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There are a lot of things to factor into growing a ministry. In student ministry, we come across a variety of roadblocks that can hinder growth and spiritual development of our teenagers. From inheriting a dying ministry to starting one from scratch, there are so many variables to consider. But what about your current ministry?

Are you having trouble reaching students?

Is your group empowered to lead, or divided and uninviting? These are a few questions to consider when experiencing declining attendance or a stalemate in growth.

A question that I have heard more often than not is, “how do I get students to attend my youth group?” One of the most frustrating things about this question is the fact that the majority that ask it aren’t trying that hard. Ministry is hard, there is no way around that, but there is work that must be done and time that must be put in beyond a “normal” 9 to 5 time schedule. Many people asking the question of “how do I get them to come to me?” are often skipping out on the work of reaching people where they are.

If you want to reach people, you can’t be too “busy” for them.

I understand that we all have things to do, but could you imagine if Jesus had said “I’m too busy to heal the sick,” or “I can’t feed these people, I’ve got other things to do.” The gospels would look completely different. Jesus met people where they were, and having seen his greatness, the people in turn followed him. That doesn’t mean that all those who come will stay, but you must be willing to go where the students are to be able to reach them. If you’re not actively involved in the extracurricular activities of your current students, this could be killing your ministry. You’re missing out on opportunities to show students and their families that you support them, and you’re also missing out on opportunities to meet new students who wouldn’t otherwise set foot in a church building.

Your group dynamic has a lot to do with how effective your ministry is. 

It’s not all about you, your teaching style, and games you play.

Do you have student leaders? Do they know that they are leaders? Identifying your leaders and letting them know that they are leaders gives them some ownership of the ministry. Make sure that you are actively training and discipling these students to do ministry among your group. Your leadership group is in grave danger if you give them a title and don’t let them know what you expect of them or how to accomplish said expectations.

Student leadership helps change your group from seekers to servants. When students see other students leading out as servant leaders, it helps to set the expectation of and foster growth toward a group that reaches out to their fellow students and community.

If you don’t have student leaders, this could be killing your ministry.

Sure, adult volunteers do wonders for your stress and keep you from having to carry so much weight of ministry around, but students who are trained well can be just as if not more effective than your adults. Ministries without leadership can become divided and uninviting very quickly. To avoid this, create leadership within your students. Encourage them to use the spiritual gifts God has given them to be the church to their fellow ministry students and their community around them. This will lead to organic growth among your ministry as students begin to help you reach others right where they are.

Whether you’re struggling to reach students, or struggling to keep students around, a key piece of advice to avoid killing your ministry is to always refer to the ministry of Jesus.

Ask yourself “how did Jesus reach people?”

I would suggest picking up a copy of the book Lead Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges. It is full of great leadership examples from Christ and is applicable for everyone. Another great book for references on effective ministry is Transformational Church by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer. Both of these books are full of wisdom and insight from a biblical perspective for transformational ministry.

Ryan Walker

Student & Recreations Pastor
Victory Life Church

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