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. 
Youth Ministry

Why You Should Start A Student Ministry from Scratch: Part 1

Why You Should Start A Student  Ministry from Scratch.

Pastoring a small church in a rural setting presents several challenges. Some are unique, others, common too others in different settings. One of the biggest among those is having the right staff in place to do the kind of ministry you feel called to do.

If you’re like me, you may feel that you have a certain type of gifting and that means you only do certain things. For me, that would be communicating. I believe, as introverted as I am, that I have been given talents that help me in public communication, so preaching and teaching are a natural fit for me. Because of my introversion, building relationships with students doesn’t seem like a successful venture.

So what do we do? A lot of us would like to wait for the perfect person to come along who can lead our student ministry. The 25 year old Bible College graduate with a spouse and 1.4 kids who is as active as they were when they captained the football team in high school and as mature as the 65 year old lead elder in your church. Oh, and they will work 20 hours a week for free, attend local school events, plan a lock-in, and get your kids signed up for camp.

In 13 years of vocational ministry, I have never met that person. And if I would have, I doubt they would come work with me for free.

So the only two options we are left with are:

  •  Give up on the idea of student ministry.
  •  Start a student ministry from scratch.
For the person who takes Jesus’ words seriously, the first option isn’t an option. So, we are left with the latter. But how on earth are you supposed to do that? You’re a small church, with limited resources, and even less time.

Before we can get to the how, we need to understand the why.

Here are 3 Reasons to Start Student Ministry from Scratch

1. You Have to Start Somewhere

You have to start somewhere. I know we all have dreams of having a student ministry with 45 students and 5 committed volunteers. But unless you leave your current church to serve at another congregation with an existing student ministry, you have to start from scratch.

Yes, it’s going to mean lots of hard work. Trial and error. Ups and downs. Wins and losses. You get the picture. But think of it this way: you get to create the culture of what can be a thriving ministry.

Yes, you’re going to spend hours in prayer and preparation. But think of what the harvest could be like! Think of the impact you can have on students and their families. Student ministry isn’t glorious. It’s messy. If it a breeze, you would have found the perfect leader by now.

So it may be awkward if your first gathering only has 4 students. Mine had 2. But trust me when I say that when you have 8 students the next week, you have a feeling that God must really be at work.

Every thriving student ministry had to start somewhere. And so do you.

2. Student Ministry is Vitally Important to Long Term Spiritual Health.

Student Ministry is vitally important to long term spiritual growth. For who? For everyone. Yes, student ministry isn’t just to keep teens engaged in church for a few years before they graduate high school. I started thinking about all the people that can be positively impacted by student ministry:
  • Students (obviously)
  • Schools (stop complaining about your church not being in the schools if you don’t have a student ministry)
  • Parents (we don’t think about this one enough)
  • Siblings
  • Volunteers (they need to hear the messages and lessons too)
  • The Church (students are the church of the future, they are part of the church NOW)
The list could go on and on. Student ministry isn’t a babysitting service. It is not purely a fun time. It is a ministry as much as anything else a church engages in, maybe even more so.

Study after study shows many of our young people will leave the church after high school. Some will return, many will not. And even for those who come back, should we be content with their wandering?

The seeds of truth and love we plant in student ministry bear fruit. Often these are the life lessons that will cause the prodigal to return.

3. Students Need Jesus

This may sound like an obvious oversimplification, but its true. I’m 32. Students today face far more temptations with much more ferocity than I did when I was in their shoes.

Generation Z (those born from 2000-present) will be the largest generation in American history. Yet, percentage-wise, they will likely be the least churched generation in American history. We should weep over this. But here’s the kicker: students are also more open to spiritual things and conversations than their parents or grandparents.

In other words, we can change their future. Well, Jesus can, but we can be the instrument that changes them.

Students face a myriad of challenges, from the continual breakdown of the family, the availability of pornography, drugs, and the last thing they need is for the Church to just sit back and watch them head down the path to destruction.

Student ministry is hard. But it’s worth it. And God will give you what you need.

You need a student ministry? What are you waiting for?