, performance in ministry is the opposite of the kingdom.

The Bible is clear about what you can do and what He does. The things that happen in ministry – people being drawn to God, transformed lives, etc. – are not things that you can do. Those are in God’s power alone. Measuring those things for self-worth is pointless, since they are not things that are possible for us. In fact, you could make a case for measuring those things being blasphemy, since to take credit for them, you would be sinning against God.

That’s why you need grace. It doesn’t make you responsible for the outcomes, but it sure has an impact on what you have to live with going forward. Grace frees us from needing to prove ourselves daily. It is the opposite of self-worth.  Instead of showing you how much you mean to yourself and your peers, it shows you how much you mean to God.

Paul Martin currently serves as Youth Minister at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Birmingham, AL, and is the author of Like a Fire.

Paul Martin is a pastor, writer, musician and designer living in Charlotte, N.C. A writer for various youth ministry publications and author of "Masterpiece The Art of Disciplining Youth," Paul helps youth workers and teenagers find their identity in Christ through discipleship. Follow him @PaulMartinYP and Instagram: therealmumcy

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