Building a Youth Ministry from the Ground Up

Building a Youth Ministry from the Ground Up
Debbie Foster


Putting together and building a strong successful youth ministry does not just happen, but comes about because of a burden, hard work, planning, and a goal of where one wants to go. Too many people in youth ministry try to “just get by” with any type of program while others are frustrated with what they are doing because they are not sure what youth ministry is all about, what direction they should be going in, and how to get there from where they are.

In this session, we are going to discuss what it takes to have a successful youth ministry and how you can put together one that will fit you and your situation. Take it all in and compare it to what you are currently doing and work through it all, so that you can come up with your own program that will be great for you, your group, and your situation.

Remember that the structure of youth ministry is not the ministry; it is merely a picture of youth ministry and what it is all about. You must have more than the structure, but you must create your style of ministry that is best for you and your situation. I know that as you realize this, you feel the pressure of it all. But if you are sold out to Jesus and to the youth of your church, then your commitment will help you to be willing to take what you have learned and put it all into practice to build a successful youth ministry because the .kids in your group are depending on you!

I. Jesus the Foundation of Your Ministry and Program

A. Make Jesus the main purpose.

B. Make Jesus the model that you pattern after.

1. John 17:18, “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.”

Jesus is our example and role model.

2. We should do things the way that He did them.
a. He became intimately involved with people.
b. He slowly, carefully, and deliberately developed credibility with people.
c. He was versatile.

C. Make Jesus your complete source, the center of it all.

1. Always look to Him, seeking His will. Don’t wait until your programs and plans fail or when the youth are not responding.

2. Have a DOUBLE D everyday…a Daily Devotional. Keep your relationship with Him very tight. If you want your kids to pray and study God’s word, they must first see you do it. Don’t follow the motto, “D as I say, not as I do,” but use this motto, “Follow me, I’ll Show You the Way!”

D. Remember it is His ministry…Give Him all the glory!

You are His workman; it is your privilege to be a part of this ministry and to work for Him!

Make this your foundation. Yes, we know these steps, but don’t take them for granted but continually reinforce this foundation for your ministry.

II. Build Relationships

A. Get to know the kids in your group.

1. It is difficult to minister to the needs in your group if you don’t really know the kids.

2. Go to their territory, where they are. Spend time with them.

3. Find out who they are, what’s going on in their life, their need, hurts, and dream.

4. Kids don’t care how much you know till they know how much your care.

B. Be their friend, build trust.

1. You can be their friend….your age does not matter.

2. Don’t be a person with the reputation of “Oh no, look whose coming.”

C. Be available to them, have time for them, be visible—but not overpowering.

Don’t get so caught u in the program that you don’t take time for the kids!

D. Go where the action is, but be relaxed with them.

1. Don’t always be recruiting them or talking about church. Get on their level, talk about their interests.

2. Show interest in them. Do things with them.

E. Don’t be afraid to let the kids see the real you.

1. Let them see you act crazy and having fun.

2. If you are wrong, admit it.

3. They need to know that you are human and that you make mistakes just like they do.

F. Be friends to all the youth in the group, not just certain cliques.

Be like Jesus our model and example. Constantly blow the minds of the youth as to which group of kids you will be with. The nerds need you as well as the cool kids.

G. The life that you live, your model and example will teach so much more to the kids than you could ever say yourself.

You are actually allowing them to see Jesus in you and see that you live what you teach.

H. By building relationships with the kids in your group, you will establish credibility.

This credibility will not only be with the pastor, and the other church people. This ministry to them.

I. Remember that it takes time to build trust it doesn’t happen overnight.

III. Develop Leadership

A. You as the leader are a leader of leaders.

Always be on the lookout for potential leaders.

B. Don’t try to do it all by yourself.

If you do, then it will be no larger than you, your abilities, your personality, and your style.

C. Put together a team of helpers and workers.

1. Share your vision with them.

2. Develop a strong friendship with this team. The kids need to see and feel this, if it’s not there in the team, then it won’t be in the youth group.

3. Expose them to books, seminars, conferences, and tapes so that they can be as effective as you and. as a team all of you can get the job done in your program.

4. This leadership team will be a vital key in your ministry and program all of you working together.

D. Developing leaders takes time, but it is well worth it and will help your program be more successful and effective.

E. Use your team.

Dr. Larry Keefauver said in his article, How to Start a Youth Ministry, “Christ doesn’t need martyrs in youth ministry. He needs servants. Servants are people who work together and are as Paul says, “Knit together in love.'” So use these people…remember two heads together are better than one!

