Big and Small, You Need Them All (The Ministry of Jesus)


By Russ Polsgrove

Jesus preached often to crowds. Big crowds. Four to five thousand people, but also rooms packed full of spectators. We don’t have specific numbers, but I imagine there were places where 50 or so folks just watching him teach and perform miracles. He definitely drew a crowd.

He also had 12 disciples. We know about those disciples because they’re featured so prominently in the gospels; but real ministry took place as Jesus mentored those guys. They went on to have amazing ministry stories even after Jesus left them, but there’s no denying he had an impact with that small group.

Among the 12 he also had three. There are numerous stories where Jesus takes Peter, James, and/or John aside to pray, to give a lesson, or even to scold a bit for their arrogance. A tiny group of people Jesus poured into had tremendous impact.

Jesus was a master in every ministry environment, no matter the size. Big, medium, and small, he excelled in all.

What does this have to do with my youth ministry?

Depending on the role we play in our church, or our specific personality, we have a tendency to drift towards one “environmental size” group. Extroverts are often in front of bigger crowds, introverts thrive in small group settings or one on one. If we’re honest, we prioritize the one we like best. My first church had about 25 students, medium sized. My second church had over 250 students, and my current church dips into the single digits attendance at times. I’ve been in all size youth ministries, and at every church, I’m ashamed to admit I thought we were doing it the right way and other churches weren’t. But ALL these environmental sizes are important for spiritual development. The miracle of the 5000 is so powerful BECAUSE there were 5000 people. The disciples were influential because Jesus spent 3 years with just those twelve. Peter was the rock of the church because Jesus grabbed his hand when he was sinking, and had awkward conversations when Peter was wrong. The truth is, no size is better than the other. We need all three.

5000. 12. 3. They’re all important.

The key is finding ways for your ministry to excel in all environmental sizes. If your group is small, you need to find some sort of large group connection for your teenagers so they know they’re part of a bigger story, they’re not alone in their journey. If your youth ministry is 500 teenagers, you need to find ways for them to connect with someone 1 on 1. Because if they don’t, their growth will be stunted.

As we start a new youth ministry year, here’s some healthy questions to ponder.

  1. In what environmental size does our group excel?
  2. Conversely, in what environmental size does our group struggle? How can we work on that for effective ministry.

If you have a small youth group, is there a large gathering anywhere in your town where your teenagers can be with others like them and experience God? If you lead a large ministry, when was the last time you personally invested in one or two of your students? If you lead a youth ministry, chances are you’re probably always looking to improve the way you reach teenagers. Sometimes it’s as simple as a change in crowd size.