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WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOUR YOUTH MINISTRY
Imagine a youth ministry where…
Leaders (in addition to the youth pastor) intentionally build relationships with students.
Students come into a relationship with Jesus that transforms them from the inside out.
Discipleship is a priority. Students are given an opportunity to go deeper in their faith.
Prayer is central in the lives of all the leaders and students. Reliance on God is as natural as breathing.
Students willingly and gladly serve the community and others around them.
Students are in community with one another, doing life together with God in the center of those relationships.
You have enough volunteers who are excited about serving teenagers.
We ALL want a youth ministry like that…right?!?
Now, take a look at your youth group. Does this accurately describe your ministry?
Maybe so. Maybe not.
If you’re like most youth ministries, there is a gap between that vision and reality.
You give 110%.
You pour into the lives of students, both from a relationship and discipleship standpoint.
You recruit/train volunteers and partner with parents.
You coordinate midweek/weekend services.
You organize mission trips, summer camp, and other big events.
Or maybe you’re a volunteer who leads a small group.
Although you give 110%, the youth ministry you have isn’t quite what it could be.
You want to make a greater impact.
Here are a few of the most common obstacles that get in the way of having a truly remarkable youth ministry.
I came up with these by talking to youth ministers from all over the country (and the world) and also, through my nearly 20 years of experience in church leadership.
They are by no means a complete list. But they are some of the most common issues youth workers face.
#1 - Part-time or bi-vocational youth ministers simply don’t have enough time to give the youth ministry what it needs.
One bi-vocational youth pastor shared this with me:
“I pastor a group of students that grew from 15 to 75-80 weekly within a 6 month period. We maintained it for a while but with the schedule of working full time, I had a struggle maintaining it as I wish I could have. We are down to 30 or so now faithfully, and are doing well. God is changing lives. Numbers aren't everything but they're a sign of something happening. I want to be available to something happening through me, rather than commitment to a full-time job.”
As a part-time or bi-vocational youth pastor, you have to juggle a lot of other responsibilities – a full-time job, a spouse, your own children, and you have to find time to nurture your own spiritual life.
For many, other areas of your life suffer. You don’t have the energy/time to give your spouse, your own kids, nor your relationship with God what it really needs.
At the very least you feel the need that the youth ministry needs more of your time, energy, and attention. You want to do more, but can’t.
You might think the solution to the problem is to one day go into full-time ministry, but the truth is that many full-time youth pastors fall into a similar problem.
Which leads me to the next obstacle…
#2 – Full-time youth pastors have an overly busy schedule.
Even though you’re full-time, you still never have enough hours in the day to get everything done.
Ministry goes on non-stop, year round, and never seems to slow down.
You have back to school kick-off, Wednesday night services, weekend services, Sunday school classes, small groups, youth events, summer camp, discipleship groups, missions trips…oh, and the list goes on!
Like the part-time/bi-vocational youth minister, you might unintentionally neglect other areas of your life.
Your marriage suffers. There’s tension in your relationship.
Your own kids don’t see you as much as the students in your youth group.
You want to lead your students in example by having a flourishing, growing relationship with Jesus, but the truth is you don’t have the time to carve out to really go deeper in your faith.
None of this neglect is done intentionally. Your heart is pure and your motives are good.
They’re simply a result of an overly busy schedule. It’s what happens when you’re juggling too much.
As I talk to youth ministers, another obstacle stands in the way of seeing lasting change in the lives of students.
And here it is….
#3 - Lack of support from parents and church.
Oh, this one is hard because it’s something that appears to be outside of your control.
After all, you can’t force parents, church members, and church leaders to support the youth ministry.
If only parents would take on the responsibility of nurturing their teenagers’ faith in Jesus.
If only they would feed them the richness of God’s Word in the home. If only they would lead their family by example.
If only they would partner more with what the youth ministry is doing.
Couldn’t they at least commit to bringing students to youth group?!?! I mean, seriously. Is it that hard?
Students are involved in a lot of activities. Couldn’t parents make youth group as much of a priority (uh…maybe even more of a priority) than baseball, soccer, cheerleading, etc?
And then, there’s a lack of support by the church.
Church members won’t step up to the plate to volunteer. You’re only one person. You need others on the youth ministry team to really reach students.
Church leaders and members don’t understand the vision. They think youth group is about playing crazy games, eating pizza, and hanging out. There seems to be a big communication gap here.
As I already stated, all of these problems SEEM to be out of your control.
However, you can do something about them.
You can build a bridge of communication between parents, church members, and church leadership.
We all know this. We might even have taken steps to build communication.
But, the truth is that doing this requires A LOT of time, energy, and attention.
A resource that we don’t have very much of.
So, we do what we can with what we have.
But the problems still exist. And it’s frustrating. Not much gets resolved.
And now, I come to the last obstacle that will be addressed.
#4 – Teenagers have overly busy schedules too.
Not only are you busy, but many students have as busy or busier schedules than you!
Students these days are involved in multiple activities outside of school.
And they’re expected to do well in school, which involves a typical 7 hours of school, plus a couple hours of homework. Then, as they hit 11th & 12th grade the pressure increases as college approaches.
Many don’t regularly attend youth group simply because they’re too busy. They want to come, but don’t have the time to attend.
Make students feel guilty for not showing up to youth group. HA! Just kidding. Don’t do that. They need grace and understanding from you, not more guilt and judgment.
One solution is best summed up by a quote from my friend Aaron Helman:
“Your ministry to students is not dependent on their ability to show up to youth group, but on your ability to minister to them outside of the youth group.”
Ok, that’s not an exact quote from him. But, it’s a quote.
Seems like a solution to this problem is to build a relationship with students outside of youth group.
And that takes a lot of time and effort on your part and volunteers.