IV. Putting Together the Program

A. Discipleship the actual living it out.

It is the building or developing of a long term sustained spiritual growth.

1. Set up a program that allows you to teach on a regular basis. A time to share, to challenge, to stimulate, and to help the youth in the actual living out what you are teaching them.

2. Have one on one interaction.
A time in which you spend time with one youth just sharing and talking. You may want to take them with you on an errand or for lunch or just a coke.

3. Have times of discussion, allowing them to voice their own opinion on certain things.
Example: Tension Getters (Youth Specialties)

4. Give the youth opportunity to share and to’ take part in all -youth activities.
Youth Respond To Their Peers!

B. Be Creative.

1. Go the extra mile.

a. it’s worth the extra effort!

b. the kid’s reaction is great!

2. You have to illustrate to get some things across.

3. The wilder you are the more the kids love it!

4. Youth should receive what you say, remember what you say, and retell what you said.

C. Offer Variety.

1. It’s the spice of life!

2. It sustains interest and is one of the deepest secrets of youth ministry.

3. Youth should never know what to expect except that it is going to be fun and worth their while!

D. Make it Exciting and Appealing to youth.

1. You are competing with TV, Radio, Schools and city functions, etc.

2. Make the church the hot spot.

3. For every no, you must provide a YES!

E. Aim for Perfection.

1. Half right is still half wrong.

2. The best deserves the very best. Let them know that they are the greatest youth group in the entire world!

3. Start them out early. Start an 8-11 year olds group: to prepare them for the youth group when they turn 12 years old.

F. Have total youth involvement.

1. The youth love it and respond to their peers.

2. Don’t be afraid to let them take part, even if they make a mistake.

3. Give them responsibility….by starting them out as teens; you are preparing them for when they are older to be involved.

G. Advertise.

1. It lets the kids know what is going on.

2. The youth are your best source of advertisement.

3. Build it up big posters, newsletters, fliers, church bulletin, have the pastor announce it from the pulpit, etc.

4. By advertising, you not only let the youth know what is happening, but you let the church and parents all know and then they become aware of the all that is happening in the youth program. This brings more support!

H. Build community.

1. Constantly try to keep things fresh, new, exciting, and only to the kids, but for yourself.

2. Fellowship kids love it and usually do it well.

3. Make the youth group their main friends who they hang out with most of the time.

4. All the youth should feel a deep sense of belonging. It’s their group and they should feel that they belong there!

5. Friendships are a very important part of involvement in a youth program. When kids have friends in the group, they are going to be involved in it just to be where their friends are.

6. Provide activities for them to develop a closeness to grow among the group members and also the kids to draw close to you.
Example: lock-ins, overnight trips, parties, etc.

7. It shouldn’t be just all fun and games, but there should be times of worship together, praying together and growing in God together.

Expose your group to other Pentecostal youth groups.

When other churches are having something special, load them all up and take them. This lets them see that there are other youth just like them struggling and trying to live for God just like they are.

I. Provide Outreach.

1. This allows the kids to actually move out, to work, to provide service and to use the talents that God has given them.

2. Bus Ministry…big influence on our youth.

a. teaches them to reach out.

b. teaches them boldness.

3. Get them involved in all areas of the church nursing homes, witnessing, teaching Bible studies, visitation, Sunday school, etc.

4. Home Missions Outreach going to another city to a smaller church and letting the youth take part in the service. By being a blessing to that church, the youth group will be blessed in return.

5. Youth Can And Are A Great Vibrant Soul Winning Arm Of Our Church!

J. Worship.

1. Romans 12:1 says that worship should be a part of all that we do, everything constantly glorifying Jesus.

2. Always have a worship time in youth service.

3. Read praise scriptures. (Let the youth do it)

4. Sing worship choruses. (Have some praise singers)

K. Planning.

1. Don’t scramble each week with what you are going to do. Know ahead of time so you can plan for it and be prepared and also so that the youth can plan and be prepared for it.

2. In a successful youth ministry, good planning must take place. Yet we don’t need to get so caught up in our planning, that we don’t allow room for God to move.

3. No one plans to fail, they just fail to plan. (Darrell Johns)

4. We must be open-minded enough so that our planning prepares minds and hearts to be open to Jesus and to the moving of His spirit.

