Danny Bowers

In youth ministry, we often talk about a healthy and growing ministry. And while numbers alone don’t always reflect the health, direction, or growth of a ministry, if that ministry isn’t growing in relationships with students, parents, volunteers, ministry opportunities, there may be something hindering what God could be doing.

One tool I have found to help grow a ministry is this simple acronym called, well, what else, G.R.O.W.


You want to be able set goals for yourself, your staff, volunteers, and student leaders. You want to have something that your ministry is working towards. It could be the amount of students your volunteers really connect with, the quality of your student ministry gatherings, the amount of time you spend with students each week, how often you encourage your student leaders—the sky is the limit. But when we set goals we need to know that they are attainable. If you live in a city of 4,000 and you want to see 5,000 students show up for Sunday school . . .well the odds are against you. For me, my goals are to help me communicate the purposes, how they balance out in certain areas, and continue to share the passion of our student ministry to leaders and students. These are things that can help flourish the life and health of our ministry. This also helps me communicate to my supervisors how our student ministry is fitting in with the overall direction of the church.

R – Reality

This is the gut check after you set goals. If one of your goals is that volunteers connect with three students each week, then you have to know where you are starting. If your volunteers are not even connecting with one student, then that is your reality. For my leadership, the reality of where things are helps me know how I need to communicate my goals to the audience they need to be directed to. Sometimes the reality check can be encouraging, frustrating, or scary but remember—it just gives you a place to start, not a finish. It also helps you know what training is needed in your leadership.

O – Opportunities/Options

This is your brainstorming attack session. How are the goals going to stimulate your reality of where things are to move forward? This is where I love working with a team. It allows us all to know where we are at and where we are going. But how do we get there is up in the air. I love allowing “sky is the limit” type thinking because of the amount of excitement that can create and help you move forward. You have to look at what type of means or people do you currently have in place to help reach your goals. Sometimes your options may seem inadequate or non-existent, so maybe you get to create your own options. You may not be the creative/designer type but someone on your team probably has those skills. Have fun with this. But remember, we do the possible, God takes care of the impossible. I believe that when goals are honoring to God, opportunities are enjoyable to tackle and we see God provide. For me this area has to start, end, and with every aspect in between, be covered in prayer.

W – What’s Next

This is the part of ministry where many of us can get stuck. This is the part of the process where we put our thoughts to the future. As we set goals for a healthy student ministry and begin to push forward to reach these goals, we have to be in the process of thinking of where we are ultimately going? What do we need to prepare ourselves for next? This part of the strategy helps us as leaders and others around us embrace what we are doing and continue to push ourselves to keep health and life in our student ministries. It is about active thinking, never settling for being dormant.

Here is a quick example of one way this tool can be used:

When we first set out to initiate small groups in our student ministry, we set a goal of two small groups available for students. The reality was we didn’t have a single small group or leader. Our options were a set of five possible leaders and we chose the two who were the best for the time/season of our ministry. We also trained the other possible leaders, so in six months we could double our efforts. We went from two small groups to four small groups with great leaders and healthy environments.

There are many times when we have to become flexible and make adjustments along the way. There is no steadfast rule that once a goal is set it is set in stone. There is nothing that says you will always have options at your disposable. Sometimes certain goals you set could be great goals, but the wrong time in your ministry to try and make them work.

Working through this process with a team is highly encouraged and I believe the ministry will benefit. I also believe that as a leader, you may not be wired to facilitate all of these steps—maybe there is a ministry-minded friend or teammate who could help you process these steps. Regardless of the challenges, if we are dependent on Christ to see us through each step of this process, I believe we are working towards creating healthier settings for our student ministries. Hopefully this tool can help you as much as it has helped me!