If you have been around youth ministry very long then you have observed how some student ministries seem to grow wide but have little to show for it when it comes to growing deeply devoted followers of Christ.
On the other hand, you may have noticed that some youth ministries grow spiritual roots deeper than a Redwood tree but can’t’ seem to attract or win the lost through their efforts.
So today we are going to consider 7 essential steps you can take to grow your student ministry both deeper and wider?
The following list is a summary of sorts – a collection of responses that surfaced from a combination of student ministry consult interviews and surveys.
I have organized the list into 7 essentials found among growing youth groups. This list reflects part-time and full-time ministries without regard to the level of professional youth ministry training achieved by the volunteer or paid staff leader.
So what are these Seven Essentials for Growing Student Ministries Deeper and Wider?
The first one is
1. SMALL GROUPS: Growing student ministries focus on small group relationships as much as major event. Recognizing the important role small groups play in the spiritual development of an adolescent is a key factor to growing both numerically and spiritually. To calculate your small group effectiveness consider the ideal formula of having one small group for every 8 students in your average attendance. Each Small group should float between 5-10 students with an ideal of about 7 in attendance. Depending on the age group, interest level, and the time availability of the teacher/facilitator, one group may need to be smaller while others can afford to expand without losing the necessary high-touch factor.
If you want more info on the important role of small groups check out the training video on our YouTube channel dedicated to this topic and titled “The Importance of Small groups”
So the first essential is the importance placed upon small groups.
The second essential practice to growing deeper and wider is a focus on excellence.
2. Quality Excellence: Growing student ministries have a natural tendency towards programming excellence. The idea is that growing ministries strive for producing programming that is perceived as high quality. Regardless of whether it is or is not high quality compared to the star-powered mega-church – to the parents and youth involved in it and who serve within it – the ministry is perceived and received as programming excellence. Even if it is not Disney quality it is considered top-shelf by comparison.
So the first essential is a focus on small groups and the second is a pursuit of excellence. The 3rd essential is placing high value on involving students.
3. Growing student ministries will look for opportunities in which to place students into leadership roles. They want students to be personally involved in accomplishing their mission, vision, and weekly ministry gatherings. They know the value of students developing spiritually through doing, through preparing, and through personal involvement. This essential recognizes the fact that student leadership cannot be limited to those who play and sing with the praise band, are extrovert, or popular.
So the first essential is a focus on small groups and the second is a pursuit of excellence and the 3rd a high value placed on student involvement.
The 4th essential is to avoid failed ministry repetition.
4. Growing student ministries strive not to repeat unproductive ministry programming or events. Growth happens with those who are willing to discard or conclude a ministry that has proven unproductive over time with best effort expended to see it be successful. If you have given your best effort at making a ministry productive to no avail, then you must have the courage to discontinue it. Remember, an unproductive ministry due to programming ignorance or laziness is not the same as an unsuccessful ministry.
The 5th essential is what I call flood light encouragement.
5. Growing student ministries identify and encourage one another using a flood light rather than a spotlight. Understanding the benefits of flood light ministry is a key to high-touch growth. When we treat all students the same regardless of abilities, looks, popularity, athletic ability, etc. the tendency towards inclusiveness breeds acceptance and growth. A spotlight promotes individualism and exclusiveness much like a clique whereas a flood light distributes its beams equally regardless of how much or how little a youth brings to the table.
6. Growing student ministries will embrace and promote change. Now I don’t mean changing things for change sake (although sometimes even that is necessary in extreme stagnant cases) When it comes to change, we must remember that every ministry has its season. Some ministry programs will last a life time, like Summer Camp or Disciple Now Weekend. While the content may change and the programming updated, the concept of an annual ministry event like summer camp may outlive several generations of youth. On the other hand, some ministry initiatives have a very short life-span and are established with the intent of only accomplishing a specific, time sensitive ministry goal. Knowing when it is time to conclude a particular ministry program must be bathed in prayer and executed with humility and confidence.
The 7th and final essential to growing a student ministry deeper and wider is celebrating parent involvement.
7. Growing student ministries celebrate involvement and participation from parents and other adults. More than chaperones, these are adults who are youth friendly – who choose to invest in the spiritual development of teenagers. These are volunteers who are committed to providing students with significant other-person to which they can turn when the storms of adolescences flood their lives.
Deep and Wide . . . its not just a kids song from days gone by.