L. Spiritual Emphasis.

1. Someone once said that you could go into a nice restaurant and order a steak dinner. The salad bar is super with almost everything that you could want, the baked potato and rolls were piping hot and great, but the steak is tough with lots of gristle. What a big disappointment the meal is. In youth programs, you can have great fun, parties, retreats, services, fellowship; but ruin it all by not serving a proper main course…The Spiritual Emphasis.
The spiritual emphasis is essential to a well rounded youth program.

2. In a recent Gallup poll, young people were interviewed regarding their reasons for not being involved with traditional religious groups. One of the major problems that they slated is that the ministry opportunities designed for: them were superficial. The youth interviewed went on to say that they desired to learn more about a personal relationship with God, concepts of faith and prayer, etc. through their involvement

3. Let’s give the youth the social side, but don’t let that be your entire program, because if that is all, then you are giving them no more than they are getting anywhere else in town.

4. The social side builds relationships that win us the right to have positive input in their lives.

5. Put The Hay Where The Sheep Can Reach It! Let’s commit to do whatever is necessary to feel dour flocks…our youth!

M. The Youth Service.

1. Every youth meeting is a ministry, but the youth service is the most visible part of the total ministry.

2. Because it is so visible, don’t feel that the ministry takes place there exclusively, if you do, then it will be difficult to see beyond the program to realize the needs of the individual youth.

3. The meeting is one way of accomplishing your ministry to the youth.

4. The key to a successful service lies in the one who is directing it.

5. Always be positive to the youth.

6. Sample service order: crowd breaker— welcome—announcements—offering— praise scriptures—worship choruses—special son or testimonies—worship chorus—speaker or lesson, etc.

V. The Youth Leader/Youth Worker

A. Always stay fresh. Effective youth ministry is fresh.
To stay fresh requires some disciplines:

1. Always do your homework…read up on youth and their trends.

2. Spend time with the youth to find out what is going on.

a. gets with other youth workers to share ideas.

b. Go to conferences, seminars, and read for ideas and uplifting.
By doing all of this you will stay “in the know” and be able to get across the Biblical truths to the youth.

3. Work on growing spiritually yourself.

a. reflect to the youth that Jesus is doing something in your life and in your ministry.

b. When you grow spiritually, the youth benefit from your freshness.

4. By living a happy Christian experience, you are inviting the youth to walk a road that you have already begun. Your continuing growth assures them that it is worth the trip!

5. Remember that the youth program is to meet the spiritual needs of the youth, not yours. Occasionally you will be fed, but get involved in fellowship care groups with your own peers and the regular church services so that you can be fed with the Word and Prayer.

6. A Leader’s Example And Attitude That He Displays While Directing The Youth Will Be The Greatest Message That Those Youth Will Ever Hear.

To have a successful youth ministry, there is no certain method to use or follow. What works for you may not work for another. It usually depends on the circumstances and situations in which it is used.

To build a successful youth ministry, you have got to be there day in and day out; week in and week out, always staying with it. No matter how things are going, stay with it, keep it• going! The tide may go out, but just as sure as it went out, it will also come back in!

Les Christie in his article, Getting Started In Youth Ministry from the book, Ministering To Youth (A. Strategy- for the 80’s), said the following about success in youth ministry:

“Many people judge success by the following four areas:

1. Attendance.

2. Spiritual growth in kids and coaches.

3. How close you kept to scripture.

4. How involved the kids are in the total church program.

All of these are important, but I think three other areas are far more important, to test your success in youth work and in the youth program:

1. What will these kids be doing twenty, thirty, and forty years from now? Will they still have that commitment to Christ?

2. ‘Wealth, notoriety, place and power are no measure of success Whatever The only true measure of success is the ratio between what we might have done and what we might have been on the one hand, and the things we have done and the things we have made of ourselves on the other.’ (H.G. Wells)

3. When we get to Heaven and Christ says, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful (doesn’t say successful) servant.'”

Seeing young people that you worked with in youth ministry make a life long commitment to Jesus, seeing them grow spiritually, and then seeing them find their place in God’s service and church makes everything worth while.

Go for it,
Give it your very best,
Stick with it,
It’s Worth It!!

This article “Building a Youth Ministry from the Ground Up” by Debbie Foster was excerpted from: 1983 Youth Congress Training Notebook. Sept. 1983. It may be used for study & research purposes only.