So you’re new to youth ministry? Welcome to the team! I’m excited for you, and I believe in you! I can’t wait to see how God is going to use you to change students’ lives and lead them to Jesus.
But can I just be honest with you for second? I’m also a little worried for you, too. I’m worried because I remember. I remember what those first few months of youth ministry were like for me. I’m sure anyone who’s been doing youth ministry for a while now can say the same thing. We can all look back on those early days and remember what it was like to have a heart that was much bigger than our brains (and our budgets).
If you’re anything like I was, you might feel a little overwhelmed. If you do, the good news is you’re not alone. I’ve been there! Honestly, I think we all have.
In an effort to help you make the most out of your first six months, to take the most crucial first steps, and to avoid some of the many mistakes that many of us made, here’s a checklist to get you started in the right direction. If you do these six things first, the rest will start to fall into place.
1. Outsource your content. Take care of your content problem by outsourcing it. If you’re like most youth pastors, you’re going to be writing and delivering talks every week of your life now. No brand new pastor has time to do that and build a youth ministry. So, do one of two things to get started: Subscribe to content. Or, make a content team. In fact, I’d actually advise doing both. Find a source of content you like, and pay for it if you have to. The time it saves you will be worth every penny spent. Then, find a few other people (volunteers, fellow staff, or that guy you know in Denver) and ask them to meet with you once a month. To use a football analogy, the subscription is about starting in the red zone with outlines. The content team is about getting in the end zone for your specific student ministry. Whatever you choose to do, decide not to do content alone. (For a great resource on content click here.)
2. Recruit one class of volunteers. Volunteers will make or break your ministry. If your church doesn’t currently have Small Groups, make them. Students are attracted to programs, but they stick around because of relationships. You’ll never be more than a few if it’s just you. If you do have Small Groups, dump all your energy into your next class (sixth grade or ninth grade). They’re your next generation. Find an elite group of people to lead them and engage them as they grow up in your ministry. (For more on recruiting volunteers, click here.)Students are attracted to programs, but they stick around because of relationships. Click To Tweet
3. Update your space. Take a walk through your environment from the car door to your youth ministry environment. Update what doesn’t feel cool or exciting or engaging. Start with the cheaper, quicker fixes you can immediately make to improve your space. Then, work your way to bigger ticket items. (For more on creating cool spaces, click here.)
4. Launch a fresh vision. Light a new fire in the hearts of your students. Paint them a picture of the amazing things that God wants to do in your town through your youth ministry. Launch the vision with a series, capture it in a tag line, and keep saying it the whole year. Your students will catch on and want to be a part of it.
5. Mobilize your influencers. Identify the students who have influence at their schools and mobilize them to invite their friends. Give them the best of your energy and time. Ask them a million questions about what would make them invite friends. Figure out what made their friends want to come back. Pick their brains. This isn’t about showing favoritism; it’s about being strategic with your limited time.Identify the students who have influence at their schools and mobilize them to invite their friends. Click To Tweet
6. Simplify your program. Where are you doing too much? Where are you manufacturing energy? Where are you diluting momentum? Simplify it. If you’re meeting twice a week, consider moving to once a week and focus your best energy and creativity there. If you’re organizing a league or an event that just feels outdated and extra, cut it. If your program is too long and full, make it shorter and sweeter. Make sure you have the blessing of your leaders, but often, more simplicity in your programming will increase both your appeal and your attendance.
Start here, and I promise you’ll make the right moves and go further faster in your first six months. Go get it! I know you can.