Youth Ministry

Youth Ministry From Scratch: Part 2 (Not Complicated)

In the last post, I laid out 3 compelling reasons why you need to start a youth ministry from scratch in your local church. But if you’re like me, you probably already know why. Many of us don’t struggle with the motivation. Instead, we’re clueless of what step to take.  This leaves us in an emotional state of limbo, desperate to make an impact, but feeling lost and confused when it comes to making that difference.

Youth Ministry is hard, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Yep, ministry in general is difficult, and youth ministry can be especially messy. You’re dealing with hormones, questions about life’s purpose, conflicts with parents, peer pressure, experimentation with lots of stuff, and limited understanding of spiritual issues. Before you run away screaming and pulling out your hair, get this: It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Most of my vocational ministry experience has been as a lead/senior pastor. And in that time I’ve created some pretty complicated systems. Stupid me. Lots of times, dealing with adult ministry or even church-wide ministry can be difficult. Different challenges present themselves for every ministry. Even the simplest small group model still presents challenges to me (What do you do with the kids? How do you create a reporting system to measure metrics?).

Youth ministry, especially from scratch, does not have to be complicated. In my next post, I’m going to share 3 steps on how to do youth ministry from scratch. But, for now, let me share with you 3 reasons Youth Ministry doesn’t have to be complicated, and could be the simplest ministry you start.

3 Reasons Youth Ministry Doesn’t Have to be Complicated

1. Students Have Basic Wants

Now, I’m not calling Students basic, which is apparently a new insult among Generation Z. No, I’m saying students have a simple hierarchy of needs, that most of the time has yet to be complicated by the pressures or expectations of adulthood.

If you give students a place to hang out, be real, have fun, and free food, they are going to come back. And they are going to open up to you. And you can open up to them. There are fewer expectations with student ministry. As long as you have pizza, no one is complaining.

2. Most Students Have Simple Schedules

What? Adam, are you feeling ok? Students are on the go all the time! Yes they are. But for the most part, compared to adult schedules, they are easier to move around. See, much of the activities students are involved in (sports, 4H, scouting organizations) are voluntary organizations.

What I am getting at is this: while students are busy, they have fewer life-essential demands on their time than most adults do. Most students aren’t having to work 40 hours a week. Some are, but its not that common. Most students don’t have to come home from work and try to raise their kids. Let’s be honest, when homework is done, its time for Netflix or massive online gaming.

Students have hobbies, but they can be flexible with their time.

I guess what I am trying to say is that it’s easier to get students together at a certain time than adults. While this is not always the case, I have found it to generally be true. I rarely have an issue getting many students to show up for youth group as opposed to trying to get adults to show up for small group.

3.  Students Value Authenticity

Sometimes in ministry, we get so focused on the production, the show, the flash. And yes, the church down the road from you may have fog machines and guitar led worship. They may sing their own worship songs with some awesome graphics on the screen. Good for them. Seriously. Celebrate that students are engaging elsewhere.

Our church doesn’t have the budget for that. Or the volunteers gifted in design who have 40 hours a week to devote to the team. But what we do have: authenticity.

Students like the show, the production. Who doesn’t? But when the shows over, they want some to see someone genuine. I’m not saying you can’t be authentic if you have the “total” ministry package. I’m saying without authenticity, everything else falls flat.

Our church isn’t the cool church. It would be nice if we were, but that’s not us. It would be fake to try that in our context. And it’s hard work being the cool church. Very hard work. In our youth ministry, we have some students who attend the cool church but still participate in our youth ministry. Why? Does the other church lack something? I don’t think so. But they found something here in our context, and I think they connected because of our type of authenticity.  

Being genuine is free. Sure, it means you have to vulnerable, but the payoff is worth the risk. Being real with students is going to attract and keep them, and most importantly, DISCIPLE them more than focusing on the big event or the big show.

Youth ministry is difficult. But for the reasons I outlined above, and more, it shouldn’t be complicated. Provide a safe space, show love, and be real. Next post, we’ll dive into 3 steps to starting Youth Ministry from Scratch. As always, leave a comment and share this post with others. 

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