5 Ways to Achieve Almost Nothing in Youth Ministry

It’s possible to get next to no return for your hard work.

You can spin your wheels and burn through a week with nothing to show for it. I have managed to do it myself and I’m not proud of it. But I know that I’m not alone. I once had an intern spend 3 days on the youth calendar. I don’t even know how that is possible! What I’m learning that despite “working hard,” it’s possible to get no results. Here’s how.

1. Don’t Pray

Expect nothing and you are pretty much going to receive that. It is possible to be so defeated or so deceived that we don’t believe that God will do anything good for our students. Some pastors have become so overwhelmed by the power of the media and the pull of the culture that they believe that their students are doomed to be conformed to the world.

I have almost given in to this pessimistic view at times. I believed that God was omnipotent and loved my students but I doubted that my feeble prayers would bear any fruit. What a mistake! Even my self defeating prayers eventually bore fruit. When I was weak he was strong! When my faith waivered he continued to be faithful.

Don’t be afraid friend. Dare to pray. Expect results –not because you are anything but because God is EVERYTHING!

2. Don’t Set Specific Goals

Here’s a weak goal. “We want kids to have fun.” Now it is possible to miss even this simple goal because of last minute or weak planning. If kids had fun I guess that we could feel like a success. Have we really achieved anything?

Fun may bring kids back next week but if fun is all that they have experienced we have achieved nothing important.

I found that when I began to set specific, measurable goals and evaluated our progress each week, student and adult leaders had something to pray toward. Slowly we began to see kids have fun, invite more of their friends, join small groups, get baptized, and begin leading Bible studies and prayer groups in their high schools.

3. Do it All Yourself

I remember the scary feeling one night when I sat down with my wife and flipped on the TV. It dawned on me that youth ministry in my church had just ground to a halt. It stopped because I stopped working at it. As far as I knew, no one was contacting kids, no one was praying, and no one was preparing anything for Friday night.

I understand that there are times when we begin a ministry that we have to do a lot on our own but it shouldn’t stay that way for very long. The first order of business is to recruit, train, and deploy a team of committed students and adults who are passionate about reaching and discipling students in your community. If we do everything ourselves we will always do everything ourselves and severely limit our results. In a short while we will become exhausted and lose our motivation. Before we know it we are spending many ours surfing the internet, building a power point, or working way too long on a calendar. We go through the motions but very little is accomplished.

4. Don’t Plan Your Week

Many hours are lost when we don’t prioritize what needs to get done in a week. Some people don’t work smart without pressure to get a lot done in a short amount of time. I found that by planning my week on Sunday night or Monday morning I could put the right amount of time into the important items.

You’ve probably heard that if you fail to plan that you plan to fail. Another more positive saying is “Plan your work and work your plan.” Either way you say it, you will be amazed how little you accomplish when you don’t plan and how much you accomplish when you stick to a carefully planned week. The other great thing about planning is the balance it brings to your life, so that you are not panicked running around to take care of your ministry!

5. Stay at Your Computer all Week

It’s so easy to get completely tied up with administrative details that you stay on your computer all week long. What that means is that you are not spending time face to face with leaders, parents, or students. I’m ashamed to say I have spent weeks like that. I felt like I was getting a ton of stuff done but as I look back, none of it was nearly as important as spending time with people. A lot of it wouldn’t matter at all if I hadn’t done it.

It’s easy to invest 20 hours to video editing or going way overboard on a message. Most volunteer youth workers never get anywhere near that amount of time to begin with but when it comes down to it, you may not need to be putting in that much time.

What Else?

I am sure there must be many other ways to spend a lot of hours working and have very little to show for it. I’ve spent too many weeks like that in the past. Hopefully some of the hints here will help you to be more effective and productive this week.

All the best,



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Ron Powell


Ron Powell is the Adviser to the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for over 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email ron.powell@vanguardcollege.com


  1. 2. Don’t Set Specific Goals
    This would be the one I don’t do at all.
    Could you give some specific goals you would have every week.

  2. Hey Tony,
    some specifics could be
    a. call and encourage 5 students and 5 leaders
    b. visit a high school and offer support to the principal
    c. write a newsletter for the parents
    d. make a list of student who used to attend and arrange leaders to meet with them
    e. do a home visit with one family
    f. read a youth ministry unleashed blog 🙂
    g. pray for each student by name
    h. contact three parents to join the youth ministry prayer group
    i. find a learning game that helps students connect with my talk on Friday
    j. contact each leader to get feedback on how their students are doing

    I guess the list would go on and on. I try to encourage my youth students at my college to have:
    a. relational goals
    b. recreational goals
    c. financial goals
    e. ministry goals
    f. educational goals

    each of these should find some expression in the weekly goals. The best way to do this is figure out yearly goals and break them down into monthly, and weekly segments. I don’t always get the balance right, but it gives me something to shoot for each week.
    all the best,

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