We’ve all given that one message that got great reviews. Students were complimentary. They even laughed at your jokes – and those laughs weren’t even courtesy laughs. They said they liked it, so that means you did something right, doesn’t it?

Maybe not.

Your goal is a lot bigger than merely giving a message that people like. Your goal is to usher people toward Jesus.

I’ve heard a lot of incredible speakers and can remember a lot of their funny stories, but sometimes, the greater point they made about Jesus was lost in their ability to be entertaining. That means there’s a massive difference between being effective and merely being impressive. How can you make sure you’re doing the one and not the other?

Analyze your motives. If your goal is accolades, you’ll write messages that are designed to bring accolades. If that’s you, it might be time to ask God to break you down a little bit (that’s one prayer where I’ve found God is almost always faithful).

Provide students with a talking point. If you don’t prompt students with an idea, they’ll have nothing to say to you except, “Good message today!” Instead, leave them with a question to wrestle with. Then when you see them later, ask them how that wrestling is going. Make the conversation about their response and God’s call instead of your message

Identify the memorable moments of your program. A few years ago, our media team put together an absolutely incredible announcement video. It was hilarious and it was all anyone was talking about after the service. What got lost in that? Anything that had to do with Jesus.

Make Jesus the star. If the most memorable parts of your program don’t point directly to Jesus, rebuild your program. If your hilarious story doesn’t remind students of Jesus, frame the story differently or let it go altogether.

What do you think? Is it more important to be impressive or effective?

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations – things like effective communication. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.

I have been in a student ministry paid staff position for three years, nearly to the day (another three years of volunteer ministry before that). I am, well actually my family and I are in a place of transition, I just resigned from my position as Youth Pastor at our church yesterday. We will be presented to another church in view of a call in a couple of weeks, and although we are not assuming this church will call us, we truly believe this is where God is leading us. That said we felt our time at our present church is coming to a close, and regardless of the outcome of the vote we have decided that it’s time to step down. All this has got me thinking about how to gauge our effectiveness in the three years we have spent here. How effective has our ministry been? Has it been a huge success or a monumental failure? If I’m being completely honest, it’s been keeping me up at night. A conversation with a mentor in ministry has helped to put my mind at ease, so I share with you what he shared with me hoping it will keep you from long nights staring at the ceiling.

“Your going to be miserable in ministry until you get over this. Eventually, it may drive you out of ministry. You will always have naysayers, you will always be criticized by some. Here is how you need to evaluate yourself. Have you acted on principle? Have you acted in agreement with Scripture? You have worked harder for this church than any two people, and that’s all you can do. While we absolutely should consider people’s thoughts and opinions, do so understanding you will never be everything to everyone. Do your best, do what God calls you to do, and love people. When you evaluate yourself and your ministry, if you’ve done these things, then you have been successful.”

Ministry is tough, and for those of us called to either vocational or volunteer service the critics can sometimes be harsh. Regardless, I have finally been put at ease by this wisdom shared to me, and now to you. It’s the kind of thing we as pastors tell everyone else. It’s the kind of thing that when we hear someone share it with others we think to ourselves, “Yep. I would tell them the same thing.” But having it said to me instead of coming from me has been powerful. Maybe it can help you too.

Stephen Trainer is a husband, father, school teacher, youth pastor, dog owner and technology geek. What else could you want? Find out more at his blog: www.delightedtoshare.com