When I think about youth ministry and what it takes to start one I only have 2 different experiences to pull from. The first one was when I was a co-small group leader for jr high girls in a HUGE and pre-existing ministry. The other was when I helped start a youth program from the bottom up a little over a year ago.
When I was approached with the possibility of being apart of the startup team I was super excited. I prayed and prayed and then prayed some more FIRST before I accepted the “job”. After that it was kind of a whirlwind. I remember feeling so intimidated the first few planning meetings but after hearing the heart of our leader and the vision that God had placed on his heart it helped eased some of the questions.
Obviously there is no formula to follow to build a successful youth ministry since each church and person is so different BUT here are some practical things I can share about what we did:
1) Set God-sized goals
Dream about where you want your ministry to be in the next 3, 6, 9, 12 months and set some dream goals. Pray over them, work towards them and see what God does!
2) Don’t do it alone!
Approach people to be responsible over a certain task (ie: connecting with students, weekend program, worship, follow-up, facebook duty etc). When each person has a role, they are focused on the task and is able to do that task well.
3) Meet regularly to pray and plan
Choose a day to meet and plan your weekend program. Open it up to your volunteers and possibly your student leaders too so they can take ownership of the ministry.
4) Make your presence known!
There are a few reasons for why this is important. The first is to create an excitement about your ministry - to meet as many students and parents as possible and to get the momentum going. The second is to build connection and good foundation between “big” church, the parents, and your youth group. Utilize your resources (ie: announcements or ads in the bulletin) and remember that your program is church for the youth meaning; your program is PART of the church not to be separate from the rest of the church.
5) Have fun!
Does this need an explanation??? :D
This post was written by Nikkie Schuster. Nikkie writes for the IHeartYouthMinistry team and is a part of the weekly YOUTH MINISTRY HANGOUT podcast. Catch her live every Thursday at 12PM (PST). Click here to see the HANGOUT schedule.
At the moment I am prepping for our new summer mid-week here at IGNITION (Daybreak Church’s Jr. High Ministry) and a few youth ministry related ideas are bouncing around in my head. Here they are in no particular order!
-YOUTH MINISTRY INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT. We are going to be playing around with this idea beginning this week. We have opened up an INSTAGRAM account for our youth ministry and we are going to begin taking photos and letting our students submit photos as well.
-STICKY FAITH WITH VOLUNTEERS. This summer our volunteers are going to be studying through my friend Kara Powell’s book “Sticky Faith: Developing Faith That Lasts In Teenagers”. We will be reading a chapter every week and discussing it together to find ways to create a multi generational model of youth ministry at our church.
-NEW STRATEGIES TO STOP STUDENTS FROM SLIPPING THROUGH THE CRACKS. We are going to be implementing some new assimilation techniques this summer to make sure that every student in our ministry is known by name by a caring adult in our ministry. This summer will be the summer of relational youth ministry.
-SYMT TOOLS. This summer we are going to really dig deep and learn as much as we can about utilizing our SYM Tools software. Check it out today! It’s the best out there.
A few weeks ago now we had “promotion Sunday” at our church. Promotion Sunday is the time when our 8th graders graduate up into high school and we receive a fresh batch of brand new 6th graders into our ministry.
Here is a quick question that came to my mind this week: what are we doing for the students who have graduated out of our ministry? Once our students leave our youth programs, does that mean the end of our connection with them? For those of you who lead high school students, what is your strategy to reach out to your graduated seniors?
This week on the blog/podcast we’ve been talking a lot about setting students up for success so that when they graduate from our ministries, they won’t graduate from their faith.
What does it say to a student who never hears from us again after they leave? I believe it says a few things:
1) YOU ARE ONLY IMPORTANT TO US WHEN YOU ARE AT OUR PROGRAMS. When we drop all lines of communication when students leave/graduate/move/etc. I think our silence says a lot to students, especially when they leave for college. Since the stats show that nearly 50% of youth group attending teenagers fall away from the faith in college, think of what a difference it would make if we occasionally reached out and checked in with our graduated seniors to see how they are doing and offer some help & prayer.
