Many youth ministries are in decline and dying. Yes, there are cycles, ups and downs and seasons, but there are some youth ministries that are just plain dying.
If you’re one of these youth pastors whose youth group is in decline, I feel for you. I’ve been there. A declining youth ministry is hard on the soul but revival is possible.
You may not know it, but you could be, indirectly, contributing to the decline of the youth ministry simply by the way you think about and speak about (and to) your youth ministry.
Revival starts with stopping a mindset that sabotage’s you and follows up with a new perspective that invites change to both you and your youth ministry.
Stop begging kids to bring their friends to youth group
…and speak to their responsibilities as believers.
Begging kids to bring their friends lowers the standard of your youth ministry. In fact, “Invite your friends!” is one of three phrases I suggest youth pastors eliminate from their vocabulary. Imagine a restaurant begging people to eat at it? The food should speak for itself and make people want to come.
Restaurants do not beg, they show what they offer and why it’s worth you dropping by to try it.
You have to start believing you have a youth program that’s worthy of an invitation.
Instead of asking your students to invite their friends, ask them, “Do you know anyone who would benefit being a part of this community?” Why this and not, “Invite your friends?” Because many of your students say they don’t have friends but by rephrasing the question, you open more doors and opportunities for your students to be led by the Spirit and to invite anyone, not just their friends, to youth.
Stop calling your youth group a youth group
…and start calling them the church, the Body of Christ and the hands and feet of Jesus.
There have always been other choices for kids, even if it was just staying home. Kids will always have choices. It’s your job to make sure your youth ministry is a viable choice among those other choices.
The only way to combat the attitude that your meeting is just one of many meetings is to establish the identity of your meeting. You may even have to change the way your meeting is done to reflect this new identity, placing value on meeting needs, praying for one another, etc. rather than the entertainment value of your meeting.
Stop trying to keep every kid
… and invest in the kids who want to be there
If you’re not willing to lose some kids, you’re not giving yourself a chance to gain any. The courage to gain must be greater than the fear of losing.
Who are the biggest fans of what what you have going on? Get their opinion and input on what the program should look like and where it should be heading. You can’t carry the load of leadership by yourself. The kids you involve in leadership and servanthood, will be the greatest benefactors of the changes they make.
Look who Jesus spent most of his time with: Peter, James, and John. It worked out pretty well.
Stop babying your teens
…and start leading them
Jesus lost some disciples, because his teaching was “too hard for them”. What Jesus was teaching wasn’t too hard, it was too hard for THEM. They left Jesus because they didn’t want to put the mental or spiritual work to understand. Some students leave youth groups because they think the standards are too high but some leave because the standards are not high enough. Are you adequately challenging your students to live out their faith or is every week game night?
Where can you start to change?
- Your teaching style might have to change in order to help kids level up
- Focus on growing students not growing the group
- Find your kick starter. Which programs help your students grow the most? Go all in on those
Stop complaining about what your youth group is not
… and start praising it for what it is.
Start being optimistic. Talk about what you see happening, the progress that is being made. Tell stories about students who are making progress and growing in their faith.
A positive attitude alone will not change your group, but it will change your perspective and that’s a big step towards changing things around you.
Hang in there. You’re doing a good job and you’re only going to get better.
If you need help revitalizing your youth ministry, check out my Ministry Minded coaching program. Ministry Minded is three months of being equipped, trained and inspired to build a sustainable youth ministry that makes disciples.
Other articles that will help you revitalize your youth ministry
Part 2 in this series: PASSION WILL TURN YOUR YOUTH MINISTRY AROUND
YOUTH MINISTRY REVIVAL REQUIRES RELENTLESSLY POKING THE FIRE
REBUILDING YOUR DECLINING YOUTH MINISTRY