Many churches with which I’ve worked, especially those doing ministry in small churches that don’t have a very strong presence of young people, find themselves wondering what more they could do to attract youth. They recognize the benefits of having youthful energy and long for a thriving youth ministry. Why? Perhaps they feel like a strong youth ministry translates into perpetuity. Consequently, too many churches throw all their eggs in the youth ministry basket.

This might be unpopular, but bear with me. When you recognize that your church is missing youth, you should employ the 12, 12, 12 rule. If you long for a strong youth ministry, focus your energy twelve years behind youth and twelve years in ahead of the youth, and in twelve years, you could have a strong youth ministry.  In other words, you should be throwing your eggs (and resources) into the baskets of the young adult and children’s ministries. Why? Because young adults are the parents of the children…your future youth group.

Too often, churches decide to sacrifice a lot in order to hire a youth director, despite the lack of critical mass, like a hired person is going to “attract” youth to your church. Build it and they will come, right? Wrong. Choosing to invest in an almost non-existent youth ministry over a struggling children’s ministry simply isn’t wise. Sadly, however, that’s exactly what many churches are choosing to do. Instead, church leadership should ask the following questions and let the answers guide them forward:

  • What in our church helps young adults engage their own discipleship and faith transformation?
  • What systems do we have in place to support young parents of children to share their faith with their kids?
  • In what ways are we inviting our young adults to influence the overall church-wide vision?
  • How are we incorporating children into the general life of our church?
  • What do we need to improve to ensure that families with children feel comfortable and fully incorporated in all facets of church life?
  • What old models of ministry do we need to let go of in order to move forward in relevant and engaging ways?
  • What stories are you telling? Do they include children and young adults?

Do the math, be patient, be strategic, and stay the course. Your church absolutely needs a strong youth ministry. It just doesn’t make sense for your church to build that without a care for how its doing ministry with children and their parents.

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