How To Start A Youth Group
First, your youth need you, others, and one another. You would organize to meet the needs of the students in your congregation. In the former Lutheran Free Churches many of the youth groups were congregational oriented. A number of our AFLC congregations continue this arrangement. It is a good arrangement because it gets many in the congregation involved with the youth. At other times, you will need to provide a setting where just the youth meet together -- with as many adults as necessary. Other times you may not be able to involve adults since the group will meet at the local school.
Praying about this matter is first priority. You do not want to begin a youth group a get one going again without the Lord. He must be the center. It is not surprising that busy students want real meat in their youth meetings. They want to be challenged to live for Christ. Our endeavors must be Christ centered and Bible centered.
Talk to your Pastor and Church officers. What do they have to say? What concerns do they have? What involvement would they be interested in? Who might they want to be involved? Urge them to pray for you and the youth. Pray with these men asking for the Holy Spirit to fill and lead everyone involved. What about financial support? What are their ideas on fund raising? What kind of events do they want you to go to? What kind of music? Stay within the confines of their leading so you can always have their blessing.
Call together as many parents as possible. Sit down with them and see what they would like in a youth program. Parents will have ideas on when to meet, the hours the students should keep, length of meetings and more. Parents need to be involved and have ownership in the program. Where parents and other adults are involved, we are told that the problems of the students are not as many.
Call together as many youth as possible. Ask them what they would want to do. Get their ideas as to discussion topics and Bible studies. In planning anything, it is always good to get the views of the students. Try hard to get the viewpoints of the inactive students. All students need to feel they "own" their own program. Taking a survey in both active and inactive students will give your planning committee ideas for planning. You won't be shooting in the dark.
Sometimes needs are not spoken. It may be too sensitive to mention them out loud. Youth leaders need to be sensitive to the needs of those who may not express their needs.
I still believe in the electing of officers. I believe this because our congregations elect officers. The students are part of our congregations and will some day be officers in those congregations. When officers are elected, it trains them for some of their future responsibilities. It also establishes responsibility for the ministry they will have in their youth group. And, they do have a ministry.
When you establish the needs of your youth, then sit down with your elected officers and work out a plan for your meetings. Right now you will not need to work on details except for the first meetings. Make certain they own and take the responsibilities for the meetings -- if possible -- right away. This requires a "risk" on your part. Sell them on taking the responsibility and then help them accomplish the tasks by reminding them and maybe helping them do the tasks, IF they need such help. Don't do the tasks yourself unless necessary.
Don't say you are too small! One church I served had only 5 days. Nearly everyone of the guys was an officer. The president worked out the plans for the meetings, organized a lot and I enjoyed coming.
If you are small, act big! Invite other youth groups. Students normally like that anyway. Most like to meet new students. NETWORK WITH THEM. Do a lot of things together.
Variety is important. Do a lot of different things. Some things can be done every year, but normally for regular meetings do not change your approach. Do have the same night and same times if possible. Visit with the school officials and inquire with them. Work out the best times for meetings as you can. Your leaders will probably be the busy ones at school, girl and boy scouts and the like.
Gear some things to girls, others to boys. One group could not figure out when they had a bunch of boys coming and just a few girls. It was because the girls did not want to play softball, but they wanted to play volleyball.
We must never think that out students are just "filled" with problems! Most students have a pretty good grasp of things. We need to work with them so they can meet the needs of the students who have concerns. This requires a strategy.
I would recommend the strategy of the Son Life Group from Illinois. You can find the link to this group on this web site. Their strategy is Biblical and comes right from the Lord himself. It involves a ministry for our students. They can be challenged for ministry and they can do ministry. Never talk down to the students and let those who lead, do just that. See on this site the section on what youth like in a leader like you. Our Christian students are NOT the church of tomorrow, they are the church of today! Let you and I help them develop a ministry. This would be a ministry to the students in their own congregation, community and school. This ministry would include other youth in the area as well.
It may be good to borrow some ideas from other congregations and youth workers. However, one should be careful to develop a "problem or strategy" for your own congregation. What works for others, may not work for you.
Never count noses! This is never to be done. Also, you are encouraged not to compare yourself with other congregations. Put Jesus in charge and forget all this stuff! I believe it takes from 5 to 6 years to set up a youth ministry. Then this ministry will carry itself. Sometimes, however, it takes longer. Other times, things might limp really slow. Then work with the students you have and encourage them to live for Jesus!
Also, it is my feeling you need to start a program with your pre-teens. Those grade school "kids" need to know your church cares about them. Start some kind of fellowship group with them. Meet regularly and as often as you can. They will learn to get to know each other better and want to get together now and when they get into the junior high and high school years.
The best possible method of youth work? It is you and others like you who love the Lord and want to reach students for Christ. Let the love of Christ control you and let the Holy Spirit lead you.
There are no proven, big shot ways to do youth work. Just give your fear to Jesus and let His Holy Spirit lead. Keep praying. And then lastly, EVALUATE! Where you have been, where you are going, and want you want to accomplish. Do your own evaluating, involve pastor, parents and others and certainly the youth. Try to get everyone involved in your situation.
One very important part of your program ought to be evaluation. You can gather your officers together after every meeting and evaluate what was done. This will enable your officers to OWN their ministry and they will learn in the process.
Also, be certain there is some kind of a spiritual emphasis taking place at every meeting. This includes hayrides and other fun things you do for outreach.
Also, remember to do some BIG OUTREACH EVENTS. Gather together students from your congregation and area. Invite other Pastors the youth workers want to be involved. Explain one of the purposes of having a big outreach event is not only to have fun but to reach other students in our congregations, community and school. Then let the students plan it all, under your direction.
Be like the "Little Engine Who Could." He went over the big hill and hither to yon because he kept saying to himself, "I think I can, I think I can..." until he started to say "I thought I could, I thought I could..." And with the Lord, you can because he will lead. Believe it.
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