Our church had no youth ministry for one whole year before we started running it. There were also only 3 youth-aged kids at church. Then over the new year there was an influx of new families, many with kids at high school wanting to know what was available for them to attend.. Thus began our adventure in youth ministry!
Starting a Youth Ministry from scratch can be slightly daunting or intimidating, like climbing a mountain. Here’s how YOU can do it, and you can find our workbook to guide you through it in the resource library.
Start with what’s in your hand. Who is in your church already? These are the ones you should be focusing on. Make your first goal to unite them, build relationship with each other, and naturally want to hang out together. This will give you a good foundation for the future of your youth ministry!
There were about 10 students in our church when we started our youth connect group, and most of them didn’t know each other. We made sure to play some sort of game each week, even if it was a short ice-breaker, which made for lots of silly moments to make memories from and build relationship.
Invite them personally.
If you’re starting your youth ministry from scratch there’s probably only a handful of students in your church. Awesome! That means you can see each one to invite them along personally. This goes a long way in creating a culture that’s welcoming for new people.
The week before our youth connect group started we made a little invite for each student in church. That way we didn’t miss anyone and we made sure we had a conversation with each one. Those who weren’t at church that day we visited in the afternoon to drop off the invite.
When you start making a plan to launch your new ministry, don’t overdo it. It’s awesome to dream of having a room packed with young people praising Jesus, but it’s also awesome to cherish where you start from. If all you do for the first year is grow the people you have in deeper relationship with Jesus, don’t worry. You are sowing into future leaders and world changers, and that’s worth more than gold!
The bible says not to despise small beginnings, so start small. We started with a connect group in our home and once we out grew that we moved into our church.
Engage their interests.
Meet your youthies where they’re at. What do they want to talk about? What do they like doing? HOW can you met their needs? The easiest way to find out is to ask THEM. By engaging them like this you’re giving them an opportunity to invest into the youth group for themselves.
Our very first connect group meeting started off with a pile of pens and paper, and we asked the youthies to write down any questions they had, topics they wanted to discuss, or games they wanted to play. We received all sorts of ideas, and from there we were able to plan our term with half the work already done for us!
Don’t focus on numbers.
During our year of struggling to get a connect group going, we said we’d continue to run the connect group even if only one person showed up. This was, in a sense, a test of patience and faithfulness for us. But it also spoke volumes to the one person that showed up. It told them that we cared about them as an individual. It will speak volumes to your youth, too, if you choose to run a quality program regardless of how many show up.
Involve the parents.
As well as a personal invite to your students, it’s an awesome idea to touch base with their parents. Let them know who you are, how you plan to run the youth ministry, and make sure they have your contact details for any other questions they may have. If you know what area they live in you can also put them in touch with other parents in the same area, so if they need to arrange a ride to Youth for their child they’ll know who’s nearby.
Get yourself a mentor.
Running a ministry isn’t at all smooth sailing, and you need someone to champion you and cheer you on in all seasons. Find someone you trust who has your best interests at heart, and who isn’t afraid to challenge your thinking! We aim to meet with our mentors every 4-6 weeks for a 1 hour session.
If there is no one available in your church to mentor you, have a look at some online options. One example is this mentoring program by Fergus McIntyre.
Pray for your ministry, and also make sure you pray at least once during your meeting. Anyone can run a fun night of games, but what should set your ministry apart is that you pray!
We make it a habit to pray with our youthies before each Youth event. We’ll gather whoever has arrived and pray as a group. All our leaders know they are expected to pray at this meeting and this means we are usually finished in only a few minutes.
- What are your biggest challenges as you prepare to launch a new Youth Ministry?
- What was your favourite moment about starting from scratch?
- To help you further on your Youth Min journey, find our free workbook to guide you through the start up process in our library (sign up here), or purchase our eBook below.