2) GOD’S LOVE IS CONDITIONAL. If we only care for the students who are currently in our programs and drop all lines of communication with our graduated students, teenagers could view our friendship with them as conditional. And since our students look to their youth workers as examples of godly men & woman, they could begin to view God’s relationship as conditional as well. Students could adopt the notion that God only likes them when they attend church, or that God only wants to speak to them when they are involved in ministry. This could lead to teenagers who don’t don’t understand the gospel, but who have adopted the “gospel of sin management” as Dallas Willard puts it.
So what kind of things can we do as youth workers to stay connected with our graduated students without using any more of the time that we already don’t have? Here a some easy ideas:
-Send them a postcard letting you know that your thinking of them and praying for them.
-Post a video to their Facebook page of you are your current students saying hi.
-Cancel one of your normal youth ministry programs one day and have your current students bake cookies or brownies and then send them in the mail to your graduated seniors.
-Create a Facebook page for your graduated students and post a quick devotional every week as an encouragement for them.
What about your youth ministry? What do you do to stay connected with the students who have graduated out of your programs? Share your ideas in the comments section below!
Today I sat in on part two of Kara Powell’s Sticky Faith seminar based on her book “Sticky Faith: Practical Ideas To Nurture Long-Term Faith In Teenagers" and it got me thinking about my own youth ministry experience as a student growing up. When I was in jr. High and high school my experience of youth ministry was very different from what most youth ministries look like around the country today. Here is a snapshot of my experience of youth ministry as a teenager:
YOUTH MINISTRY OCCURRED ORGANICALLY EVEN BEFORE A FORMAL PROGRAM WAS INTRODUCED. Growing up, my church was not a large church. My church growing up wasn’t even a medium sized church. My church growing up was small! In fact, on our biggest day I think we tapped out at about 150 people. What I remember most about my old church was that it was one big family. We knew everyone in our church. Our friends were all from church. Our families all hung out and took trips together. And I remember learning about Jesus from a variety of different adults in our congregation from all walks of life. Even though we had no formal “youth ministry program” at first, our church welcomed teenagers as a real part of their community. We would go to the adult services with our parents and attend all-church BBQ’s together as one big community. Relational youth ministry naturally occurred because the adults in our congregation knew that it was their responsibility to care for, mentor and disciple the teenagers in the congregation.
YOUTH MINISTRY PROGRAMS NEVER BECAME A SUBSTITUTE FOR BEING ACTIVE IN THE LARGER CHRCH COMMUNITY. Eventually we had a youth program at the church, but these programs (midweeks, bible studies, etc) never became a “para-church within a church”. Teenagers didn’t have separate mission trips from that of the larger church, we just came with the adults on church wide trips. We didn’t have a bunch of separate fellowship events apart from the adults, but instead joined with the larger church to experience everything as one big church family.
In the Sticky Faith study, Kara and her team discovered that about 40-50% of youth group attending teenagers end up walking away from the faith after they graduate high school (click here for more information). At Sticky Faith, they postulate that perhaps one reason students leave the church after high school is because they were never really apart of the larger church, but instead have been segregated from the rest of the church by creating youth ministry programs that separate teenagers from the rest of the congregation. So what does this mean for our current youth ministry programs? Does this mean that we need to abandon current youth ministry models/programs or stop doing youth ministry all together? I don’t think so at all…BUT…I do think that as youth workers we need to find ways to build an intergenerational model into our church’s DNA. Here are some practice ideas:
1) Have an adult men’s small group at your church invite the 6th grade guys over for a BBQ one night.
2) Ask your women’s ministry leader to sponsor a “Girl’s Night Out” event where they invite the high school girls to join them for a fun activity with the other adult woman at your church.
3) Grab a few students from the youth ministry and have them help lead worship on a Sunday morning
4) Create a family event at your church where teenagers and adults can have fun and fellowship together as one big community.
5) At your church’s next men’s retreat, have the adults invite the jr. High or high school guys to come with them and learn/grow together.
What about your church? What simple things could you do to build an intergenerational model into your current youth ministry DNA? Share your ideas in the comments section below!
Today I had the privilege of sitting in on a seminar with Kara Powell (Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute and author of the book “Sticky Faith”) about why around 50% of church-going teenagers walk away from the faith when they graduate from high school and move on to college.
I will be writing a few different posts about our discussions later this week (it’s a 3-day seminar), but for today here is a thought that crossed my mind: LEAD YOUTH WORKERS AND THEIR VOLUNTEERS NEED TO BE THINKING THROUGH THESE CONCEPTS.
