As I thought more about successful youth ministries, and I put together a list of characteristics of a successful youth ministry. Here’s my list.
What are your thoughts? What would you add?
25 Characteristics of a Successful Youth Ministry
A successful youth ministry…
- Involves parents and meaningful adults.
- Provides a safe place for spiritual questioning and discussion.
- Challenges students and their faith.
- Helps students discover their gifts.
- Allows opportunities for students to use their gifts and talents.
- Always places people ahead of programs.
- Helps hurting young people.
- Helps hurting families.
- Comes alongside parents in their responsibility to spiritually nurture their children.
- Accepts all kinds of students.
- Provides opportunities for students to serve the community.
- Creates a support structure that is there long after graduation.
- Has leaders who are held accountable for their own spiritual growth.
- Connects young people to the larger church body.
- Teaches Biblical Truth.
- Encourages students to study the Bible on their own.
- Helps students develop their personal prayer life.
- Teaches students how to discern right from wrong.
- Communicates Biblical truth clearly.
- Encourages and equips students to share their faith with those around them.
- Relies on the gifts and talents of more than one person.
- Seeks to honor Jesus in all it does.
- Persists even when people turn away (without being pushy).
- Gives students opportunities to lead and equips them to do so.
- Brings students into true worship.
Add your characteristics of successful youth ministry in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
See the other posts in the series on Successful Youth Ministry here: Part 1, Part 2 (Sara), Part 3 (Mike).
Mike Kupferer joins in the conversation, giving us his thoughts on Successful Youth Ministry. You can read Sara’s guest post here and read my thoughts that started off the series here.
Success in youth ministry is different from success in the business world. Since a youth minister’s goal is not simply temporal, but rather eternal, our focus is different.
In all other realms of business success can be measured in tangible ways. You can look at the pie charts and graphs. You can see the income vs. expenses. You know if more people are using your product or service. These are the end results.
But in youth ministry, success is not measured in numbers alone. Sure, numbers can help you gauge your outreach or influence in the community, yet I do not think numbers always equal success. There has to be more to a youth ministry’s success than the number of students who show up.
In youth ministry, success is equal to life change. Life change for the students and their families. Life change that leads toward becoming more like Christ. When you think about success in terms of life change it becomes that much more difficult to qualify. You cannot qualify life change in terms of attendance, verses memorized, or even knowledge of doctrine.
You cannot base the success of a youth ministry on numbers alone. There will be students who do not seem to be affected in any positive way while they are involved in the ministry. Does that mean the ministry is being unsuccessful?
If youth ministry success is measured in life change then I think each student will have different variations of success during the years they spend in youth ministry. For one student it might be a success to get them to come to a Bible Study. This step might be the beginning of life change. For another student, their next step toward being like Christ might be to go on a missions trip. Is it unsuccessful youth ministry if only 10% of your students go on a missions trip?
Successful youth ministries do not focus on overall numbers and statistics. They focus on individual students’ growth. Unfortunately, there are other people who may try to change that focus. There will be caring adults who want you to adjust your focus away from spiritual growth and onto numerical growth. These people will work to change your mindset. They want you to see students as numbers more than individuals. Do not allow these people to deter you from focusing on the individual life change of each student.
Defining successful youth ministry as life change means that I go about my job focused on that end goal. As a youth minister, my role is not to bring in big numbers, it is to make disciples. Numbers might come, but they do not mean I am being successful. If the students are becoming more like Christ, then there is a successful youth ministry!
Mike describes himself as I am a child of God, husband of Amy, father of Nathan, Wes, & Moriah, friend of some, worker of youth and reader of books. He blogs at reflectionministry.blogspot.com and can be found on twitter @lilkup.
After thinking about what I wrote in part one of this series, I asked Sara Eden to give us her thoughts about Success in youth ministry. If you’d like to contribute, please feel free to contact me.
Dennis asked me to write a post on how I would identify a successful youth ministry. What success in youth ministry looks like and how it can be defined. I was psyched about the project… until I sat down and started working on it. It quickly became clear to me that I have no idea how to measure success in what I do. No wonder I am so easily discouraged!!
After struggling with where to begin I ended up where I should have started in the first place… prayer. With the Lord’s help, I’ve come to this discovery (a brand new one for me): In my mind, success is about accomplishing a task, achieving a goal, being victorious. The problem is that youth ministry is an on-going process where the goals and tasks are constantly changing and there isn’t a finish line this side of heaven.
There’s always another fire to put out, another parent to reassure, another student to reach or redirect (or the same student needing to be redirected for the millionth time) … I don’t feel like I’ve achieved success because there’s always so much more work to be done!
So instead of a list of things that would make our ministry successful, I ended up with a list of things I want to be constantly striving for…
- I want to be a part of students’ lives.
- I want to speak the truth.
- I want to provide a place for healthy community.
- I want to encourage students to ask the tough questions.
- I want to see students meet Christ for the first time.
- I want Christian students to be reintroduced to Christ in a new and very real way.
- I want students to pray.
- I want to see a passion for social justice and a desire to right the wrongs in the world.
- I want to see students bringing friends to church.
- I want the spiritual journey to be exciting.
- I want to help students choose the narrow path.
- I want to show love and teach love.
- I want to nurture lifelong faith that can weather the storm.
- I want our youth leaders to know that they are an important, irreplaceable part of a team…
- …that their opinions are respected and their dedication is appreciated.
- I want parents to feel that we are walking alongside them on the difficult road of raising teenagers.
- I want our church to encourage students to rise up as leaders and pioneers in our midst.
- I want our community to be a better place because of the work the Lord does through us here.
With God’s grace, if I constantly strive for these things, when I do reach the finish line, I will have succeeded.
Sara Eden Williams is the Director of Children and Youth Ministries at First United Methodist Church of Williamson in upstate New York.
She blogs at saredn.wordpress.com and can be found on twitter @saraden.
We were sitting in Starbucks with a former student in our old church youth group talking about the latest news in his life and how he has recently turned back to God after some time away.
I had a great time with him, and my thoughts inevitably turned to success in youth ministry.
There is no simple formula for success in ministry. It’s hard to put a definition on success in ministry because it’s something that happens over the course of a lifetime. Human nature and spirituality are complicated things, and spiritual growth is a very complicated process. When we throw in adolescence, things get even more difficult.
There are many of my former students who I pray will return to God. These kids grew up with Christian parents and attended church all the time. They were “good kids.” They went on mission trips, had all the right answers, never caused trouble, etc. But where are they now? Many aren’t attending church or aren’t living the way they ought to live. What could I have done differently? I have no idea.
I can only hold on to Philippians 1:6 and trust that God will continue working in their lives as they mature and experience life. I’ll keep plugging away, helping those who turn to me for help and praying for those who are struggling.
As I was pondering this question of success in youth ministry, I asked some of my online friends to write their thoughts about it here. Over the next few days, I’ll be posting a series of guest posts about the topic.