Teen’s Advice for Youth Group Leaders: ‘Train Us’

Youth group leaders, do you actually listen to your youth about their spiritual needs?
Youth group leaders, do you actually listen to your youth about their spiritual needs? (Lightstock)

Kids these days need encouragement, mentorship, and lots of love. And sometimes, youth group is the only love they get.

So, you need to make sure you're taking advantage of this small window of opportunity in this fragile area. So, grab your chai tea latte and get ready to officially have your mind blown.

1. Connect is the key word.Commenting on our Facebook post or Instagram picture is not good enough. If that is your only or primary source of connection, then you get a C grade at best. I'm grading on a curve here. In truth, you might even get an F. You need to get to know us, pray with us, and not be just a youth pastor but a friend. God said fellowship was huge. So, don't try to avoid this, because that conversation you said you were "too busy for" might've flipped a life for Christ.

2. Don't devote everything to platform stuff. Don't get me wrong—music, guitars, lights, they can be awesome. But don't let it overshadow the ministry. If that's your No. 1 priority, then you're obviously missing the point. When that is No. 1, your youth group becomes nothing more than an entertainment outlet masquerading as a ministry. Your youth group should be a ministry with a side of entertainment, not vice-versa.

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Now, I understand you want to reach our generation with the style we are interested in. I get it. I agree with you. We love that type of atmosphere over, say, traditional hymns. I also know connecting is more important than a great show and so do you.

The best way to figure out if you are going off course is to ask your youth group to grade you. Have them fill out a question card. Ask them point blank if they think you put a bigger emphasis on your platform program rather than connecting. This will take courage because no one likes to hear they have strayed from the primary goal, but it is a healthy thing to do. If your youth group thinks you think your platform program is the most important thing—then it is. Time to change.

3. Communicate with parents. You may think this isn't big, but it definitely is. Let them in on what God is doing throughout the group. Answer questions and always be available to talk. I mean, this is a team effort. You and parents are working to enrich these kids with Christ. So, be a team player. You're not the Lone Ranger.

4. Learn our name. This doesn't include "Big Dude," "Hon," "My Man," or anything else you think of when you're too embarrassed that you forgot our name. Yeah, we know when you have forgotten our name. The sweetest words a teen could hear from a youth group leader is their name. Remember it and we'll seriously appreciate it.

5. Don't play favorites. Let's be honest, everyone leans toward people who have the same interests as you. But not everyone likes sports, or music, or books. So, go out of your comfort zone. Don't always stick with the people who like what you like. Jesus hung out with criminals and sinners, out of his comfort zone I bet. Set an example.    

6. Small Group Leaders are crucial. You can't talk to every single kid every single time.You need people to fill that gap. Pick men and women who love God, and honestly show it. And don't just pick "yes-men" who nod and smile anytime you speak. That's creepy if you ask me. Listen to their ideas; they might be good, even if they are not yours

7. Talk deep—get real. We are teenagers now, so it's time to stop the "Jesus Loves You" and "10 Commandments" stuff. Many of us are approaching college, where our faith will be tested. Avoiding the harder talks, the deeper stuff, is like sending us off to war without a gun. We may remember that Jesus loves us, but that will not do us any good after a professor tells us there is no God and we are not able to rebutt it. Help us. Train us. These discussions will most definitely strengthen our faith. It'll make us think about who God is and who we are as a Christian. Don't be afraid; just go for it. Equip the saints. That is your responsibility.

All living things grow and multiply. This includes your youth group. Growth is a sign of health. Healthy things grow and multiple. Unhealthy things shrink and die. Focus on making your youth group healthy and watch it grow. Focus on lights, camera, action ... it will grow for a season, but in time all unhealthy things shrink and die.

So, there you have it. I honestly think this will help get more youth to come and experience God's great love, which is mega awesome! But, you can't do this alone.

Like I've said, this is a team effort. So get as much help as you can. Pray for his guidance and strength when things aren't going the way you want, because that can and will happen.

Remember, God is the final way to make your youth group grow. Without Him, there's no point. Not to youth group, not to anything. He is the center and circumference.

Tiffany Sullivan is a middle-schooler who likes writing, acting, singing and writing blogs. Diagnosed with scoliosis in 2012, Tiffany loves Jesus and has made it her mission in life to witness to others and bring them into God's Kingdom. You can check out her blogs and videos at her website at tiffanysullivan.net.


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