Changing Up Your Youth Ministry

A recent trend in youth ministry has been to do new events every year as opposed to a traditional routine. In the past, many youth groups, for example, would have a fall kick-off event, a winter retreat at the same camp, a spring leadership conference at the same college and a similar high school summer mission trip. However, many youth pastors and youth directors, fresh out of Bible college or seminary, are striving to create, not only a new yearly calendar of events, but new events every year. Even though this “never do the same event again” model helps students get more diverse experiences, it comes with many flaws.

Fresh youth pastors and directors ought to be sensitive to the culture of the churches they are serving. Many students look forward to the same events year after year. The routine gives them a sense of belonging and stability (which they may not have at home, but that is another topic). Upperclassmen, who have been on mission trips in the past, have more opportunities to lead when they know what to expect.

At the same time, doing routine events fortifies parent trust in the church. When they are already familiar with what happened last year, they are more likely to trust the youth worker to take their kids again. It is also important for youth workers to be mindful of the costs for both the church and families for students to attend events. New events should not drastically shift the budget.

Overall, youth pastors and directors should seek a balanced approach. If they are dissatisfied with the current calendar or sense a longing from the church community to do new things, they should move forward carefully. For a brand new youth pastor, it is essential for them to spend a year putting their energy into learning about the church. Thus, they should probably keep the same calendar from the previous year as they establish their own credibility and nurture relationships. From there, they may consider tweaking one event per year. It is about balancing a sense of routine with experiences that will engage the students’ hearts and minds as culture changes.

Ultimately, the pinnacle of youth ministry is Christ. All the events should be centered on glorifying him through activities and teachings. If you are a youth pastor and find yourself thinking about times when you can brag about your new events, you may need to check yourself. Are you seeking God in your decisions? Are you planning events that are best for the students? Or are you coordinating events that will sound cool to boost your ego? No matter what, keep Christ the center of your ministry.