Are your numbers dwindling? Are teens dying of boredom? Here are some ideas that could jump-start your youth ministry.
After more than 15 years of working with youth groups, sifting through what works and what doesn't, I have identified 20 tips to help churches effectively reach teens:
1. Be creative. The No. 1 reason teens stay away from youth groups is because meetings are boring. Never let your group know what's coming next. If group programming is predictable, change it.
2. Change the setting. If your group is not coming to you, go where they are.
3. Move to homes. While serving as a youth minister, I planned "Lifestyle Meetings." These meetings, which gathered in eight different homes across our city, were led by older teens for 13 weeks. We started with 90 kids the first night, and by the end of the 13th week we had 130.
4. Love them. Though it takes time for groups to trust, they will eventually come to understand you love them.
5. Be there in a crisis. Nothing will get you closer to a youth group quicker than being there when a crisis hits.
6. Be real. Teens are drawn to the real thing. Be yourself, but be the new self in Christ. Keep your relationship with Christ a priority.
7. Be transparent. Never be afraid to admit your failures. Let kids witness your struggles. Help them see you are on the same journey they're on.
8. Give away leadership. The only way to truly develop leaders is to let teens lead. The more ownership they have, the more likely they will be to bring friends.
9. Try unique outreach ideas. Some that have worked for me are car stuffs, friend days and special guest appearances. Use every conceivable means to promote what you are offering.
10. Saturate your group in prayer. God is our source of power. His desire for us is to bring many in our community to a saving knowledge of Christ. Ask God to send you new kids, and He will.
11. Write letters. Not all teen-agers like to receive mail. Others do. The more personal your correspondence, the greater you will affect teens' lives.
12. Remember special occasions. Beyond birthdays, teen-agers respond when we remember holidays, graduations, honor days and times when their name appears in print.
13. Bring in guests. My biggest crowds have been when I brought a guest musician, athlete, beauty pageant winner or youth minister to be our guest.
14. Use competitions. Teens respond to competitions. Set goals and offer rewards. Grades, classes or age groupings in competitions for attendance, contacts and special events do impact overall attendance.
15. Focus on evangelism. The best way I know to grow is to win kids to Christ. Focused evangelism is a must.
16. Ask five, bring three. At a youth lock-in, I asked our kids to invite five people and bring three. They did. I had planned for 75, and 135 showed up.
17. Involve parents. Consistent involvement happens when parents are an integral part. Use them as chaperons, leaders and helpers.
18. Tailor to talents. Every teen-ager has a talent. Find it and put it to use. Teen-agers tend to stay around longer when they find their niche.
19. Establish relationships. No amount of programming can reach droves of teen-agers without good relationships. The youth minister can't be close to everyone. As the group grows, other youth leaders must come alongside and assist in establishing relationships.
20. Train your leaders. The groups I know that continually struggle with low numbers have faithless leaders. Not everyone knows how to lead. Train leaders to stretch their faith. When their faith is enlarged, teens can be led to attempt the impossible.
Try applying these tips in your ministry, and you will watch your group take on a new dimension. *
Danny Von Kanel is a youth pastor at Liberty Baptist Church in Liberty, Mississippi.
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