What do growing youth ministries have in common? What makes them so healthy? What causes them to grow while others don't?
I've never met a youth worker who didn't want their youth ministry to grow. That would be like finding a 5 year old that doesn't like cookies! It would be weird. However, even though we all want to grow, few ministries experience the growth we all hope for. Why?
What's the missing link? What are the catalysts for youth ministries that grow?
I don't claim to know all the answers, and I don't have it all figured out. What I do know is I've been blessed to experience growth in various ministry contexts. I don't know everything that causes a youth ministry to grow, but I do know three things that have been priorities for me when growth was present.
Below are three priorities that have always led to growth in my ministry. My prayer is that they will guide your youth ministry to growth as well.
Three Priorities for a Growing Youth Ministry
This kind of sounds like a Sunday School answer doesn’t it? I know it seems like prayer should be a given in youth ministry, but let’s think about it. Is prayer really a priority for most youth workers, or does it tend to slide down the list of time and importance?
To be candid, this is a priority I've always had to fight for. I firmly believe it is the number one priority for a growing youth ministry. I’ve seen it pay dividends time and time again. I’ve experienced God’s power in my life and ministry through prayer! Yet for some reason, it’s still a fight for me to prioritize.
Maybe it’s difficult for you too. Can I tell you something though? It’s well worth the fight to keep it the priority of your youth ministry. I’m convinced nothing will payoff more when it comes to the growth of your youth ministry!
Now here’s the deal. I’ve never met a youth worker who would disagree with this, but I have met a ton of us who aren’t walking it out. I’ve been there, and it was in the times I struggled most with prayer that I felt powerless in ministry. Our power comes from prayer, so it’s time we make it a priority!
Come on youth workers, let’s fight for the priority of prayer in youth ministry! It’s time to spend more time in prayer than planning events. It’s time we start with prayer and seek what God wants for us instead of telling Him what we want from Him. Let’s make prayer a priority!
When prayer is a priority, we will experience God’s power and the ministry growth that comes with it. Growing youth ministries prioritize prayer!
While prayer is a predominantly spiritual priority, planning is more practical. If we start with prayer though, the priority of planning can take our youth ministries to the next level! Planning after prayer will move us forward, but planning without prayer moves us to failure! Let’s take a look at how strategic planning can grow a youth ministry.
It’s no secret that youth workers tend to be last minute people by nature. More often than not, we prefer to fly by the seat of our pants than work on a six month plan. Here’s the problem though, we are never at our best this way!
Think about it. Have you ever finished an event thinking about how much better it could have been if you had more time to plan it? Or what about this one? You had an epic idea that couldn’t work because you thought of it too late and didn’t have time to make it happen.
I’ve been in both seats way too often.
Planning ahead helps us to be at our best for students. You’ve probably heard this quote before, but let me share it with you again. “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” If you’re like I used to be, you probably just rolled your eyes all the way to your spine when you read that one. I used to hate planning! However, my attitude changed when I realized how much better ministry was when I planned well!
Planning is important because it allows leaders to do more, see further, and fail less often. John Maxwell talks about planning this way. "Thinking on the front end is 10-1 more valuable than thinking on the back end. Front end thinking prepares. Back end thinking repairs."
For too long, my lack of planning left me with a lot of repairs to what could have been. Making planning a priority has made me exponentially better as a leader!
Let’s take this to a practical level real quick. If you plan your messages or events the week of, they will be average at best. If you plan ahead and spend months preparing, the results will show it and students will know it. The best way to show students you value them is to prepare well for them.
I'm at my best when I plan 6-12 months out. Anything less than 6 months out will steal from what could be. It’s time to value our students by making planning a priority.
Purpose is your ministry’s why. It’s the reason you do what you do. For growing ministries, purpose is more than something to hang on a wall, it's a guide to what they do and how they do it. Anything that doesn’t fit into your purpose shouldn’t fit into your ministry.
Purpose is important because your purpose will determine your path! You can’t afford to have a fuzzy purpose, because the the wrong purpose will lead you down the wrong path! Growing youth ministries start with why and do everything through the lens of purpose.
So let me ask you a question: What’s your purpose in ministry? If you listed more than three things, your purpose is fuzzy. What is it that above all else your ministry exists to do? Ministries that clearly define their purpose will generally experience the most growth.
Does your ministry prioritize these three things? Where are you strong, and where do you have opportunities for growth?