4 keys to doing BIG ministry in a SMALL church

August 23, 2016

Youth ministry in a small church can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. You want to build something awesome, and grow the ministry but the environment isn’t always the best to make that happen. A small (or non existent) budget, limited space, no one to volunteer, not many students in the church, not a lot of visitors, are just some of the many obstacles that smaller church youth ministries face. But being in a small church does NOT mean that you cannot do big ministry!

My first full time position was a church of about 100, or that’s what we said. But to be honest there was probably about 75 on a Sunday, including the 5 in the youth ministry when I got there. I experienced first hand the struggles and obstacles facing small church youth ministries. But I also learned a lot about doing youth ministry in a small church, and how not to be stuck in a small youth ministry just because it was a small church. Check out these 4 keys to doing BIG ministry in a SMALL church…

1.Don’t let the size of the church determine the size of your ministry

When I was hired at my first full time position I had a choice to make. My choice was either accept the fact that I was in a small church so I would have a small youth ministry, or decide that just because the church was small didn’t mean that the youth ministry had to be as well. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I determined that the size of our church would not set the size of the youth ministry.

We are the biggest limiter of what we can do. Change your mindset to something bigger and better, push the limits of what you can do. Of course, everyone says they want their ministry to grow, but don’t just say it actually believe it! Believe it enough to do what it takes and make it happen.

2. Go outside your walls

If you desire to see your ministry grow it is essential that you go outside of just the students in your church. If it is a small church chances are there is a small population of students, which means that if you want it to be bigger than what the church has to offer you then you need to go outside your walls.

Stop doing ministry for the students in the church and start doing ministry for those outside of the church. Be outwardly focused, do events for those students that have not yet come to your ministry. Go on school campuses, go where students are, get outside of your walls to reach students.

(NOTE: The same thing may apply for volunteers as well. If there are no good choices at the church you may have to recruit outside the church. My first volunteer was an awesome guy that I met while surfing and recruited him to serve in the youth ministry!)

3. Be creative!

Chances are you do not have a very large budget or may not even have one at all so be innovative and creative! Come up with creative ways to do things and reach students. Obviously creativity is needed across the board in youth ministry but I had to rely WAY more on creativity at my first church of 75 people than I did at my next church with a budget of $25,000. And to be honest, it was more fun and sometimes even better quality at the small church. Be creative!

4. Change the culture

You have to be the one to set the culture. A culture of inviting, one where everyone cannot wait to bring their friends and everyone they meet is a new potential invite. Talk about it, preach on it, and encourage it often. Make your ministry outwardly focused, think more about the students outside of your church and focus on reaching them for Christ!

Set the standard of excellence in your ministry and do things well. Break the mold and change the culture of your ministry!
The journey is not an easy one, but that is why God chose you! Don’t get penned into a stereotype of youth ministry because you are in a small church. I have been there, and trust me if you don’t let the size of your church limit you before you know it you will have a youth ministry that is challenging the church’s attendance!


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  • Reply Jennifer Dios August 30, 2017 at 1:03 am

    came across this via Pinterest. Great Blog, sounds like you’re describing my church:) I just came on board as Youth Director Last Year around Spring and it has definitely been a battle. The Ministry was already struggling, Parents being inconsistent with bringing their kids, the previous Youth Pastor would sometimes end up with one or none of the students in a church that roughly has about 8-10 Teenagers. When I took over I had to slowly get the parents out of the habit of being inconsistent, which we still struggle with from time to time but we’ve managed to consistently have about 6 kids. The question I have is when recruiting new teens how do you answer parents when their first question out of their mouths is “How Big Is Your Youth Ministry?” As if that is the defining factor as to whether they will allow their teen to attend? It’s a question that continually bugs me but I’d love to get advice on how to answer and get the parents focus off of size and more on content.

    • Reply toddjones417@gmail.com August 30, 2017 at 10:30 pm

      Great question! Check your email for a response!

  • Reply Sherry December 6, 2017 at 2:16 am

    Hi !
    The previous minister posed an awesome question that I, too, would like the answer too! I have been doing your ministry for a while, but at my previous church, the kids were mostly churched and were already eager to get involved, as we had grown up in the same church. I am now at another ministry and the kids are predominantly “unchurched” in that they don’t have the same zeal and consistently and prior efforts have not been to reach outside the walls which is absolutely what I love to do. Can you please advise how I can address potential youth and their parents with the size, as well?

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