How to Start a Youth Ministry at Your Church

In this article, learn how to start a youth ministry in your church from scratch by investing time and energy into the next generation.

Susanna Fleming

Digital giving apps and tools

If you are looking to start a youth ministry from scratch, you have come to the right place! Youth ministry is a vital part of any flourishing, multigenerational church, and the time and energy it takes to invest into the next generation is completely worth it! In this article, I’ll offer a few tips for building a youth ministry from the ground up, including how to kick things off, how to structure your gatherings, and how to best utilize a church management software to organize the students under your care. 

First, however, let’s start with the question, “why?” Why is it so important that leaders prioritize and invest in the younger members of their churches? 

Youth Ministry is Essential

There’s a passage in the book of Judges that should really cause church leaders to reflect on how they are discipling the next generation. In Judges 2, the author tells of the death of Joshua son of Nun. This is the very same Joshua who led Israel into the Promised Land, worshiped unto victory at the walls of Jericho, and instructed his generation in the ways of the Lord. But then Joshua died, and “that whole generation was gathered to their ancestors, and another generation grew up after them, who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10). 

Why did the next generation grow up without knowing about God’s faithfulness? Scripture gives us little insight into this question, but the fact that it happened should sober us as leaders. No matter how passionate our congregations are or how effective our churches seem to be, we can still fail to pass the baton to the next generation. And if we do that, our churches may die with us. 

We must be intentional about pouring into the next generation, and starting a youth ministry is a great place to start! Here are a few tips for starting a youth ministry at your church. 

Start with Prayer

This tip may seem obvious, but it is incredibly important! Before starting a youth ministry (and the entire time you are doing youth ministry!), start with prayer. Seek guidance from God, and ask for His wisdom and direction. It is great to gather ideas from articles and to seek wisdom from other leaders, but you are also likely to get some of your best inspiration in prayer! God knows the students you are working with, and He cares about them even more than you do! 

Start Showing Up

Starting a youth ministry can feel overwhelming, but so much about youth ministry is simply about showing up. Before kicking off a weekly service or putting on a summer camp, begin to get to know the students in your congregation. Show up to the events that matter to them. Be present at their basketball games, school plays, and art shows. Begin to develop genuine relationships. Gen Z is drawn to authenticity, and so this is a great opportunity for church leaders to go back to the basics and simply start showing up!

Build a Team of Volunteers

Building a team of volunteers is an essential step for creating a successful youth ministry. Regardless of the size of your new ministry, you will need to partner with other leaders who are committed to discipling the next generation and can help carry some of the load. To gather volunteers, put out a church announcement that encourages sign-ups. Then, use a church management software system to keep your potential volunteers organized so you can follow up with them. 

Importantly, a huge part of leading a youth ministry is investing in your volunteers and helping develop them as leaders. Don’t skip the step of developing meaningful relationships with your volunteers! Investing in your team will help strengthen your ministry and will have a hugely positive impact on the youth in your church. 

Consider Your Budget

Your new youth ministry may not have a big budget, but that doesn't mean you can’t have a huge impact! If you are starting out with no money, consider throwing a small fundraiser, such as a church bake sale or a car wash, to raise money for future events. If you already have a specific amount of money to work with, make sure to carefully keep track of your spending and prioritize expenses. Is your money best spent purchasing pizza for your students on Wednesday nights? Is there a big event you’re planning that requires cost-saving measures in other areas? Keeping careful track of your budget will empower you to do more with less!

Develop a Meeting Structure 

There is no one-size-fits-all meeting structure for church youth groups, but there is a general rhythm that tends to be very effective. Start by organizing a monthly event that is fun and attractive to youth, even if they aren’t Christians (think dodgeball tournaments, movie nights, or beach days). Giveaways and free food are a huge plus at these events! At each event, offer a short message that is focused on introducing youth to Jesus and pray with students who want to give their life to God. As your youth group grows, encourage students to invite their friends to the monthly event. 

Then, add in a weekly or bi-weekly service that is geared toward spiritual growth. This can be a traditional service with elements such as prayer, a short message, and worship, or it can take on the form of a small group or Bible study. This should be a safe and welcoming environment for students to ask questions, discuss their struggles, and receive guidance and support. 

Communicate Effectively

In order to get students to attend your events, you will need to figure out effective communication platforms. If you have a smaller youth group, it may be possible to rely on text threads or church announcements to keep your students up to speed with upcoming events. For most youth leaders, however, it is easier to use group messaging apps such as GroupMe or WhatsApp. Instagram can also be a great way to share updates, photos, and announcements with your group. You can also use a church management software to send automated emails with weekly announcements. Whatever communication platform you choose, make sure your communication is clear and consistent! 

Stay Organized 

Most youth leaders I know are far more passionate about people than administrative details, and that’s completely understandable. At the end of the day, you probably didn’t become interested in working with students because you love spreadsheets! That is why I am so grateful for effective church management software systems. Organization is crucial to any ministry, and a church management software can help you achieve this by helping you keep track of your ministry calendar, track attendance and communication, store contact information for students and parents, and manage your budget. 

Get Started with a Church Management Software System

Starting a youth ministry from scratch takes time, commitment, and organization, but the students whose lives will be impacted are completely worth it! As you get ready to start a youth ministry at your church, a church management system can be an incredibly helpful tool to streamline your administrative tasks so you can focus on the people under your care. If you want help getting started, check out Breeze’s comprehensive ChMS here.

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