If only you and your team had more time to build relationships with students outside of youth group.
THE REAL PROBLEM IS LACK OF TIME.
All these obstacles could be overcome if you had more time. That’s the real problem.
Back in the early days of my ministry days I was young and single. I spent just about all my time doing ministry related stuff: planning events, building relationships with students, coordinating weekend services, recruiting/training volunteers, etc.
I was also a full-time seminary student.
I had a passion for pointing students to Jesus and being a part of what God was doing in the lives of young people.
I eventually graduated from seminary, fell in love with my wife Jena, got married and had three kids pretty close together (all about 1 1/2 years apart).
Juggling the needs of a young family and ministry were difficult. I struggled for years with trying to balance the two.
So, I took 1 ½ years off of full-time ministry, transitioning into another non-ministry job during that time.
Then, I went back into full-time ministry after that. I learned a lot about during that time off. A lot of lessons that I took with me going back into full-time ministry.
Worst case scenario is that the “lack of time” issue leads to burn out.
Best case scenario is that all four of the obstacles I mentioned continue to prevent your youth ministry from being what it could be. What it needs to be.
I believe the lack of time is one of the biggest challenges youth ministry leaders face.
If you just had more time, you would:
Be more effective at pointing students to Jesus.
Develop relationships with more students and train other leaders to do the same.
Build a bridge of communication and partnership with parents, church leadership, and others in the church.
Recruit the right volunteers and put them in the right place.
That’s one of the main reasons I created ministrytoyouth.com (this website) back in April of 2014.
We create a ton of FREE (and paid) youth ministry lessons and games, so you can SAVE TIME.
Instead of creating lessons and games from scratch, you can save a ton of time by using our youth ministry resources.
More specifically, our goal is to save you 3-5 hours a week. If every week we could give you 3-5 hours of your time back, imagine the implications of that.
If lack of time is the root of a lot of the obstacles preventing you from a truly remarkable youth ministry, how much more of an impact could you make if you had more time?
Part-time & bi-vocational youth ministers would have more time to serve the needs of their youth group.
Full-time youth pastors would finally get some wiggle room in their overly busy schedules, so they can focus on the important stuff that makes a difference in the lives of students.
You would have more time to build a bridge of communication to parents and the church so that they would begin to support the youth ministry.
You would have more time to recruit and train volunteers.
You and your team would have more time to build relationships with students outside of youth group.
Time is a limited resource. An extra 3-5 hours a week would help you get closer to a having a truly remarkable youth ministry. It would help to close the gap between reality and your youth ministry’s vision to change the world.
It would enable you to create an amazing youth ministry where students come into a relationship with Jesus, grow in their faith, serve the community, and impact the world around them.
I’m so excited to help you make this kind of difference in the lives of young people!
Since we launched this website in April of 2014, our audience has significantly grown. We now have over 80,000 youth ministry leaders a month from around the world visiting our website.
Thousands of youth ministers use our free and paid youth group lessons and games, which means they save a ton of time each week.
Over 100,000 youth workers get our emails each week – loaded with free lessons, games and blog posts that challenge them to rethink how they do youth ministry.
We have a highly engaged Facebook community that helps spread the word about what we’re doing.
It’s so awesome to be a part of all of this.
Yes, most of the lessons and games we create are free. That’s cool. But we do have a ton of youth group series and games for sale on our website.
Occasionally, we put together a big bundle of lessons and games that lasts for a limited time.
It’s usually something like a 90% discount on $1,100+ worth of youth group resources. In other words, you save over $1,000.
So, when we create paid resources our goal is to save you a ton of money (as well as time).
Now, some of you might think that it's your responsibility to come up with youth ministry lessons all on your own. Or maybe you simply prefer to do this.
I get it. In fact, I often feel the same way. Even though I have all these amazing messages at my fingertips, I frequently create my own lessons from scratch.
If you feel this way too, here are a few reasons it is extremely helpful to use youth group lessons that are already created for you.
Note: Keep in mind a lot of the resources we create on our website are free, so I'm not trying to pitch our paid stuff to you.
Reason #1 - You need a break from the grind.
Many of you lead Wednesday night and weekend services, which requires you to come up with at least 2 messages each week. Some of you are in charge of small groups and/or Sunday School as well.
The grind of creating that many messages/lessons every week can wear you down. So, it's nice to have youth group lessons and series at your fingertips when you need a break from the grind.
Reason #2 - Use the created lessons as the foundation of your messages.
The idea of using lessons already created for you doesn't mean that you read a script. Take some time to make it your own. Customize it and add you're own creativity. Add what God is speaking to you and your students.
At the very least, it's really helpful to use an already made lesson's main idea, Bible verses, series flow, etc., as the foundation of your messages. Sometimes coming up with that foundation takes the most amount of your time. We've already done that for you.
Reason #3 - You need ready to go lessons for your team and/or volunteers.
Many of you have a team of volunteers, staff, and/or interns. It is often difficult for them to come up with their own lessons on a regular basis. It would be helpful to use the lessons we create and give it to them. They're ready to go lessons your team can spend minimal prep time on. Nice.
Reason #4 - Arwork is already done.
On all our paid series, the artwork is already created for you. Both the cover image, and the blank text slide. Use that artwork to post info about the series on social media, website, student outlines, presentation software, etc.
If you created your own artwork, you would spend a good amount of time doing so. Or you would have to pay someone else to do it. Either way, we've got it all done for you...saving you time or money.
If you’re new to our website, then be sure to check out our collection of:
Every so often we release a bunch of freebies all at one time. Way more than our normal amount. And that's what we're doing right now!
So, be on the lookout for even more freebies coming soon.
Keep up the awesome stuff you’re doing pointing students to Jesus!
Nick Diliberto, Ministry to Youth