How to build a youth ministry from scratch (Part 1)
My Name is Ollie and I currently Youth Pastor at the Lynbrook Campus of Faith church in Melbourne. I have been married to my amazing wife Amanda for 7 and a half years and we have a super cute baby called Ava. I Have been in Youth Ministry for the last 7 and a half years and did Youth in the small country town of Kyabram in Victoria for 7 years. I believe in empowering this generation to respond to and follow the calling of God on their lives.
Before you read any further, are you able to answer the following question? Am I called? The call of God is essential in pioneering and leading your ministry, so if you don’t feel called, then don’t start it. When you understand your calling, it will lead to longevity in your ministry. Our generation lacks commitment and consistency, we can see that especially when we look at the way we choose our future career paths. Over 20% of us drop out of university, and up to 70% change our university course after starting it. If you are going to move on in under a year, what you do build will struggle to ever find momentum and see break through. We need to be counter cultural and present something different from what our world is currently experiencing. Our God as we know is “The same yesterday, today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
Don’t start building if you are not committed to see it built! The average teenager will go through 4.5 youth pastors from year 7-12. I myself had 4 different youth pastors during my time in youth. There were some great moments in there, but the constant changing always felt like stopping and starting ; and no ground was ever really gained. If you are going to build it, be prepared to see it through. That doesn’t mean you have to stay there as youth pastor your whole life, but youth ministry is not a time filler: it’s a calling.
When I started a youth ministry, I had 4-8 teenagers who were all church kids. I had no idea what to do and what I did do wasn’t always the best. I made mistakes!
I had half my youth on band. 3 up, 3 down. I structured it completely like the youth ministry I came from, I didn’t plan according to numbers, I planned to what I had seen. I have tried many different things, and through seeking God, talking with great Youth Pastors and leaders I was able to build something great. But building from the ground up isn’t easy.
Every Youth Ministry and Youth Pastor is different due to demographic, church vision, personality and gifting, so there isn’t a formula to follow in building a youth ministry. But these principles can carry over to any setting.
Have a Vision – Proverbs 29:18 – “Where there is not vision the people perish.”
Having a vision is essential! Your vision is really going be just a subset of the church’s , because ultimately whatever ministry you are a part of, it exists to build the church. Your vision as it fits into the church vision is going to shape your ministry. It will influence what you go after and what your focus is. It’s your reference point for every plan you put in place to grow what you are doing. Without vision, everything we do is going to lack purpose and cohesion. Instead of piecing together a puzzle, we simply end up placing pieces down that don’t even belong in the same picture. Your vision is a picture of what you believe God wants you to establish and build, not only in the natural but in the spiritual too.
To develop a vision for your ministry, take time to seek God. You should lay out the vision in a succinct statement and consult your senior pastor about what you believe the vision is, and how it will serve the church .It will take time and refinement, but it is an essential foundation to any ministry. Once you have established vision, intentionally set the vision: first with your leadership team, and then with the people who are a part of your ministry. Vision is something you should always come back to and base everything off of.
What you see and what you want the youth group to ultimately be must be established now, building the foundation for what is to come. How you run a larger, more established youth ministry, and how you begin one is different, but the culture should remain the same. Start building now what you want to see years down the track.
Resource yourself –Proverbs 24:6 “For by wise guidance you will wage war and in abundance of counsellors there is victory”
Resource yourself. When people think of resources, they tend to think of money, and although money is a great resource and something you want to be conscious of, it should not be your main focus.
I started off not as resourced as I would have liked, but I was called. I had my previous experience in youth ministry, internship and Bible College but I still felt like I was drowning. You need to continually be learning and using what other people have.
Surround yourself with the company of other Youth Pastors, meet up with them, get mentored by them, question how they do youth ministry. Read books and glean from the some of the greatest pastors around the world.
Don’t think you have to do it all yourself. Sometimes the best discipleship resource for your Youth Group has already been written by another Youth Pastor. Get a hold of it and use it, don’t waste time trying to create it yourself. There are lots of things out there to help you structure and run Youth.
I think one of the greatest resources is actually someone you can go to, to debrief, to get stuff off of your chest and just talk. Ministry life can be stressful, and you need to resource yourself with someone who you can go to in times of struggle as well as times of victory. You need someone in your corner to help you stand in faith through the times where you can’t survive on your own.
Team is huge! Your team will from the beginning set the culture of your program and help out work the vision. They will become a pivotal part of the ministry, and in part determine if this ministry succeeds or fails.
Do not rush putting together a team, don’t take just anyone for the sake of getting a team together. It truly is the case of quality over quantity. Now this doesn’t mean not taking risks on people, but at the start you want to try and minimise this risk and get the best possible people around you. You will be a team, it will be like family. You need to get on with these people and they need to be people who you can trust. They must be people who are honest, people who have great godly character and carry themselves with integrity. They don’t have to be perfect people, but they do need to have a heart after excellence and a teachable attitude.
Discuss with your Senior Pastor who you are thinking of approaching and get their insight. Pour time into your team because they will be the ones building the ministry with you. Ministry is not a one person gig but it’s a team effort.
From the start learn to rely on your team, empowering and tasking them with responsibilities. Don’t have a team that is just turning up on a Friday just before youth starts and leaving when its over, but put them in charge of certain areas. This allows them to be a necessary, functional part of your Youth Ministry. Don’t rob people of the opportunity to exercise and grow in the gift God has given them by trying to be in control of everything.