We have updated our Privacy Policy to provide you a better online experience.

Jeanne Mayo: Big Name in Youth Ministry Credits the Little Things

Jeanne Mayo is one of the most recognized names in youth and young adult ministry. Yet even though her achievements are considered impressive on any scale, she credits her success to small, everyday things that transform lives.

It's the big things that might get a person noticed.

It's the little things that make a difference.

Youth and young adult leader and leadership mentor Jeanne Mayo has few peers. Having invested in youth and young adult ministry groups and leaders for more than 45 years, her name has become synonymous with words such as unparalleled, extraordinary, and outstanding. 

It's not difficult to see why. Having repeatedly transformed small, ineffective youth groups into groups of hundreds, even thousands of kids who are passionate about sharing Christ with their friends, her success seems to know no bounds. Her speaking engagements are countless, her accomplishments are well documented, and her skills unquestioned.

Yet, Mayo, an AG licensed minister, explains that "big" success wasn't generated by "big" things.

"One of my favorite quotes comes from Mother Teresa," Mayo says. "'We can do no great things, only small things with great love.' What that means to me is small, everyday kindnesses often create big dividends."

Mayo says she's concerned that many youth leaders minimize the importance of everyday kindnesses as they devote themselves to searching for and putting on "big events" that they hope will transform countless lives. 

"Youth ministry certainly has platform moments," Mayo says, "but when it comes to making an eternal impact on people, it's far more the small personal moments, the kindnesses, that change lives."

Mayo says that all through her ministry with kids, she attended countless sporting games. "I was very busy, but I would show up in the fourth quarter of their games, cheer them on, and then wait for them after the game to tell them, whether they won or lost, something they did right that game." 

As small as showing up and saying a few encouraging words may sound, Mayo says that she can think of names of people all over the world who are following Christ because that small act of kindness had such huge and lasting repercussions.

Mayo sites another "small thing" that resulted in huge dividends. Letter writing.

"I can't tell you how many times a guy has stumbled into my office, upset, because he's done something or said something  - been an idiot - and his girlfriend has broken up with him," Mayo says, adding with a laugh, a favorite quote - puppy love leads to a dog's life. "I have penned many apology letters, had them rewrite them in their own words, and handed them $10 to go buy some roses for the girl to try to restore the relationship."

(Mayo is quick to point out that these letters weren't for making up for some kind of sexual advance or physical assault, but for normal relational challenges that are typical among teenagers.)

"So many people in youth ministry see a young person's romantic challenges as pretty non-consequential," Mayo says. "But they are huge pivot points in a teenager's or college student's life." 

Yet "small" decisions don't just make exponential impact on others' lives; Mayo says they have made huge differences in her own life as well. 

She believes that a simple act she did as a high school senior may have opened doors from heaven's perspective for her entire future ministry. Every Saturday night she would secretly clean her church's youth area's bathrooms so instead of emitting odors, they would smell fresh and clean on Sundays.

"I often wonder if that small personal decision caught the Lord's eye and made Him think I could be trustworthy in ministry," Mayo says. "It was small, nobody knew, but I secretly wonder if my behind-the-scenes servanthood caught the Lord's eye more than other things."  

"Jeanne Mayo has been a consistent voice for 45 years in youth and young adult ministry," says Heath Adamson, senior director of AG Youth Ministries. "Her track record speaks for itself. More importantly, her relationship with Jesus is one worth emulating"

A second small thing that has changed Mayo's life? A consistent, personal time with the Lord.

"Everybody talks about that language, but as I live up close and watch people, I'm not so sure if that's a priority in many individual's lives these days," she says. "My goal is to consistently spend some time in the Word, in prayer, and connecting with Him at least five out of seven days . . . 98 percent of being a good Christian leader is being a good Christian."

Yet as small and obvious as spending time with Jesus may seem, Mayo says that every time she's been called in to counsel a minister who has had a moral failure, there's been one glaring constant: "I have never met one of them, who threw away their ministry, who had a relatively consistent quiet time - none of them," Mayo says.

Mayo, who is hosting Anthem, her seventh triennial (every three years) National Youth Leaders' Conference (NYLC), to be held March 23-25, 2015, in Dallas, says her decades of experience have helped her in creating a conference with unique leadership DNA.  Each one has been attended by is literally attended by thousands of youth leaders.

"NYLC truly is the premier youth ministry conference," Adamson states. "The speakers, ethos, and culture are world class. I encourage everyone to hop on a plane, pack a vehicle, and go on a leadership pilgrimage to NYLC. See you there!"

Partnering with My Healthy Church (AG) and the AG's national Youth Ministries , Mayo says this conference offers both the pragmatic "how-tos" of ministry coupled with the spiritual encouragement and enrichment desperately needed by so many leaders.

"I know of no other youth leaders' conference that offers a strategic focus on both these vital arenas," she says, explaining how the conference's evening services are like a youth retreat for youth leaders.

"We have a second band, Desperation Band, playing the evening services," Mayo says. "They continue to play as long as several people are praying at the altar. This creates those moments of lingering with the Lord, where you and Jesus can do business, align things in your heart - an altar time for youth leaders themselves, which is almost non-existent in the 24/7 life of typical youth leaders."

In reflecting on her decades of ministry, Mayo says that what makes the difference in ministry is one small word: love. 

"But love is not something you always feel," Mayo warns. "Love is, forever and always, something you do. Our society often wants to feel prompted to do actions of love. If you have to feel loving to be loving, hell will never be very nervous of you."

Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.