5 Musts for Developing a Kingdom-Impacting Youth Ministry
These are five “must haves” I believe help strike the balance in youth ministry of being relevant yet biblical, Christ-centered, Holy Spirit dependent and God-glorifying.
1. Must have fun.
I have been serving in youth ministry for a decade and the one element that always seems to capture the minds and hearts of students is fun. Noticed I said “fun” and not “entertainment.” What’s the difference? Fun has to do with enjoying people and entertainment is all about “making my life more enjoyable.”
The question we ask in youth ministry is “How can I make this a place where students laugh, talk and enjoy time with each other?” A practical example in my High School ministry is we have a dance party at the start of the night and after our small groups we have the “REFUEL Station.” The REFUEL station is designed to group all the students (9-12) together, have them enjoy snacks, games, and time together. We have some music pumping, cards, board games and space for them to mingle. The environment must generate a vibe that draws students to interact together, and creates a place for newcomers to feel welcome and usually produces lots of smiles.
2. Must teach God’s Word.
The struggle we all face is being relevant to students without sacrificing our devotion to teaching what the bible says about life and godliness. Friends, I want to exhort you in this moment to never waver on teaching and preaching God’s Word as spoken in scripture.
Do you want more students showing up, serving, and sharing the Gospel? Preach the Gospel. Teach the truth, not a semi-truth.
We tend to water down the meaning of a text, or soften the blow of what we know is a potential punch in the gut. Jesus never watered down the truth. Why do we think we can? Friends, teach the Word of God courageously, graciously and clearly. Spend more time in message prep than game prep. Be thoughtful in prayer, seeking God’s direction each week for the specific group of students that He knows will be showing up. Your community will be transformed when your students are upended by the life-altering truth of Jesus Christ.
3. Must build a vibrant community of students.
Students need a vibrant community filled with people, purpose and passion:
People. If we are to be kingdom-impacting, our community must be made up of people who are both familiar, but also intentionally diverse in religious, ethnic, racial and gender make-up. Jesus was intentional about inviting EVERYONE to follow Him. He was purposeful in who he was identifying with and hanging with. We too must be intentional in creating a balanced make-up of people in our ministry.
Purpose. A clear purpose helps deliver measurable results, showing students that their involvement is really making a difference! Every solid youth ministry must have a clear purpose that helps its students believe their participation can make a huge difference in their lives, others and in God’s Kingdom!
Passion. This word, derived from Latin literally means, “to suffer.” Every youth ministry must have leaders and students who are deliberately sacrificing for the ways of Jesus inside and outside of youth ministry. When the group starts to sacrifice together, they grow in their love for Jesus together and they see more people being impacted by the love of Christ.
4. Must have Committed Leaders.
No matter the vision, the programming, the physical youth space, leaders must be committed to relationship, whatever the cost. We need leaders who are 100% committed to loving students. This commitment bleeds into every aspect of their lives. I expect our leaders to be inviting their small group students to join them in everyday activities (running errands, raking leaves, cleaning your boat, etc). Sometimes the most monotonous task in our life could be the most impactful activity for a student because of the opportunity for relationship to occur.
5. Must Pray.
Friends, we can labor, produce the best graphics & promotional videos, craft the most engaging messages, bring the best snacks, and create the coolest environment, but if
God is not with us, blessing our work, it’s worthless, just give up.
I challenge you: Stop what you are doing, and pray. Ask the Lord to show you how dependent you are on him and ask him to stir your heart even more to pray each day as you lead and develop your ministry. Develop a rhythm of prayer and stick to it. For me, I have a list of all of our small groups. Every morning, before I open my computer to jump in, I take a different small group and pray for them by name. I write down the date I prayed so as I go, I can see a trail of prayer I’m leaving behind. It’s a motivating factor for me and a visual confirmation for anyone to see that prayer is truly central to our ministry and my leadership.
My prayer is God uses these FIVE musts to stir a more clear, passionate and practical vision for your ministry as you faithfully serve Him and the community of students He has placed you over. Blessings!
Zach Marino is the High School Ministry Pastor at Maple Grove Evangelical Free Church.