Some of my favorite youth group memories come from unscripted moments. From late night milkshakes to bus breakdowns, I treasure the laughter, connections and deep conversations that come from pouring my life into students. So much of youth ministry is relational. We spend our time caring, listening, teaching and sharing so that teenagers encounter a God who loves them and can put their trust in Jesus for life. So how does a youth ministry strategy fit in? Do I really need one?
Do I need a youth ministry strategy?
If relationships rule, is there a need for strategy in youth ministry? Do we really have to be strategic in our discipleship and Gospel-sharing efforts? The answer is, “Yes!” And I would even say that by developing a youth ministry strategy, we emulate Jesus’ method of disciple making.
Jesus had a goal for His time on earth, and it wasn’t just the cross. Do you know what it was? We can see it in the prayer He prayed towards the end of His life in John 17:
“I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.”
Jesus’ finished work before the cross was His disciples. The things He said, the places He went, were all done with purpose—to give His disciples everything the Father had given Him that they would believe He was who He said He was.
So, how do we make and multiply disciples like Jesus did? At Dare 2 Share, we believe it all starts with a disciple multiplication strategy. This strategy guides your efforts, determines how you train your volunteer leaders and gives you a filter for what you build into your programming.
Step 1: Know Your End Game to Build your Youth Ministry Strategy
In order to build a strategic plan for your ministry, you need to know where you want to end up. What does success look like? What are you driving towards?
Stephen Covey calls this “beginning with the end in mind.”
“To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”
The first step towards developing your youth ministry strategy is to write out your bold vision. Pray and reflect on what God is calling you to do in your specific ministry context. Your bold vision statement should have three elements:
- Geographic Scope – Where is your area of impact?
- Spiritual Boldness – Is it something big that only God can do?
- Measurability – Does it have a timetable? How will you know if you’ve accomplished it?
When you nail down your ministry’s ultimate goal, you’ll have a clear picture of where you’re headed. Then you’ll be ready to take the next step in developing your youth ministry strategy.
Step 2: Develop your Youth Ministry Strategy by Evaluating your Current Programs
After you’ve spent time looking ahead and writing down your bold vision, it’s time to evaluate the current state of your ministry. Take some time to look at your programs with fresh eyes through the lens of your bold vision. Here’s your chance to ask some questions about the way things have always been done.
- Do my weekly and yearly activities line up with the direction of my ministry?
- Are my adult volunteers aligned with my youth ministry strategy or do they need more training?
- Do I have enough space in my schedule to accomplish my goals?
- Is there anything I need to cut? Is there anything I need to add?
Give yourself and others grace as you weigh the different aspects of your ministry. If things don’t line up right now, don’t be afraid to recalibrate.
Step 3: Refine your Youth Ministry Strategy by Planning Next Steps
Doing an evaluation of your ministry doesn’t mean you have to wipe the slate clean and start over. Too many changes and you might have a mutiny on your hands!
It’s okay to start slow and choose one strategic step to take right now. Keep praying and seeking the Lord as you go. Then, set some next steps and mini goals to help you get to your big bold vision.
What will you do in the next 30 days?
The next 90 days?
The next year?
When you build your calendar around your bold vision, everything has purpose. The things your students experience will lead them closer to Jesus and help them see their part in God’s bigger story of making disciples who make disciples.
Implementing a Youth Ministry Strategy will Help you Grow
Working through these three steps and doing the hard work of developing a youth ministry strategy will help you see growth. You won’t be getting rid of the relational parts of being a youth leader, but you’ll be creating the environment where students can thrive and those unscripted moments can make a difference.
If you’d like some help setting up your strategy for growth this year, make sure to join us at our free youth leader webinar called “How to Grow Your Youth Ministry in 2021.” At the webinar, Dare 2 Share’s Greg Stier will dive into a vision and values for a Gospel Advancing Ministry. Hope to see you there!