In the world of youth ministry, we often find ourselves balancing between what seems spectacular on the surface and what truly fosters long-term spiritual growth in our students. It’s a delicate dance—one that involves reevaluating our strategies, being willing to shift gears, and prioritizing substance over spectacle.

Recently, we made a decision that might seem counterintuitive to some. We chose to cancel one of our biggest events, an event that seemed impressive, drew large crowds, and generated significant buzz. Yet, upon closer examination, we realized that the expected fruit, the lasting impact we envisioned, wasn’t materializing as we hoped.

Why did we choose to take this step? The answer lies in our deep commitment to discipleship.

As leaders in youth ministry, our ultimate goal is to nurture and equip young hearts to become lifelong disciples of Christ. While flashy events may draw attention, our core mission is to instill a genuine, lasting faith in our students—one that extends beyond momentary excitement and into a lifelong journey with Jesus.

Our decision to cancel the event isn’t a step backward; it’s a leap forward in our approach to discipleship. We’re making a deliberate shift toward a more intentional and impactful strategy: focusing on making disciples who make disciples.

Enter “Catalyst groups.” This 10-week strategy isn’t about grandiosity or outward showmanship. Instead, it’s about the heart transformation and equipping students to actively engage in the Great Commission—to go and make disciples of their peers.

The essence of these Catalyst groups lies in fostering deep, meaningful relationships among students. It’s about creating spaces where discipleship isn’t a one-time event but a continuous journey. Here, students learn to walk alongside one another, to wrestle with questions, to explore faith, and to ultimately share the love of Christ with their peers.

Our church has already implemented this approach with our core leaders, and we’re extending an invitation to our core students to engage in this curriculum, led by their youth leads. The curriculum is designed to equip them with the skills to ‘go and make disciples’ themselves covering the vision of disciple making, characteristics of a disciple maker, evangelizing, establishing relationships, equipping them how to share, exporting it into our lives and helping them make a plan and empowering them to take it to their friends. 

After completing this training (ideally in groups of 3-8 at each campus), we’ll provide three tangible and achievable next steps to support their efforts in doing just that. Currently, I have two steps finalized and am still refining the third: 1) Serve kids if you’re not already engaged in service. Take on leadership of a younger group and mentor them. 2) Initiate a Bible study before/after school/practice with friends who aren’t involved in church. And 3) To be announced.

These steps aim to empower students to embrace evangelism and discipleship personally, allowing them to take practical steps toward implementation.

While the decision to cancel a significant event may raise eyebrows, we firmly believe that the impact of empowering students to disciple their peers is immeasurable. It’s about equipping them with the tools, resources, and most importantly, the heart to genuinely reach out and share the Gospel within their spheres of influence.

We understand that this shift might not be as visually striking or immediately impressive as a big event. However, the true value lies in the lasting change it can bring about in the lives of our students and their peers.

As we embark on this new journey of prioritizing discipleship, we anticipate challenges. It won’t be a straightforward path, and the results might not be immediately apparent. But we’re willing to embrace this challenge, knowing that the investment in nurturing disciples who actively disciple others is worth far more than a momentary spectacle.

The decision to cancel a major event isn’t a setback—it’s a strategic move toward building a youth ministry centered on the core principles of discipleship. It’s a commitment to investing in the future, nurturing young leaders, and empowering them to impact their generation for Christ.