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Lately I have been having more conversations with other youth leaders about what it takes to grow in youth ministry. Sometimes I am asked about little details. How we go about our service order, about our music selection or if we play ice breakers. These questions are fine, but it reminds me of a conference I attended years ago where a very well known youth leader was sharing his views on what makes a youth ministry grow. The point of the meeting when I zoned out was when he shared about his team that was in charge of keeping his wardrobe trendy (no joke). He obviously thought this point was one of the reasons he had success in youth ministry. While I am sure having the latest fashion was great, I doubt his shirt choice lead anyone to Christ.

These are a few things that are HUGE when it comes to building a good foundation for any ministry, but presented from a youth ministry perspective. These are areas I always have and always will encourage other youth leaders in.


Do you love and serve God with EVERYTHING you have? Are you excited about the gospel?

You would think this area would go without asking, but I have seen some youth leaders and wondered if they even liked the bible. They lacked passion! They lacked excitement for what they were doing! Maybe a senior pastor or board feels the need to have their own youth ministry because it is the thing to do, but if you can't find a leader that is passionate about Christ first, and the next generation (not Star Trek) second, you would be better off with no youth program at all. While youth ministries can be powerful, in the wrong hands, having one is worse than having none.

If you are a youth leader, ask yourself, are you really passionate about the gospel of Christ, or desiring the position? Your example will be what those students look to. You could very well be the standard they hold themselves to when they walk out their faith. You need to fire up or step down.


Before you do anything, you need to spend a lot of time with God and find out what the youth ministry will look like. What will the culture be? Will you be closer to a church service or a street ministry? Every youth leader is different, so it makes sense that each ministry will operate differently. At Ignite, we do not operate like a normal youth ministry. We know who we are to reach, and we go for it. But I don't think any other youth ministries are wrong for not doing what we do. If all youth ministries follow the same model to try to be successful, what happens to the students those models miss? It'd be like a team of football players trying to all play the same position. Become what God has planned for you. Learn from others, but run your own race.


Stop comparing. If you are in youth ministry, you have done it before. How many times have I been with other youth leaders and the question, "How many you running?" has come up? Or you hear about that youth ministry that has 400 students every week. Why not us? What am I doing wrong?!

You need to think in terms of, "If I have one student, I will disciple them and lift them up. I will share Jesus and his love with them and train them to do the same. If I have one hundred, I just have to do it a few more times." One thing that stands true is that growth will happen when you are ready for it. But don't worry about judging how "ready" you are. Your only concern is to keep growing in God and in leadership. Trust that God knows what you can handle effectively, and will bring people to you when you are in a position to truly help. Don't push for greater numbers for the sake of numbers. Be a good steward with what you have! If you try to force growth and focus on numbers, you will do nothing but pump out ill-prepared students. Pour all you have into your group when you are small, and when you grow, your students will rise with you.


Hang in there!

Years ago I heard a startling statistic. I am unsure if this figure is still current, but it said that the average youth pastor lasts around 4 to 5 years. This is sad because some amazing growth happens after this point! Why? Your young students who have been with you for years are now older and ready to tear it up, IF you have been passionately leading them to Jesus. Do not be discouraged if you don't see what you want in the first few years. Some trees take a few years to establish their roots, but when they do, major growth happens.

Sometimes it is burn-out. Guard your time with God. Guard your time with your family. Make it a priority to take time alone with God. Learn to delegate and let others run the race with you. If you burn out trying to help people, you will help fewer people. I'd rather see a leader serve consistently and passionately for years than see a leader get a lot done in a short amount of time and then flare out.

I have also seen many use youth ministry as a stepping stone to other ministry positions, and it breaks my heart. There is so much changing in a students life already, so when they go through several youth pastors in a few years, how do you think this affects them? If you are in youth ministry, plan to be there until you die or Jesus comes for you. If you get called elsewhere, great. But be sure it is God calling and not just a larger payday. Your life isn't the only one that will be impacted by your choice to stay or leave.

Drop in the ocean.

There is so much more to youth ministry of course, like finding leaders, communicating with unbelievers effectively, stages of growth, ect... However, the above points are things I feel cannot be missed if you want to have a growing youth ministry that is reaching students for Christ. I hope this encourages and gives a good starting point, because there is work to be done.


About Me

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Curt Blanshan / Youth Pastor, Tech, Lover of Bacon

Crazy in love with my wife and best friend, father to a little ball of energy I call my son, and passionate about youth ministry. When I get time, I try to keep up on tech. Oh, and I love bacon.

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