There is a tension most youth workers face in a smaller ministry setting: They want their group to be bigger! Ironically most youth workers in a large setting face a similar tension: They want to be (or at least feel) smaller! This week we’re hoping to help you think big when you’re small and think small when you’re big.

So if you are leading a smaller ministry, here are a few “big thinking” ideas that will help you where you’re at, and help pave the way for where you’re heading:

Think About Infrastructure
As you grow, how many volunteers will you need? Start recruiting volunteers now, so you are ready when growth happens. How will your follow up strategy need to evolve? Start tweaking it now! Do you have room to grow or will you need to ask to move your ministry to a larger broom closet? What will growth demand of your budget? These are just a few areas of infrastructure worth thinking about in bigger ways while you’re still smaller.

Think About Scalability
Look at virtually every aspect of your ministry and ask yourself if it’s scalable…in other words, can it handle a growth spurt? Pretend 10 new students joined your small groups—could your current system handle it? Thinking big means organizing in such a way that growth can be accommodated without completely upsetting the apple cart.

Think About Communication
More students, more problems! And one of the biggest problems larger youth groups have is in the area of communication. As your group grows, gone will be the good old days of calling every student once a week, or taking each volunteer out to lunch on a regular basis. You won’t be able to stop each parent in the church foyer to touch base.

The good news is we minister in an era that has seemingly unlimited tools and technology to meet our communication needs. Start experimenting now, so you are ready when growth arrives.

So when you’re small, think big! Prepare now for the students that God will trust you with in the future. Get ready…here they come!

P.S. Big youth groups are over-rated. Trust us on this one.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

A youth worker sent me an email with a question about preparing for growth in their ministry as they were seeing larger classes in their children’s ministry heading their way – it looks like their ministry is on a path to double soon. Here’s part of how I replied to him, thought it may be helpful to you as well:

Infrastructure is absolutely key. I would definitely start building a team of leaders with all your energy. You might be tempted to think adding more programs but I think people and systems are the best choice.

Adding a position
Getting another staff person, even part-time, is a crap shoot. Flirt with it in your mind, but in my experience that is usually where it stays. Typically leadership waits to see results and staffs late, or staffs intentionall what is hurting instead of what is building. Ironic, but want to be real with you so you don’t get your hopes up. I do think it is time to ask for help before it is too late. And either way, start pouring in to your leaders and building a team of people, paid or not.

Core Leaders
Start a core team of people who are totally on board with the vision of your ministry and love and follow you. These are the people you’ll do life with and know the best. You need to trust them. They will trust you. You need to eat together, laugh together and develop some inside jokes and memories as soon as possible.

More Leaders
Next, I’d work on developing as many additional leaders as I could. Get your small groups/life groups super small next year, so they can scale and grow with more students as they start entering the ministry. If each group has 4 students, you could easily give them 6 the next year and 8 the year after. So make them all super small right now and get the rookies some experience and get ready with an infrastructure for growth.

This is where you can prepare for growth as well – make sure that all of your systems are ready to scale as well.  Take a look at your communications tools, your curriculum, your web presence, your parent ministry – all of these systems need to be able to scale up to double/triple their size. If not, you need to ditch the tool now before it dies under the strain of growth. Take care of these things now and adding students is a breeze.Wait and it will crush you and slow your momentum to a crawl.

Other random stuff/links to consider: