Giving youth pastors the tools they need to make and shape disciples.

Rebuilding Your Declining Youth Ministry Part 4

If you’re following this series welcome to the fourth installment. If you’re new here, welcome to the party! You can start the series here.

To summarize. Your first step to rebuilding your declining youth ministry, is not re-branding. Re-branding only covers up the internal problems that caused the decline in the first place.

Instead, the process should be to Re-Imagine, Re-Invest, Re-Structure and now Re-Establish.

To re-establish your youth ministry you must answer the questions, “Who are we?”, “Why do we exist?”, and “How do we reflect this?”

This isn’t something you announce, this is something you have to embody. Once you have grip on these three questions you can teach it to your students.

Re-Establish Who You Really Are

The Bible establishes who we are individually, with and without Christ, and who we are collectively.

In my book, The Disciple Project, I suggest that you not refer to your youth group as a youth group but in biblical terms. Use words like Saints, the Body of Christ and even Living Stones. Other organizations have youth groups but the church is made up of changed people. If we try to be like every other group, we lose our unique, biblical identity.

Student have to know what they are a part of and their role in it from not only the spiritual sense but also form the practical sense.

Who they are must be not just be an exercise in knowing and being but in doing, in practice and expression.

Ball players don’t sit the bench, the get in the game because that’s who they are.

Weight lifters don’t watch others lift and dream of lifting, they lift, because that’s who they are.

Christian students don’t applaud the efforts fo their youth pastors, they participate in making the weekly meeting an expression of what God has done for them, because that’s who they are.

Re-Establish Why You Exist

Why do you gather every week? What do you say? What do your students say? Does it match? If not let me recommend teaching why Jesus came and asking students to adopt His mission of meeting.

This is why Jesus said he came,

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

I have come into the world as a light, so that
no one who believes in me should stay in darkness
. John 12:46

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” John 6:38

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John 6:51

Re-Establish Programing

This is a good time to re-establish:

A focus on the gospel

This is your chance to re-establish the place of the message, the Word of God.

  • What role did it have before?
  • What do you need to emphasis?
  • How does it need to be presented?
  • How do students interact with it?

to meet the need of the students you have and the students who will come.

Your process for making disciples

When someone responds to the tug of the Holy Spirt to follow Jesus, what’s next? This is a good time to re-establish, in both physical and digital forms, what it looks like for a student to grow in faith.

Author Seth Godin makes the distinction between education and learning,

One becomes a baseball fan not through industrial education (textbooks about baseball, quizzes on the history of baseball, etc.) but through learning. Voluntary engagement in the process.

In my book, The Disciple Project, I lay out a discipleship approach built on do learning not education; doing versus sitting.

New traditions

If you weren’t taking kids to camps, mission trips or retreats before, now is the time to place an emphasis on the value of getting students away to learn.

If you have never designated a monthly or quarterly outreach strategy, now is the time to emphasize the value of evangelism, sharing faith and welcoming others.

If you haven’t been taking communion, why not start having it once month.

If you only re-establish what you did before, you will only get the same results.

Spiritual practices within your youth meeting

Have you been emphasizing the need for students to read their bible, pray, be silent, meditate on God’s word, journaling, or fasting, etc. why not implement one of these practices into your meetings once month? Teach it then do in the same meeting. Help them understand the process and the joy of the spiritual journey.

Students taking their place in expressing who God is to them

As I’ve said, a new individual and corporate identity, must allow for students to practice that new identity. If you were doing all the work before, you must re-establish that this youth ministry belongs to them, not to you. You have to seek out students’ passions and gifting and find out what them living that out, serving, looks like on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis.

If students are not challenged to take their place, they will return to becoming consumers instead of creators and active members of the Body of Christ.

It’s possible your youth ministry decline was due to the fact that you did everything right and the people were not willing to go along. Obedience does not always mean getting the success we desire. Establishing a youth ministry that makes disciples instead of just converts is hard work and counter cultural.

The more the world grows resistant to biblical teaching, the harder it becomes for them to receive a youth program that emphasizes it and follows it, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, it just means you may have to adjust your expectations.

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