Double Your Youth Ministry
me recently that 90% of the people who ever come to faith in Christ
in America will do so before leaving their teenager years. I can't
verify the veracity of the details of that statement, but I know the
number is high. It stands to reason, then, that if we want to reach
our nation, a strategic issue is to concentrate on the young. I have
asked my youth minister, Kevin Glen to write a guest article around
the theme of How to Double Your Youth Ministry. He has more
than doubled the youth ministry at our church. I have had
two of my kids in Kevin's youth ministry and have heard him preach
many times. He is a fine young man, a sharp thinker and an able
communicator. For non-youth workers, I think you will find some
principles where that are applicable to reach people of all ages.
I’m not sure
what has been more difficult. Being a teenager or working with them.
In both instances, we want to be accepted and we want to be
As a teenager
we want these things for selfish reasons. As a youth leader, I trust
we want these things because we love students and genuinely desire
to see God work in their lives. When I began in youth ministry 15
years ago, I expected my love for God and the kids He put in my care
to magically produce a youth ministry that would set the world on
fire. It didn’t quite happen that way.
struggling and failing, I began to discover a need for certain
elements to be present in my approach to youth ministry. Long story
short, when these elements were implemented, my youth ministry more
allow that love for God and students to find channels of
application. I’m confident that any youth ministry can double when
these elements are provided.
ministry can hope to grow if it fails to be inclusive. Simply
stated, youth ministries have to be more like a family than a club.
In family life, since you can’t pick your relatives, everyone has to
learn to interact based on respect and common interest. What better
approach for the church! When our kids are led respect one another,
and to embrace a common interest (learning about God), an
environment of welcome and safety takes shape.
I met a student
recently named Trevor. He showed up with long red hair, an Iron
Maiden t-shirt and various lengths of chains hanging from his pants.
He was met at the door by another student wearing a pink polo shirt
and American Eagle shorts. The two shook hands and the preppy kid
introduced Trevor to me. As we spoke, he shared that he had been
completely ignored and rejected at a church down the street, but
hoped our place was “cool”. Every kid in your youth ministry is
screaming to be known. They are also wondering “if they really know
me, will they like me?”
Take it to the
bank; students must experience relational safety before they can
respond to spiritual challenge.
to Trevor? He now attends regularly, has received Christ, is
bringing friends (who also wear Heavy Metal t-shirts and chains) and
will be baptized soon.
After 15 years
in youth ministry, a common complaint I hear from students is that
once they receive Christ, the appeal to think through decisions
related to Christian living disappears. Don’t get me wrong,
evangelism is of immeasurable importance. But when was the last time
we encouraged believing students to take the next step in their
faith with the same passion used to encourage un-believing students
to take their first step?
While a growing
youth ministry will provide opportunities for students to respond to
Christ for salvation, it will also provide just as many
opportunities for believing students to respond to Christ as they
walk with Him in discipleship. The decision to follow Christ is the
beginning of the road, not the end.
the question “So What?”
asking myself once why there’s such a drop-off in attendance the
week after Easter. We teach on the resurrection for goodness sake!
The answer came when I was talking to a waitress in Colorado. She
said flatly, “okay, Jesus is alive, so what?”
So What?! This
is a harsh question to be sure, but it’s one our students ask every
time they hear a message, read a passage of scripture, finish up
their devotional or sit through Sunday School. If there’s no answer
to this question, their minds hit the “delete” button.
everything! As youth leaders, we can’t be afraid to ask this
question of everything we believe and teach. Reverence for a belief
does not imply relevance.
In other words,
the truths we believe and teach passionately will become the beliefs
of our students only when they can be effectively applied to real
life. When we can answer the question “so what?”, we will see our
teaching come to life and see our youth ministries flourish.
Confidence to take it to the culture
I confess I’m a
HUGE Star Wars geek. I even made a costume and constructed a
lightsaber… okay please keep reading!
The Star wars
films are wildly popular, but why? There’s something that resonates
deeply with people. The story engages some of the deep questions of
good and evil, loyalty and betrayal, and the nature of love. Could
our students engage these questions from a biblical perspective?
immersed in a sea of cultural expressions. Film, music, literature
and other art forms convey messages that often conflict with
Biblical perspectives. Should our students hide away from popular
culture or learn to effectively critique and connect with it.
clearly that His people are to be in the world, but not of it. Paul
modeled such an approach when he engaged the people of Athens. As
youth leaders, we must learn to be students of culture, and teach
our students to do the same.
A growing youth
ministry must recognize the power of creativity and equip our
students to find the redemptive analogies of culture and use them to
point others to the Creator Himself.
realization of their place in the church today
I’m sure you’ve
heard the expression “the youth are the church of tomorrow”. I know
people mean well, but the statement is deeply flawed. If we continue
the habit of postponing our students’ place in church life, they
will not be around in the future to be a part of the church.
A growing youth
ministry will consistently seek to discover students’ gifts and
engage those students in effective ministry. What kind of new life
would be breathed into your youth ministry (and your church) if your
students were enabled to discover their giftedness, were equipped to
sharpen those gifts, were encouraged to minister with those gifts,
and were empowered to see themselves as vital members of the Body of
Do you want to
see your youth ministry grow? Take seriously the gifts of your
students, and invest those gifts in the Kingdom TODAY.
From a place of
safety to a place of service, a youth ministry can’t help but grow
significantly if these elements are present.
This article is
adapted from the GRACE based youth ministry conference. If you would
like to learn more about the conference, or are interested in having
Kevin speak to your youth leaders please visit
www.joshhunt.com/youth.htm Or email Kevin directly at
Kevin Glenn is a
15 year veteran of Student ministry. By creating and implementing
the G.R.A.C.E. based student ministry approach; Kevin has a proven
track record of more than doubling the youth ministries under his
leadership. Kevin has served as Minister to Students at the First
Baptist Church of Las Cruces, New Mexico for the last 5 years. He is
a graduate of Trinity College of Florida (B.A. Biblical Studies and
Counseling) and Fuller Theological Seminary (Certificate of Youth
Ministry and a Master's degree in Theology).