02 Ten Priorities for a Successful Youth Ministry

With over 50 years of combined youth ministry experience, here are ten priorities we’ve found to help your youth ministry…



1. Depend completely on God. God alone never fails. At some time everyone has felt the hurt of a broken trust. We all know the sting of death or the sharp criticism of a friend. And then there’s God – always keeping His promises, providing strength in weakness, dispensing comfort in painful times, pouring forgiveness on the sinful heart.

Memorize Proverbs 16:7, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Make God’s plans your plans. Make His will the only will you desire. Want what God wants.

2. Always give God the glory for all successes. “Great job!” “We couldn’t make it around here without you.” “I just can’t thank you enough for what you have done for Jonathan.” “That’s the best retreat I’ve ever been on!”

With an abundance of praise comes the temptation of pride. Instead of hogging it, our light should shine in such a way that people see what good things we do and give God the credit (Matthew 5:16).

3. Never give up on a teen. You never know when something might click within the heart of a young person. That kid who gets strung out on marijuana every Friday night might become your next leader through God’s grace. That girl who possesses the unspiritual gift of gossip might be molded into the greatest proclaimer of God’s truth in her school when God transforms her.

When all within you wants to give in and give up on a certain misfit or misguided teen, remember Jonah. It took three uncomfortable days to change his ways, but God did it. Think about Saul who went from prosecuting to being persecuted for the kingdom. Consider the prodigal son who wasted all his father gave him, and yet dad waited on the edge of the property for his boy’s return. And who could forget us? Certainly there was a time when we gave our Father reason to give up…but he didn’t.

4. Build relationships with those on the fringe. Some kids just don’t fit in, and it’s obvious. Some fit in too well, and that’s obvious as well. Then there are those kids who are just hanging on, and no one seems to notice them.

Do these three things to build relationships with those on the fringe: 1. Make a special list of their names and pray for them everyday for six months. 2. If you are married, invite each teen over to your house to have supper. If you’re not married, invite out two fringe kids at a time to supper at a restaurant. 3. Use some of your leaders to build relationships. Have each leader adopt at least one fringe kid to call weekly and give him or her special attention.

5. Build relationships with parents who don’t want to get involved in your ministry. Here are three things you can do for parents who don’t want to get involved:

1. Keep them informed of what’s going on. They may spot something that piques their interest.

2. Write them a personal note once a month to encourage or praise their child.

3. Speak to them in person every chance you get. Never let a parent’s uninvolvement be because they think you don’t like him or her.

6. Never cause conflicts between parents and teens. Conflicts may come because of scheduling, but don’t let it come from you personally. A danger in ministry is that teens may listen to you more than their parents. Never give advice contrary to a parent’s. Never take sides. And never put down a parent in front of their children. Resolve all differences in private.

7. Accept teens where they are and move them toward Christ. Oh, how we long for a group of Davids ready to take on the world’s Goliaths. But truth be known, some of the Goliaths are in the group. God rarely began with the great to accomplish His will. Moses, Jeremiah, Peter and others prove that. Be patient with each individual as they mature in Christ, and accept them for who they are and whose they are. Remember #3.

8. Spend time with teens individually. Group activities are great for the group, but not for those who need individual attention. Though it may not be possible to give each teen one on one time each month, here’s a standard practice that probably will work for you.

Divide your group into thirds. Visit one third personally, call one third, and send a letter or card to the remaining third.

9. Attend events your teens are involved in (even if you don’t want to). “He won’t notice if I don’t show up.” Wrong. If a teen gives you a special invitation to come to a ball game, watch her cheer, or listen to a recital, go unless you absolutely can’t. Get there early and talk with the student(s) before the performance. They will be thrilled you came and won’t be hurt if you have to leave early. To be honest, teens attend a lot of things you invite them to, even if they don’t want to (like devos), but don’t you feel good when they do show up?

10. Create a diverse ministry. Most of us create a ministry around our talents. But because we are just one personality, everyone may not be ministered to through our means.

Create a diverse ministry by recognizing the needs of your kids and then reflect those needs in your ministry. Got some computer geeks? Help them create a ministry to reach their friends. Got some jock jerks? Their attitudes may quickly change when they get to reach out to their macho buddies through a Christian jock club.

Creating a diverse ministry will help you fulfill #1 in this podcast series: Do whatever it takes to get teens to heaven.