If you are a lead youth worker, I would encourage you to head over to www.stickyfaith.org and purchase some copies of Kara’s book for you and your volunteers. Reading this book with your leaders would be a great way to spark some great discussion, develop your volunteer leaders and strengthen your existing student ministry.
Stay tuned this week for more thoughts on building a faith that sticks with our teenagers! Also, be sure to join us this Thursday @ 12PM (PST) for episode #3 of the YOUTH MINISTRY HANGOUT . Our topic will be all about teenage discipleship and how we as youth workers can help students grow spiritually.
One of my favorite parts of working in youth ministry is seeing students step up to the plate and begin to serve. I love watching jr. high and high school students discover their gifts and then use them to serve the church in a variety of different ways. At IGNITION (Daybreak Church’s Jr. High Ministry) one of our core values is having students lead the ministry. We really value having student-led ministry teams, and a great set of student leaders.
On a typical weekend service, we have students on stage giving announcements, running the tech booth, greeting at the doors, leading worship and more! It is so cool to see, and the best part is, when students LEAD…they don’t LEAVE! The truth is that when students begin serving in your youth ministry it creates a real sense of ownership in our teenagers. They stop sitting and soaking and start leading and learning.
So how do you shift from a environment where the staff & volunteers run everything (where students are spectators) to an environment where your teenagers help lead (where students are servants)?
START SMALL AND TRUST BIG! First things first. You need to start small. Begin by having some of your students serve in little ways. Ask a couple of students to help set up chairs before your service begins. Have a few students pass out pens and outlines as other students arrive. Maybe you could call up a student in the middle of the week and ask him/her to go pick up supplies with you for your youth ministries’ mid-week or weekend program. You don’t have to create a complicated student leadership strategy right away. Just start small and trust that God will start to develop a servant’s heart in your students lives.
DREAM BIG AND PLAN SMALL. We all want our students to grow and to take that “next step” towards spiritual maturity. One of the most effective ways for students to grow spiritually is to begin to serve in ministry. Take some time to dream big and ask God what His vision is for your youth ministry. Then ask the question, “how can our students help us achieve the goal/dream that God has given us?” Start to create a strategy to develop your students into servant leaders. Once you have your strategy mapped out, take it one step at a time! Don’t try and do something in 2 weeks that will probably take 2 years. While it might be ideal to have students running a ton of elements in your programs, don’t rush the process. Again, start small and realize that the character quality of servanthood doesn’t develop overnight!
Sermon In A Sentence: Now that you know all about our jr. high ministry, you need to ask yourself “where can I PLUG into the PLAN?”
MESSAGE SUMMARY: This past weekend at IGNITION (Daybreak Church’s Jr. High Ministry) was our promotion Sunday where we received all of our brand new 6th graders. We had a ton of fun with this weekend service. We played with the concept that “all the best stuff happens in the middle” (i.e. Oreo cookies, stuffed crust pizza, etc.) to get our new students excited about entering middle school. In terms of the message, I basically walked our students through our summer calendar while highlighting which programs they needed to come to that would correspond to one of the purposes of our ministry (worship, discipleship, evangelism, ministry, fellowship).
Yesterday on episode #2 of the “YOUTH MINISTRY HANGOUT” Dennis, Nikkie, Peter and I discussed the most important aspects of building a youth ministry program. Specifically we were asking the question, “how do I plan my youth program?” whether that is a midweek service, weekend service or even small groups. Here are the BIG THREE IDEAS we came up with during the show:
1) KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE! Are you a small youth ministry or a large youth ministry? Do you have very few volunteers or do you have a ton of adult volunteers? What is your youth ministries’ budget? What resources do you have available? These are very important questions to ask if you are the lead youth worker because they will determine your plan & strategy in your process of developing what your program looks like. For example, if you are starting out with just a handful of students, your role as the lead youth worker will have to be that of an evangelist and recruiter. If you are starting out with a ton of students your role may be more as a shepherd and manager right off the bat. What you have will determine what you need to do next.
