Every youth leader desires to see more students in their ministry. Leaders invest their energy, time, and often lots of money only to be frustrated by the lack of growth. They might believe that if they have exciting events, awesome facilities, and a great speaker, growth will just happen. This leads to the idea that we always must have more to “keep the momentum going.” However, always planning “more” can leave a leadership team weary, frustrated, and broke.
So, let’s look at three ‘buts’ to consider when it comes to planning growth in your ministry in 2022.
1. Exciting events are important, but…
Events are a great way to introduce your ministry to students. It is important that they see that we can enjoy ourselves and have fun. It’s helpful to use events to help visitors get to know you and your group–but just attending events alone will give a shallow impression of what Christianity is all about. Events are a great tool to help students make decisions, and that is great! However, life impact takes more regular connections.
2. Awesome facilities are helpful, but…
It is more about hospitality. Anything you can add, such as games and activities, will help, but it really boils down to this–when a student comes to your facility for the first time, do they feel welcome? Hospitality is more about the student, rather than stuff. A few questions to consider:
- When they first arrive, is it easy to know where to go?
- When they come into your meeting room, is it obvious where they should be?
- Is the atmosphere of your room comfortable for them?
- Is everything ready when students start showing up?
- Are there people at key locations greeting?
- Are they connecting with students or Leaders?
- Did you get their name?
Going to a new place is hard! We all experience it. Nobody wants to be spotted as the one that doesn’t fit in. We need to make sure students have the confidence to come right in, give them a place to belong, and help them feel at ease. We want them to think, “I could see myself coming back.”
3. A great speaker is a plus, but…
What a student really wants to know is, “Do you care for me?” They will not come out and ask, but that’s what they are seeking. It is very difficult for even a great speaker to effectively make everyone feel cared for. This is where every leader on the team can shine. One of the best opportunities to show a student you care is in small groups. In a small group you can:
- Discuss the lesson to see what they understood
- Help them to draw out personal application relevant to them in their daily life
- Pray with and for them
One of the key issues that students have with the church is that they see it as irrelevant and lacking substance. Small groups are a great time to go deeper and give students a safe place to interact in ways they normally might not be able to in the larger group. As you pray with them, take the time to follow up on previous things that you have prayed for and seek new specific requests from them (including friends that they would like to reach out to). Prayer communicates your priorities, and that this group is important.
When you have a facility that is welcoming to students and leaders that connect with them in meaningful ways through a strong small group ministry, it’s time to have an exciting event or a special night that will attract students to experience authentic Christianity. In time, they will invite their friends. It may take a few attempts, but … keep at it!
Dwight serves as the National Operations Manager for Word of Life Youth Ministries. Prior to that, he was a Word of Life Youth Ministry Coach in Southern New England for 23 years. He and his wife Diana currently live in Schroon Lake, NY and have two adult daughters.