Okay, now might not be the best growing season where you live but I know that with the correct conditions any youth group can begin to experience better health and growth even now. Just the same way that living things need warmth, water, sunlight, and nutrients youth groups require some essential elements to thrive. Without these elements or if your group is deficient in one of these areas, your students are not going to grow as they should. So what are these six key conditions?
1. Get Love flowing in the group.
Jesus said that the world would know that we are his disciples because of our love. Getting love flowing in very “cool” youth culture is not always easy. Students need to drop their pride and be willing to accept love as much as they are willing to express it to others. This will have to be modelled by the leaders. The more openly and effectively you are able to communicate love as a leadership team the more that students will pick up on it and adjust to the “new normal.”
2. Model a right Relationship with Jesus
A group can be fun loving but not very Christian. As one student commented after spending a year in a new youth ministry, “We had a lot of fun but none of us got saved!” Groups can be warm and loving but if Christ is not present, the key member is missing. Unless Christ is being modeled to the students the ministry really falls short of its potential.
3. Coordinate Weekly Contact with every Kid
In adult ministry it is called “visitation.” It means being there. Students do feel important if they always have to visit the youth worker at the church and the youth worker never visits them in their home, school, or at a sports event. A part time youth pastor using time effectively can call each student in a group of thirty members once a month. Coke dates with two or three student after school work well. Lunches with students at the high school campus also work to connect with students who attend the group, frequently, seldom or never. A system of contacting every student makes a huge difference!
4. Develop a Positive Group Image
It is essential that a group has a good reputation among youth. The best way to know that youth love their group is that they want to invite their friends. Students will not want to invite friends to a group that is either boring or weird. One youth ministry veteran explains that he measures the three f’s. He wants to make sure that the there is food, fun, and friendship. At the same time, some students are coming to the group to learn. They like the feeling that they now know something knew. Others are looking for an encounter with God. Worship has become a huge part of some youth ministries with over an hour given to singing and jumping.
5. Get as many People Praying as Possible
It is not enough that the youth leader prays daily and aggressively for the needs of the youth ministry. Unless prayer begins to become a very big part of the ministry the depth of transformation in the lives of the students will be stunted. One vision statement crafted by SonLife concerning prayer is: “to enlist concerned students and adults to regularly and specifically pray for the total needs of the youth ministry resulting in a spiritual impact.’
6. Communicate the Word Creatively
Creative communication of the word involves beginning where youth are at in terms of their thoughts and interests and taking them from there to the word of God as the indispensable guide for belief and behaviour. Howard Hendricks has taught that “making the bible boring is a sin.” Communicating to youth does not mean lengthy sermons and pulpit pounding. Speaking to youth works best when it is visual, interactive, and personal. I suggest reading Speaking to Teens by Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins.
These six key characteristics of healthy youth ministries are not comprehensive but they are essential. Youth groups or campus clubs that leave any of these areas unattended will find that there is something lacking in the group. Wise leaders will examine these vital signs first to see how well the ministry is doing and then move in quickly to restore the area that is lacking.