2) BUILD PROGRAMS THAT BUILD RELATIONSHIPS. Right now summertime is upon us. Use this time as a tool to bring students and leaders closer together. Plan some fun days, beach outings or theme park trips. Build relationships into your programs. On a midweek or weekend program this could be as simple as adding 10 minutes into your program where students can check in about their week and get to know their leaders and peers. We can’t compete with video games and theme parks as far as fun is concerned, but your youth ministry should be known for being the place where real authentic friendships occur.
3) DONT DESIGN YOUR PROGRAMS ALONE…GET A TEAM! I talked about this earlier this week, but I can’t stress enough the importance of building a team to plan your programs with. Don’t be a solo act! Resist the urge to build your programs alone. We are better together! As you are planning your summer calendar, grab some volunteers and or student leaders and let them plan the events. Trust me, it’s worth it!
This is a brand new song that we’ve been using in IGNITION (Daybreak Church’s Jr. High Ministry) this past month. It’s written by my good friend Travis Ryan. It’s a great song and our students really seem to be responding to it in awesome ways. Here are the lyrics:
This is what hope feels like Breathing in brand new life The breath of Your lungs Bringing us back to love
This is what grace feels like When we are wrapped in light The light of Your glory The glory that shines on us
Now we sing to You our King
Jesus Precious Jesus Oh Jesus You are the King
This is what love feels like Embraced in arms so tight The weight of Your love Has captured our hearts Oh Lord
What songs are you using in your student ministry? Share your comments below!
Here’s a quick/fun idea for your next youth ministry event. A couple of weeks ago we set up a simple “photo booth” station in our jr. high service where students could take free pictures of themselves and their friends as we finished up our series on friendships/dating.
After their picture was taken we had a volunteer edit/touch up the photos and then we gave them away the following weekend for students to take home. It was a big success and I’m sure we will be doing it again soon. Hope this was helpful!
Sermon In A Sentence: As your world gets BIGGER, don’t let Jesus slip into the BACKGROUND!
MESSAGE SUMMARY: This weekend we said goodbye to our 8th grade students and commissioned them on to high school. It was a super fun weekend. The entire weekend was Dr. Seuss themed…we even had a Cat In The Hat mascot! My message was focused on the graduating 8th graders and we looked at Matthew 28:19-20 (the great commission) and Matthew 26:36-40 (the great commandment) talking about the two things that we want our 8th graders to remember as they leave jr. high: to LOVE GOD & LOVE OTHERS.
For most youth workers, promotion weekend is upon us (or has just passed) where brand new 6th graders & brand new 9th graders join our youth ministries. At IGNITION (Daybreak Church’s Jr. High Ministry), this upcoming weekend is our PROMOTION SUNDAY for incoming 6th graders. Here is a copy of the email that I just sent out to our youth leaders regarding their roles this weekend. Hopefully this content will be useful to you in your youth ministry setting!
EMAIL I SENT:
So here are the 3 big things to be thinking about as we approach Sunday morning:
1) THIS WEEKEND IS ALL ABOUT THE NEW 6TH GRADERS! This weekend I want you hanging out with 6th graders. Your priority is to find a new 6th grader/graders and stick with them the entire service. If you are a guy, make a beeline for new 6th grade guys. If you are a girl, make a beeline for new 6th grade girls. Go out of your way to get to know all about them. There will be special seating this Sunday roped off just for our 6th graders. SIT WITH STUDENTS DURING THE SERVICE. No one should be standing/sitting anywhere else during program Sunday morning except for sitting with 6th grade students. (the only exception is for those who are running tech in the back).
2) THIS WEEKEND IS ALL ABOUT BUILDING NEW RELATIONSHIPS. Get to know students this weekend. When you meet a new kid, grab some coke’s (found in a bucket by the tech booth) and sit at connection central or the couches with students. Ask them about their hobbies, likes, dislikes, favorite movies, favorite foods, bands, etc. Our goal at IGNITION is that every student is known by name by one of our leaders.
3) MODEL AUTHENTIC WORSHIP AND FUN FOR THE NEW 6TH GRADERS. When worship is going on this Sunday, sing with all your might! When a joke comes from the stage, laugh even if it’s not that funny! When the message is being taught, model to your students by taking notes yourself and following along. If you see students acting up, let them know (nicely) to pay attention. They will look up to you as models of what they should/shouldn’t be doing. This weekend will be as fun for them as you make it! :D