Guest Article By Dean Morris
Imagine taking over a youth program that is 40 students, the congregation is happy with the ministry, and parents are happy to have a place for their children to connect with other Christians. Sounds like a pretty awesome youth group, right? I mean, come on now, you are taking over a healthy, vibrant youth group that is 40 students!
Now fast forward 3 months. As you sit back and look, your youth group is over 100 students, your teens are being discipled, you’ve seen over 200 salvations through the youth service and evangelism outreaches. You are making waves throughout your community and city. All of a sudden, the talk has gone from “we have a healthy youth group” to “these teenagers are impacting a city.”
I know exactly what you are thinking, “ who is this dude…. there must be a gimmick… ok, fine, he is going to try to sell me some of his product… this can’t be true… I could never do that…” If that describes you, then I am ecstatic to be sharing this with you. If you are reading this, you can experience growth in your ministry that you have only dreamed of, and quickly!
I have seen God take a youth group from 40 to 100 in less than 3 months, with over 200 teenagers coming to know Him! Here are the methods that were used to grow our youth ministry beyond my wildest dreams.
The World of Social Networking: If you don’t get it, it will get you!
Let’s face it, today’s teenagers are engrossed with media. You may not think so, but I can promise you that the majority of teenagers revolve their lives around what others are doing and what others think about them. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (yes taking pictures and letting people comment on them is huge) are either going to be your best friend or your biggest downfall.
Use these social networks to promote and connect with your teens! We make events on Facebook for every single sermon series and extra activity; we are reaching thousands of students for FREE in minutes! What could be better than that? Encourage your students and leaders (and some of the cool parents might do this to) to “check in” via Facebook every time they come to your youth group. If a teenager is seeing a bunch of people checking into the same spot, they are going to be curious, and check it out for themselves.
Don’t forget Instagram and Twitter! What’s that, you don’t like Twitter or don’t have time for it; me either. I have found the best way for me to personally connect with the social networking world is through Instagram. Check it out! And the best thing is you can link your Instagram account to Facebook and Twitter. For those of you that are new to this, that means that you reaching out on all three networks in the matter of seconds!
(If you have questions on how to use or get started on social media, simply ask a teenager.)
Engaging the ADD Generation
ADD… Attention Deficit Disorder… the three words that will haunt a youth pastor. You see, even if a teen doesn’t actually have ADD, our culture has created a sense of ADD within them. You may be asking what I mean by this. Well, take a look around. Everybody is attached to their cell phone, especially the smart phones (oh and by the way, the coolest people are rocking iPhones). And what about when you watch TV? Have you ever noticed that there are 8-10 minutes of actual TV (with constantly changing scenes) and then 3 minutes of commercials. This is done on purpose to captivate attention.
It’s time for you and your group to captivate attention! In our youth group, we never have more than ten minutes of the same thing going on; we even try to switch things up every 7 minutes. You might be saying, “well, I like to preach for 30 minutes.” I’m glad you are thinking that, because I do preach for 30 minutes! However, try utilizing media, testimony, and different preaching methods. Our youth group is known for our “illustrated messages” and more details on those will come in another article.
Justin Bieber, Culture, and Wait….Did He Just Say Justin Bieber?
Guess what? Teenagers love culture. You may cringe at the thought of this, but the majority of your teenagers love watching Jersey Shore and listening to Lil Wayne. As the church, we need to embrace culture! Now, I’m not saying to compromise, whatever you do don’t compromise! I would never allow Lil Wayne to be played at our youth group, and I would never allow Jersey Shore to be shown! What I mean by embrace culture is there are alternatives to these.
Create an atmosphere that teenagers will love! You can do this simply by playing music. And don’t use old style Gospel music! Try playing Lecrae (a Christian rapper) or Hillsong United, depending on your demographic of students. Embrace lighting, the arts, and music…. It will take you far, at least in the eyes of the teenager.
Disciples Making Disciples Making Disciples Making Disciples…
If you aren’t making disciples, you simply are not doing your job. That sounds harsh I know, but the last thing Jesus said on earth was to make disciples. Think about this thought: Jesus had 12 disciples (ofcourse we know about Judas and replacing him) that flipped the world upside down. Jesus, yes Jesus, spent 3 years training up these guys and then sent them out to radically revolutionize the world, in which the effects are still being felt over 2,000 years later.
Find a way to make disciples. Small group are extremely valuable at creating disciples. We have every adult leader take 2-3 students and their goal is to disciple those students. Pray, encourage, grow. Those are the three words that we stress. Making a disciple is not an overnight process. For more information on this, I recommend the book “Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples” by Francis Chan and Mark Beuving.
Embrace Your Gift…. Oh yeah, and the Gifts of the Leaders Around You
Never try to be somebody that you’re not! Teenagers will read right through you, and so will the parents! God has gifted you with a unique gift so embrace it! If God has given you a sense of humor, use it! If He has given you deep intellectual thought, share that with others. If He has given you a creative side (and creativity is crucial in growing a group), embrace the arts and let the creative juices start flowing!
Whatever you do, don’t forget your team! All of the adult leaders that you have (and if you don’t have an adult leadership team, get one quickly!) will have different gifts and think differently. Brainstorm together, pray together, embrace each others’ differences, and watch what God does!
Final Thought: Cultivate an Atmosphere of Worship and His Presence
Let’s face the facts: If you have a youth group of 1,000 and no lives are being changed, you might as well just quit and go work another job. All of these discussed, don’t mean anything without the presence of God. The presence of God is what will bring life change and will be your number one growing attraction. Teens are crying out for help and wanting change so when they experience Jesus, they will be back with a van full of friends.
Cultivate an atmosphere of worship, with the adults and your teen leaders leading the charge and setting an example. Don’t neglect prayer, in fact make it your number one priority throughout the week because ultimately we are doing this for Jesus and need him to successfully grow our youth ministries!