A couple of weeks ago a friend in youth ministry asked me a pretty good question:
Sam… I was hoping to pick your brain a little bit. I have a fairly small youth group (about 17 students), which is mostly comprised of Middle School students. Also, about 75% of my students don’t attend [our church]. This has caused a bit of tension between the Senior Pastor and I, as he believes I am not making progress because I haven’t gotten the students from Sunday morning involved on Sunday night. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions as to how to get the students tied in?
That is a great question because I have also, over the course of my youth ministry experience, struggled with this [I think we all have].
So here is what I have learned over the years as it relates to getting students tied in to your ministry:
1. Use “UP FRONT” time on Sunday Morning to cheerlead for student ministry.
Let’s face it… you [as the student pastor] are probably the only one who is thinking about student ministry non-stop, so you need to use your time in front of the congregation wisely as it relates to promoting your ministry. If you don’t get regular time up front… ask your Senior Pastor if you can and let him know the purpose behind it. I’m pretty sure that they would not object to you trying to get the students in your church involved in your youth ministry. But BEWARE: You need to do these things as SHORT and SWEET as possible. Don’t drag on about it. Nothing kills your upfront time in a church service like stealing time away from everything else to go on and on about something that affects 10% of the audience.
2. Go out of your way to introduce yourself to new students.
Now I know that not every youth pastor is wired up the same. Some are more extroverted and this comes very naturally… and some are more introverted and this just sounds like swallowing a cup full of thumb tacks. But if you are going to get students “tied in” to your youth ministry… you need to acknowledge them and introduce yourself to them. And to take it a step further… get others to do the same. The more student ministry “cheerleaders” you have… the more students will feel like it is a welcoming, inviting, and fun place.
3. Leverage natural relationships.
If going up to a new teenager in your church and introducing yourself as the youth pastor seems very awkward to you… you can always leverage the natural relationships around you. For example… this last fall I was standing at our student info desk in the lobby of our church and noticed a family with a high school student in it that did not attend our sunday night program. I thought, “I’ll just go up and introduce myself to them!” As I started walking over to them… the family walked over to someone else and started talking, leaving their High School aged girl alone. I thought to myself, “Well, I don’t want to look like a creeper… so what should I do now?” I saw one of our high school girls and asked her if she knew that girl. She did and she went over to talk with her, and then brought her over and introduced her to me. I have leveraged natural relationships A LOT over the years and it has worked great.
There are probably hundreds of more ideas… but these were the top 3 that came to mind for me.