Hey, Ryan here.
Over my life I have been asked a lot “How do I grow my youth ministry? I can’t seem to get people to come”. They are either a youth pastor, or have a ministry that reaches kids for Christ and struggle to bring people in.
God has given me some wisdom on how to help build community as I have been doing it all my life. I am here to simplify everything for you so you can reach more kids and bring them closer to God.
This is a life skill that applies to any community related in your life. You can even teach this to your friends, family, and church! We are not meant to do life alone and God entrusts us to build up the church.
You do not need a budget. You do not have to be highly gifted in persuasion. It may be different than what you think.
Anyone can do this. All you have to do is be intentional.
“What you are doing is not good.”
As you are praying and seeking Godly wisdom of how you can reach the youth, I’d like to reference some scripture that will help prevent you from burning out and do more than you can imagine.
In Exodus 18 Jethro, Moses’s father in law, is interested in what Moses has been doing and he gives Moses fruitful advice that I believe we all need to hear.
Before I go any further, I highly recommend you read this chapter for anyone in a leadership position or you are helping grow other leaders (like we will speak about later).
Jethro saw that Moses had people coming to him to inquire about God and he would help them morning thru night.
In Exodus 18:17-18 Jethro said “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.”
In verse 21 Jethro says to find able men from all the people, who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.”
Take a moment and sear this into your mind and if you ever get tired in the ministry remind yourself to read this chapter.
This will be the key to growing your ministry.
Find Your Chiefs
Ministry will become lighter for you to walk knowing you have the support you need to meet the need.
When Jethro said to find chiefs of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, he understood that people can take on different responsibilities and Moses had to trust them to do their job. He would have the harder cases brought to him. This way, more people will get served and everything doesn’t fall on Moses.
Okay, so how do you find your chiefs and what do you do with them?
You can divide this into three groups and list all individuals within them: Volunteers, parents, and children. Your responsibility is to intentional and empower them in their gifting.
If you aren’t close with them, invest time in getting acquainted, or encourage someone else to establish a connection with them – in other words, fostering community and building relationships!
Then you ask them to be part of what is going on and to serve.
As you establish your team, now it is time to share what is happening with the ministry!
You must be intentional about community and sharing the community of God with others. As you continually do so, it will become natural for you and everyone to invite people and it will become a cultural thing which is what you want.
Everyone will have different comfort points when inviting people to your ministry and you must see what levels they can be responsible for.
Most people don’t invite people to church due to fear of what the other person may think. If this is the case, have them start small.
I like to encourage people starting small and them getting comfortable with sharing they are a Christian without any sort of invite or deeper conversation. As their confidence builds, they can have deeper conversations or invite people.
You can invite people whether they are in person, or via text, or by social media. Sometimes the youth may be afraid to do it in person, but would be open to sending a DM, FB event, or sms message.
You can help them by creating social media graphics on the event or a flyer to share with parents. Make sure you are intentional with asking them to share it.
Imagine if you have a culture in your ministry where this is normal. You will grow their faith tremendously and the ministry will lift off!
If everyone were to invite 5 people over the next year, and even 1 of the 5 shows up, your ministry would double. It only grows exponentially from there.
Next you want them to stay and keep coming back!
Young people seek close connections and a sense of belonging. The most effective way is to establish a rapport with them and gain insights into who they are at their core.
Identify those among the youth who excel at forging friendships and facilitating connections.
Encourage these extroverted students to reach out to their more introverted students. Have them learn about their hobbies and interests, and after introduce them to fellow students who share similar interests or personalities.
This approach rapidly fosters a sense of community, as it becomes reality to them that they are not alone.
Foundations of Faith
Many students won’t understand their faith as it may be something that their family made them do or another student invited them there. They might be well seasoned or brand new.
No matter what, we must teach them in an easy and relevant way.
It is crucial to teach them who Jesus is and why He came and how it is relevant to the students’ own identity. This is where your regular meetings will teach this so I won’t go into that, but I do want to emphasize their identity.
As students discover who God created them to be, they will walk differently, think differently, and talk differently.
One more thing to add is that students have questions. Deep questions. Your calling is to answer these questions in a way that they will understand.
I recommend learning apologetics enough to answer these questions. The reason why is because there are so many worldviews and it can be confusing as an adult let alone a student! How are they supposed to know if we don’t teach them?
How are they going to be confident in putting their trust in Christ if we can’t answer the questions out there?
The good news is, all of the hard questions have been answered so even if you, your staff, or volunteers do not know, look into apologetics questions and you will find the answer! Then you bring it to the students’ level of understanding!
Pair Them To Mentors & More
As you disciple these students, and they have a place to meet with your ministry, they make friends in your community. The next thing is to equip them with their small group.
A good way of looking at this is you want each student to have a Paul (a mentor or teacher they can go to), a Barnabas (someone at their level of understanding and walking together in faith), and Timothy (someone they are teaching).
A Paul is typically going to be the youth pastor where they can be guided in a safe environment and help them grow. As you pour into your youth pastors, that will trickle down to the students. As you find your chiefs (Pauls) to reach more students, it will be better than any one individual can handle (see Moses story above).
A Barnabas is a friend at your ministry that the student is close with or can grow closer with. They are usually going thru similar life situations and can relate at a deeper level. You could group 12th graders together and they would be better Barnabas’s than pairing them up with freshmen!
A Timothy may be a sibling or friend at school. It could be a senior paired up with a freshman!
As your community grows, you and your team will be able to connect everyone together. It helps to have them all go through similar teachings so you can be on the same page but allow the groups to take their own paths to experience God moving in their specific needs.
Make It Fun & Interesting
To make a youth ministry fun and interesting, mix things up with exciting outings that let them explore their faith in a hands-on way. Have engaging discussions, open chats, and creative activities.
You can use modern tech and interactive learning. Find programs or games that allow them to learn and have fun! We have a free life skills program that youth groups (or parents and their kids) that teaches them the top 10 most critical life skills to live a successful life. It is biblically backed and it allows them to grow rapidly! For more information, contact us!
Also don’t be afraid to add some humor to remind everyone that faith can be both deep and enjoyable, making your youth ministry a memorable experience!
Your Next Steps
I hope this guide has helped you think differently about reaching students for your ministry. Your next step is to put this in action!
This is a valuable life skill for you, your staff, your volunteers, and most importantly your students.
If you build a culture with these principles, you will teach everyone how to build a healthy community no matter where life takes them. You can empower them to disciple and create a greater Kingdom impact.