SYG Stragegy

Way too often, those of us leading small youth groups feel like we are not doing things that are valuable in the lives of Diverse Teen Photoour students because we don’t have the resources of a big church. In some cases, it may be just the opposite. While big churches have a lot of things that attract students, small churches have a family atmosphere that may make more difference in the lives of a teenager in the long-run.

The problem with most small youth groups is that we try to do youth ministry the same way a big church does it: primarily by running programs to meet the needs of students. For small churches, ministry is not about programs; it’s about family. The approach to ministry needs to be about building relationships with students, not primarily about providing them something to attend.

That said, small youth groups do need to have some organized activities.

  • First, develop a teaching time. It is easy for leaders of small groups to go crazy and try to offer three or four teaching times each week. Focus on doing one teaching time well. Help students learn the Bible, discover who they are in Christ, and learn to do things that will help them as they grow and minister.
  • Second, provide some fun. These activities are important in youth ministry. They provide a way for teenagers to express themselves in safe environments. They give students minimally structures ways to see how faith works in real life. They help to create connection between students. Most of all, they give you another way to build relationships with students and model your faith. Try doing a fun activity about once every other month.
  • Third, plan missions/ministry projects. Students need to have places where they are getting their hands dirty in the lives of other people. Without ministry, all of your teaching has limited objective. I heard my friend Kieth Lumas recently talk about the need for youth groups to have a “game day.” Why bother to practice if you are never going to play a game? In a sense, our Bible studies are practice for the game. Ministry is the game. Again, try doing a ministry project about once every other month.

A Bible study each week and one activity each month, alternating between fun and ministry–that really is enough program. If we don’t use too much time planning lots of activities, we are freer to meet our kids on Facebook, or shoot them a text message asking about a test they were worried about, or show up at a basketball game. Touching the lives of students for the sake of Christ: that is real youth ministry.