Please Don’t Copy This Student Ministry

It looks slick and successful.

Don’t confuse this with a healthy effective youth ministry. Believe me, you don’t want to make this same mistake… As I said, it looks like something great but looks can be deceiving. In fact, for this ministry it is all about the look. They believe that if the graphics and the social media presence are excellent, they can attract more students. Don’t get sucked into this approach. Here’s what’s wrong with it and how you can do much better. 

There’s always a push for more students.

How do we get their attention? How do we get them to come out to our events? How can we attract students so that we can introduce them to the Gospel? Is it state of the art promo? That is what many ministries have decided. They put most of their eggs in this basket.

Our motivation is right but this trend is a dead end. In fact, it will probably give you the opposite result than what you’re looking for and eat up a whole lot of your week that could have been used to get students out to your program.

Graphic and Media Design Trap

The premise is that if we have a really cool graphic or video students will be interested and come out to our event. It’s obvious where this came from. Students are on Instagram more than any other social media platform. We figure the best way to get the message out is by captivating digital design. Some churches have a staff person whose full time job is to produce state of the art media. Some pastors spend up to 20 hours a week on media if you include face book ads, you tube video, power point slides, and other visuals.

A Better Use of Time

I’m not in favor of no media, or poorly made presentations but I’m not convinced that media and graphic design is the best place to invest your energies. The best advertising of all is word of mouth. When leaders and students are excited about the event, program, or series that enthusiasm is contagious! When students feel genuinely cared for and loved they will keep coming back week after week!

An Effective Communication Strategy

Can you imagine having 10 hours a week to spend with students instead of looking at a computer screen?! Where could you invest that time? How could you communicate personally with students, leaders, and parents? What would be the content of that communication?

If you have 10 students in your ministry you could spend an hour with each! If you have 10 leaders you could invest in each of them. The face to face time, instant messaging, texts, and other kinds of communication could promote your activity and inspire students to invite friends. In a month that would be 40 hours of communication with parents, students and leaders. If you can inspire leaders to do the same thing that you are doing the level of communication and encouragement will go through the roof! 

Nothing Beats The Personal Touch

Students grow up in small family units and have a small cluster of friends. If we treat them like a corporate consumer with professional ads they may respect the professionalism of the ministry but they won’t feel loved. The more personal you can make your ministry the more impact you are going to make in the lives of students. Don’t fall for thinking that you need “the look.” Your time is much better spent communicating directly with parents, students, and leaders.

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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


  1. Richard Dillonsays:

    As in other organizations, the activity takes on a life of its own and sacrifices the students on the altar of being “the best show in town.” We have become a people that worship worship, rather than God. The love that is shown through being truly engaged with the students is what God requires.

    • I love your line Dillon that the love shown by being truly engaged with students is what God requires. It may be difficult and feel awkward but the more we invest in this the more life transformation we will see.

  2. Ron, After six years of research, asking youth What Would It Take For You To Come To Church, the range of responses were immense. However, what stood out the most and the strongest was that youth wanted connections that were authentic! They need to feel safe to discuss the hard stuff. Wayne Townsend

    • Well put Wayne! Thanks so much for pointing that out. Youth ministry doesn’t need get cooler… it needs to get warmer!! Blessings

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