Larry loved teenagers. Everyone thought he was the perfect pick as the church’s youth minister.

But he bombed.

What happened? I remember when he came to town. He soon gathered a group of kids who connected with his personality. He spent lots of time with them, planned a full schedule of youth ministry events, and loved delivering his weekly youth talks.

He worked long hours, and had little time left for other staff or friends his own age. In fact he rarely talked with other adults. He grew to despise the kids’ parents. “They’re the problem,” he often muttered under his breath.

Eventually the youth group stopped growing. Larry couldn’t effectively minister to many more. He was tapped out. And burned out.

One day he got a call from another church looking for a youth pastor. Feeling underappreciated in his current role, he quickly accepted the new job and left town.

And the youth ministry he left behind collapsed. Overnight.

Sadly, Larry’s story is not unusual. He went into youth ministry because he loved kids and loved the Lord. He loved spending time with kids. He thought that was his job. But that’s what killed his ministry.

Larry failed to grasp his true role. As the main leader of youth ministry at his church, his real priority needed to be the selection, training and encouraging of other adults to work with the youth group. He needed to develop a team.

A team of volunteer leaders and mentors allows a ministry to multiply. And the diversity of volunteers provides kids with different personalities and temperaments with whom to relate. No one adult can effectively connect with all kinds of kids.

Prioritizing team development applies not only to youth ministers, but to all main leaders.

Jesus set the example. He didn’t attempt to build a ministry alone. He selected, trained and encouraged a dozen others to do ministry. He spent most of his time with them.

And the lasting success of his ministry was shown when he physically left. The ministry didn’t collapse. It multiplied—through an inspired team that stretches to this very day.