Welcome to part two of my four part series on Rebuilding Your Declining Youth Ministry. If you missed part one, where I talk about Re-Imagining Your Youth Ministry, click here to catch up
Youth Pastors who want to focus on re-branding before re-imaging, eventually, fall into the same pit as before. To avoid this, let’s look at another step to take before rebranding your youth ministry.
If your youth ministry is in decline, let’s look at your investment tally sheet. Where did you invest time, talent and money? Are you happy with that? Was that the best use of the resources you had? If it was then you did what you could do, there are other things at play lending to the decline of your youth ministry.
If you’re not happy with how you spent your resources, consider re-investing them into more important areas.
My wife is addicted to these knew documentaries about companies that pretended to be something to get investors like WeWork. Lula Rich or The Dropout. I am mildly interested and watch how companies pretend to be something they’re not and have to appear to be better than they are to fool others. Image over reality. Churches or youth ministries think they should be exempt from such scrutiny. My advice is, scrutinize yourself before someone else does.
Let’s look at youth ministry like the stock market. Inside the market shares are being traded/sold for all kinds of companies. Some are solid like Apple and there are some, like start up companies, who are just going public and are high risk. You have no idea if the company will fly or fail.
Let me give you some youth ministry stock tips
Invest in Evangelism
I’m not talking about just having bigger “come and see” events. I am talking about getting your youth group out of your church and into the community. The vast majority of your community doesn’t know you have a youth ministry and doesn’t care. This may go for your own church. They don’t see the youth doing anything and forget they’re even a part of the Body.
If your youth minister is in decline it’s because people are not finding Christ and therefore see no need to grow in a faith they do not have. Investing, sowing, your student into your community to meet every day needs is a great investment. Your students are doing the gospel, sharing the gospel, living the gospel and your community is given a chance to respond to a living presentation of Christ.
How can you do this?
Sponsor a 3 on 3 basketball tournament at your local community center.
Deliver food to the elderly.
Stand at a Taco Bell counter and pay for every teenagers/families meal that comes up and then give them a card with a QR code to a webpage where they can leave a prayer request.
Oh, one more thing, there is no guarantee this will grow your youth ministry, but it may keep your kids around to see what happens next.
So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.I Corinthians 3:7
Evangelism is not about better meetings, it’s about getting students out of their seats and into the streets.
For more ideas, check out my book The Disciple Project.
Invest in Discipleship
Discipleship and evangelism different sides of the same coin. A disciple loving their community is doing the work of an evangelist and becoming a better disciple. Youth ministries in decline have to take larger risks to make up for the deficit. High risk, high reward.
I like to say, “If you are not willing to lose a few student, you’re not willing to gain a lot of students”. So yes, changing the program where, short term, students are doing instead of sitting is essential. Yes, they must be trained in how to share their faith, etc. but if that moment never comes, or is not afforded to them, what good is the training.
What if you math teacher kept telling you here was a test coming up but every time the test is cancelled or postponed, how motivated would you be to study, to listen, to take notes? Exactly. Planning opportunities for your students, on your actual meeting night, to go and do what you have been teaching them, is essential to them learning the spiritual lesson you want them to learn. It is also essential that you create a fervor, a mild crises your students have to rise up to.
When I told my students that we were not having regular youth meetings for the next few months, rather we would be dividing up into teams and going out into our community, praying for people, visiting their friends, visiting the sick and the widow, there was push back and I lost a few, but, the investment created a stir and an excitement that built upon itself and it time added students to our youth ministry.
If you want more information on how this works on a practical/program level, check out my book The Disciple Project.
Invest in Leadership/Relationships
How much do you do to make your meetings happen? I’m going to say too much. Declining youth ministry, usually, have one person doing all the work and crossing their fingers, hoping it works. Doing things yourself, all time, only leaders to burn out. Besides, your kids are bored and they can be bored at home.
I have been at my new church for seven weeks and I have had two students bring the message and one student do the game. It’s small, but it’s a start. I am creating the expectation that I am not called to do all the work and neither are they. I am creating a youth ministry that taps into gifts and callings at an early age, identifying strengths and weakness and then asking for permission to help them hone those abilities through serving opportunities.
Our church’s youth ministry was devastated by Covid. The lady who had been doing the ministry for over a year, traveling an hour one way, had to make a change. We only had two kids showing up. That wasn’t the reason she left but it didn’t help. My pastor asked me for ideas, I said I’ll oversee some students to do it in the short term.
For six weeks we will do children’s ministry. The children will be ministered to. Our students, who would rather being serving than sitting in church, will be learning and doing. In addition, I have secured that students will get money into their account for serving. They can use this for camp, activities or outings. Win. Win. Win.
If your kids come to church every week, fold their arms and say, “What have you got for me this week”. This is your fault. You’ve allowed it to happen, If your kids are bored, unchallenged over time, decline is inevitable.
You have to give the youth ministry back to your students not only to stop the decline but to flourish.
In my book, The Youth Ministry Playbook I have a sheet that challenges youth workers to look at where they’re investing. If you’re in decline and you’ve spent a large portion of your budget on tech but very little on evangelism, I will say you got what you paid for.