Change is never easy—especially when it involves recalibrating the expectations of your students and their parents. But moving toward a more vision-driven approach to youth ministry IS worth it when you’re confident that is what Jesus is calling you to. Still, it can feel like you’re trying to turn a massive, ocean-going vessel. It doesn’t turn on a dime. It takes time. It takes prayer. It takes effort. And it takes programming. Why? Because in youth ministry, we program out our priorities. Daily, weekly and annually.
Consider your weekly youth group programming. If you think games are an important element of your Wednesday night gatherings, you build them into your programming. Same with announcements, worship, small groups and so on.
So what needs to change in your programming if you want to recalibrate your youth ministry around your vision statement?
To help you unpack the answer to this question, let’s drill down into what it might look like with a specific example of one youth leader’s vision statement:
To give every high school and middle school student in Castle Rock, Colorado, the opportunity to hear, understand and respond to the gospel, through prayerfully training, inspiring, mobilizing and equipping students to engage their friends.—Bill Freund, Youth Leader
How can a youth group reach every student in their community with the gospel? Clearly evangelism and disciple multiplication need to be central priorities that are consistently built into his annual youth ministry calendar, weekly youth group program rundown sheet and daily ministry priorities. Here are some examples of what this particular vision statement’s programming implications might look like:
Annual Ministry Calendar Priorities
- Prayerfully create a “What NOT to Do” list in order to free up programming space and mitigate clutter.
- Identify an ongoing means for consistently meeting with the youth ministry’s leadership team for prayer and strategic planning that emphasizes your vision. Schedule specific times with the core group to focus on training in prayer and evangelism, so they can lead the way for the rest of the group.
- Actively recruit adult leaders who share a passion for the vision and can multiply your efforts. Delegate what you can.
- Select curriculum that supports the vision’s emphasis on prayer and personal evangelism.
- Schedule retreats and “external training” opportunities that support the vision, i.e., a prayer retreat, an evangelism training conference or a Lead THE Cause week-long summer training intensive.
- Build creative, engaging Outreach Events into the calendar where the gospel will be given.
Weekly Youth Group Rundown Sheet
- Program time for students to pray for their friends who need Jesus. Focused prayer time lays the foundation for the Holy Spirit to work in hearts and minds, and also serves as an internal prompt for students to consider and pray about their own role in the process of introducing their friends to Jesus.
- Program time to pray for the vision.
- Incorporate personal faith-sharing experiences into the large group lessons and encourage adult leaders to do the same in small groups.
- Create a storytelling culture. Challenge students to share stories about their faith-sharing efforts during the week—the good, the bad and the ugly—including missed opportunities that they didn’t think of until after the fact. After each story, stop and pray specifically for the people involved. Together brainstorm appropriate next steps that might be taken with each person.
- Give the gospel weekly. Segue the lesson topic into a gospel presentation so the gospel is clearly presented to any non-believers present, and also to model for Christian students how to bring the gospel up. As teens hear these salvation segues each week, they’ll learn how to think about virtually every conversational topic as an opportunity to point people toward Jesus. Include an invitation to respond.
Daily Ministry Priorities
- Pray daily for the vision.
- Pray daily for students to be effective witnesses for Christ with their lives and specifically for their efforts to reach their friends with the gospel with their words and deeds.
- Get out of the office. Meet with students and their friends for discipling or outreach. Schedule discipling times with student leaders and specifically help them grow in the areas of prayer and evangelism, so they can help lead the way in youth group.
- Share the gospel yourself. Keeping the evangelism focus front and center in your own personal life allows you to model the priority to your students. Plus, it will give you some great personal illustrations you can share in your lessons.
Moving to a more vision-driven approach to ministry takes a powerful engine. So bathe everything you do in prayer and plug into the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember that He is the engine that must drive any course change. If you feel overwhelmed, take courage from Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”