As a youth leader or youth pastor, you are excited about your calling. You have a passion for students, you love Jesus, and you are ready to go! There is only one thing missing. How the heck, do you get students to come to your ministry? It can be very frustrating as a youth worker to put in so much time and effort week after week and not see any numerical growth in your group. The students you have in your group are awesome but how come you can’t seem to get any new ones to show up? Why it is so difficult to break through the 10 or 15, or 20, or 30 barrier in attendance? I know the frustration, and I know sometimes it feels like you have tried everything. Here are a few things that will help grow the attendance of your group.
First, let me start by saying, you personally cannot grow a group and neither can I. God is the one who brings students! You might do everything right and have 10 students and you might do everything wrong and have 150 students. You and I cannot create the growth, God is the only one that can do that. But we as stewards of God’s youth ministry do need to do our part in trying to reach as many students for Him as we can! With that being said, try these…
1. Have a plan.
So many youth workers do youth ministry for the sake of doing it and have no clue where they are headed or how to get there. You need to have an idea of where you are headed and a plan of how to accomplish that. Develop a mission, vision, and plan of attack within your ministry to serve as your guide along the way. If you know you need a plan but you have no clue what it would look like I have written a short eBook on how to do this that you can get right here.
2. Create a program students want to attend.
Plain and simple, students do not want to go to something that is lame. Do things that will interest students. Too many youth ministries are doing the same things they did in 1995 and scratching their heads at why students don’t want to come anymore. Things that worked in the past might not work today and we as youth workers need to be okay with that. Whether we like it or not we are competing with all the glitz and glam that students see on TV everyday. Now, I know that we have something more powerful than anything Hollywood can sell as cool, we have the message of Jesus Christ. But if we don’t create a program that will interest students we may never get the chance to share that message with them. I am not saying that we have to match everything we see but we do need to find out what will reach students and do it. Ask your students and ask them what type of events would interest their friends in coming. Ask students who don’t go to youth group (or church at all) what would attract them to a youth group. If you have a meeting space that is dedicated to your ministry make it look nice, model it after current trends in style and design, create something that students will want to come to.
3. Create a culture of inviting.
You and I might be able to get a few students to come from our invitations but lets face it, it’s kind of creepy to have some random older person inviting students. The best way to get students to come to your ministry is by your existing students invitation. You need to create a culture where inviting is normal and every student in your group understands how important it is to invite. In order to create this culture you as the youth leader/youth pastor need to give them the tools to invite others. Teach them step by step how you would invite someone to youth group. Do events they would want to invite their friends to because they are so awesome they wouldn’t want to miss out. Provide them with flyers and invite pages on social media so that the invite is an easy one. And talk about inviting ALL the time, drive it into them and maybe even offer an incentive for students who do bring friends. Create a culture where inviting is natural and students cultivate a heart for other lost students.
4. Talk about relevant things.
Students want to hear about things that apply to them. We can teach them all about people who lived 1000s of years ago and all they are thinking is “Yea, cool, but what does that mean for me?” They want something that is relevant in their lives now. The good news is, the Bible is EXTREMELY RELEVANT but it is our job to teach them the application that it has to today’s world. Let me ask you, what are the issues that students are dealing with?? There you go teach on that!
Find out the struggles and issues the students in your area deal with and teach on those issues. I have a friend who lives in an area where the use of marijuana is huge so he did a series called “What does God think about cannabis?” and he nearly tripled the size of his youth group. If we are going to reach students we need to start speaking their language.
5. Split your Jr. High and High School programs.
Most youth leaders and youth pastors are responsible for 6th/7th -12th grade. While this is a huge age gap it is also a huge time commitment to run two separate ministries so most youth leaders in this situation just combine their groups. This is major problem when it comes to growing a youth ministry! There are many issues that prevent the growth of a combined group. I wrote a post specifically about these issues that you can check out here. I know that it is a ton more work and I know that it can be scary to split because the math doesn’t make sense. If you are running 15 students and you are trying to get more why would you split them in half and have two groups of 7 or 8? You are right,that doesn’t make sense, but that is not how it works. Every split that I have done or helped a friend with has resulted in doubling the group. Multiplication through division. When you create programs that are geared specifically to their groups you enable growth to take place.
Youth ministry is not easy and there is no fix-all formula for getting students to come. And like I said earlier it is ultimately God who brings students and creates growth. But if you put into practice these 5 things you will be giving yourself a better chance at success.