I’ve been asked, by several people, what it takes to grow and continue to sustain an effective youth ministry. Granted, each youth ministry is different, as is each youth pastor. So the youth ministries may take different strategies for growth. But, within my experience, these are the 5 areas that I believe cause effective growth within a youth ministry.
First and foremost, if your youth ministry isn’t consistent on a week to week basis, it will not grow. The students need to know, each and every single week, that they are going to be at a specific place, at a specific time, for a specific purpose. If it becomes a hit and miss trajectory, then they will either stop going to youth, or find somewhere else to go.
Also, your youth ministry needs to be consistent with it’s purpose. Having a game night every once in a while, in my opinion, is fun and shakes things up. For example, whenever it’s exam week, we may not go as intense on the Bible study and provide an atmosphere where the students can escape from the stress within that week. It may involve games, food, maybe even a movie. However, your week to week youth ministry needs to be consistent with it’s purpose. Why are you meeting? Is it for discipleship? Make sure it’s consistent so that they know what to expect when coming.
The average tenure for a youth pastor, nowadays, is 18 months. That is not long enough to build relationships and surely isn’t long enough to see any kind of growth. You, as the youth pastor or youth leader, need to be committed! Volunteer youth leaders are the greatest in the world! I highly admire those that work full time jobs outside the Church and make time and commitment to be at the Church to see a youth ministry grow! Way to go! But make sure to stay committed and consistent! You can’t gain the reputation within your Church where the students and parents will be asking if you’re having youth that week. It shouldn’t even be a question!
Be connected! Be connected to the Pastor. Make sure your vision for the youth ministry is lining up with his vision for the Church. You serve your pastor, honor your pastor, respect your pastor! If you have their back, they’ll have yours.
Be connected to the parents. Make sure they are remaining aware as to what is going on within the youth ministry. Do not leave them blindsided! Many ways you can do that: weekly newsletters, Facebook updates (because that’s where the parents are), text messages!
Be connected to the students. Not just at Church, but even at their school campuses! If you are not plugged in to their school campuses, you are missing out on the greatest mission opportunity! You can be present where they are! There are ways in! Be sure to respect the school systems and don’t go over your boundaries within that, but do take advantage of it. I’ll write more about that later.
Be connected to God! BIG POINT! If you are not, daily, living a life of prayer and personal Bible Study, you are going to stress out. We need to remain connected to God. We need to make sure we are pouring into His Word and into Prayer. How do you expect to teach your students when you aren’t learning? How do you expect to pour out God’s Word when you aren’t even overflowing with it? Make sure this is a time in which you aren’t preparing for Bible Study, but is a time in which you are preparing your heart for ministry.
Care for your students! Be there for them! Do life with them! Let them know you care and that you are present! Don’t just go to their ball games, be a part when they get their license, and when they graduate high school, or even middle school! Text them on their birthdays (they don’t read mail anymore), and make sure you make yourself available when they really need to talk because there will be those times.
Care for your family! Do not neglect them as you continue in ministry! Make sure you are dating your spouse. Make sure you are not overworking yourself to where you aren’t neglecting time with your kids. My son is about to turn 17 months old and it seems like yesterday my wife just told me she was expecting! You can always replace your Church but you can’t replace your family.
Care for yourself! Exercise, eat right, feed your mind with God’s Word and other books because a leader is a reader! Trust me! I’m a little overweight, and I know at times it can get real busy. I find myself on the road a lot traveling to different schools and networking with other youth pastors and pastors to the point that I tend to eat out a lot! It takes away your energy… Make sure you are caring for yourself.
Lastly, what is your youth ministry centered around? Ever heard the old saying, “What you win them with is what you win them to”? That is so true! If your youth ministry is centered around games, then that’s why they are coming! Is it centered around food? What about the Gospel? I didn’t truly see growth in my youth ministry until I made it Gospel-Centered. They want meat. They want truth. They want to know why they should believe what we teach them. They want to know God’s Word! Trust me! They do!
There may be other things that help to grow an effective ministry, but these are the ones that I’ve learned over the past 8 years of youth ministry that have truly helped. Remember, we aren’t here to grow numbers, we are here to grow the students. I’d rather have a youth group of 10 Bible believing, completely sold out, eager studying teenagers, than 100 in a large facility with a massive budget that don’t care about God’s Word. Be encouraged!