01 Youth Ministry Goals

Here are ten goals for youth ministry. Tweak, add-to, take away from.

youth ministry goals


1. Do whatever it takes to get teens to heaven.

Paul wrote that he became all things to all people so that some might be saved (II Corinthians 9:19-23). How well does this relate to your ministry? What could you be doing that might reach more teens in your schools and community?

Ministry has its own set of pressures. We have to worry about what the leaders, parents, and members will think about a program or event. By doing whatever it takes to get teens to heaven, you will endure your share of criticism about your approaches, but keep the goal in focus. Keep everyone involved aware that you are not using a certain technique just to be different, but to bring teens to Jesus.

2. Help teens develop a personal relationship with God.

While second-hand faith is better than no faith, there’s no doubt that first-hand faith wins the prize. Help teens develop a faith that says, “I believe in God, not because my parents say so, or because my youth minister or preacher says so, but because I have experienced and know God in my life.”

3. Involve teens in daily Bible study and prayer.

Instead of simply asking your group to read the Bible and pray daily, provide the opportunity and tools to make it possible. Develop a daily Bible reading schedule for your teens. Supply information on Bibles designed for youth so they can get a grip on the Word in a way relevant to them.

Form prayer groups of three that meet at school, or that call each other daily for prayer requests. Challenge your group to pray before getting out of bed and before going to sleep. Have teens set their watch alarms for a certain time each day to signal prayer time. Create as many tools as needed to get them into the Bible and prayer on a daily basis.

4. Build a Christ-like attitude and spirit into the youth group.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus,” Philippians 2:5. This means more than just asking, “What would Jesus do?” It calls for a clear-cut lifestyle of surrender. What is the attitude of Jesus?

• Attitude of a Servant (v. 7)

• Attitude of Humility (v. 8)

• Attitude of Obedience (v. 8)

If every teen becomes a servant, how many things will get done? If every teen becomes humble, how much arguing will take place? If every teen becomes obedient to God, how much better could the youth conventions be? Of course, developing a Christ-like attitude in your group begins by displaying a Christ-like attitude in your life.

5. Develop quality leadership among the group.

Jesus called His followers with, “Follow me.” By the end of His ministry He had trained them to lead. Paul even said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1). Give your teens the responsibility and let them lead. Dust them off when they fall down and encourage them to keep going.

Here are a few ways you can let teens lead: Devotionals, teaching class, heading up a service project, forming prayer groups, etc.

6. Parental support and participation.

Believe it or not, There are some in your congregation who see youth ministry as a divider of parents and their children. Prevent this by creating a high level of parental involvement.

Have your parents teach for a quarter, host devotionals in their homes, chaperone trips, etc. Check out Group Publishing’s 130 Ways to Involve Parents in Your Ministry for more great ideas.

7. Develop evangelistic teens.

Redirect the vision of your group by training them to see each classmate, each neighbor, each family member, each clerk, each waiter, just fill in the blank, each ____________ as an opportunity to share the Lord.

Jesus left the message in our mouths and lives. Help your group become evangelistic by creating an atmosphere that makes guests want to return. Go out to the school campus and meet kids on their turf. Be available, open and loving.

8. Establish positive relationships with other youth groups in the area.

If we are not careful ministry can become a competition where the leader with the most teens wins. Because of that, we may be afraid to do things with other groups for fear that our teens might spot something “cooler” than what we provide. Don’t forget #4 and build a Christ-like attitude by doing things with other groups like retreats or prayer nights. One of the easiest ways to establish positive relationships is by participating together in community events such as the March for Jesus, or collecting food and toys for needy families during the holidays.

9. Include teens as part of the congregation.

Have you ever felt the perception that there is the church, and then there is the youth group? Integrate the group into the congregation by getting the teens involved in praying, scripture reading, or whatever format your church follows. Most churches let teens participate on youth days. But encourage your leadership to include teens on a regular basis, not just special days.

10. Equip teens to go into all the world and teach the Gospel.

While every teen has the responsibility to evangelize around them, a few feel the call to literally go into all the world. Prepare them for that future by encouraging and praying for him or her. Help sponsor teens on a yearly mission trip to gain experience. Provide contacts through special mission organizations to get teens involved. Who knows how many will come to know the Lord as a result of your ministry.

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