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.