Youth Ministry in the Small Church
Let us define “small” as a church with fewer than 10 junior and senior high young people who will attend church-sponsored youth activities. Small churches can use most of the concepts described in this manual and effectively build up teens in Christ. The key to successful youth ministry within the smaller church is the youth worker. If he loves teens, is willing to work with them regularly and is committed to the job year after year, he can have just as an effective ministry with a small number of youth as a salaried youth pastor can have with over 50 teens.
Here are some keys to effective youth ministry in the small church.
·Do not start a youth group until you have an adult worker who loves teens and is willing to work with them for more than one year.
·Do not distinguish between Sunday school and youth meetings. Have one united program. The Sunday school teacher and the youth sponsor should usually be the same person or couple.
·Feel free to use youth materials in Sunday school. Do not be bound to Sunday school materials, but always use published materials.
·Combine junior highs and senior highs for Sunday school, youth group and socials. Special trips should be reserved for senior highs only, so junior highs have something to look forward to.
·Separate the junior and senior high teens on Wednesday nights and alternate in having special studies for each group. For example, meet with the senior highs for four weeks to talk about dating and marriage. Then meet with the junior highs for four weeks to study friendship or self-acceptance. The group for which no study is planned can attend prayer meeting. Occasionally drop all Wednesday studies and rest a month.
·Have “growth” eyes. Continuously reach out to new teens. Add teens to the group one by one and do not allow anyone to drop out.
·Follow up each visitor within seven days by taking the teen out for a Coke or recreation activity with another teen in the church. You may also send teens out to follow up the visitor. Letters and phone calls are always welcomed by teens.
·Plan a youth activity for almost every week of the year. You can alternate between socials, studies and service projects. Occasionally enlist other adults to plan a social or conduct a study.
Be present at all meetings, but use other people to give yourself a breather. (Yes, everyone needs an occasional vacation. Give yourself a month off once or twice a year.)
·Meet once every three months with the teens’ parents, as a group, for the purpose of planning, communicating and learning needs. Enlist parental support for socials and service projects.
·Join with another youth group at least once every three months for a combined activity. Teens in smaller churches need this broader fellowship circle.
·Be creative. Try new things. Do not be afraid of failure.
·Always be positive. Never pity yourself for being small. Your ministry to teens can be just as exciting and beneficial as that of those ministering in larger churches.
Special Note to Rural Churches
Small churches in rural areas often have very large and enthusiastic youth groups. Teens in rural areas lack the entertainment options of city youth. Therefore, a church may become the social center for the teens of a small town if it organizes a full and active youth program.
What to Do When You Only Have
Three Young People
Sunday school can be exciting with three teens as you buy special study materials from time to time that deal with needs the teens feel. Purchasing a $5.00 book for three teens is much easier than purchasing it for 15 teens. A small group can occasionally have class in a restaurant, or go to a location similar to the setting in which the Bible lesson occurs (e.g. study about the Garden of Gethsemane in a pretty park instead of the classroom). You can all fit into one car and get back for church with little difficulty.
Socials can be fun also. A retreat can take place in one motel room next to a major tourist attraction. Sightseeing is enjoyable for small groups. Learning a craft skill can be great fun. How about taking a pottery, woodworking, weaving or painting class together? Such a class could involve the youth for several weeks and would be impossible for larger groups. With a small group, a game of tennis, badminton, bowling, racketball, riflery or table tennis would allow everyone to participate at the same time. Sporting events would also meet the social needs of small youth groups. Go into the city and see the professionals play.
Be sure to meet with other youth groups within your denomination. Attend camps, rallies and retreats. When nothing else is happening, invite another small youth group or two over to your church and do your own thing.
Discipleship and Bible study are also possible with small youth groups. When a topic is studied and assignments given, accountability is much greater within a small group. You can check on how each person is doing. Such accountability is the foundation for rapid spiritual growth. Within the small church high standards and expectations are much easier to establish and maintain. Therefore, it is easier to build a Sunday school or Bible study class that effectively teaches the Word.
Christian service can be very rewarding with a few teens. You can prepare puppet plays, skits, minister to the mentally and physically handicapped, have a car wash, sponsor a fair booth, etc. Small groups can perform big ministries when they decide to trust God for vision and power.
Being small can be sensational, but be prepared to grow. Teens who are receiving quality ministry will normally bring in other teens.
The above article, “Youth Ministry in the Small Church” was written by Daryl Dale. The article was excerpted from the book Youth Worker’s Manual.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”