How to start a youth ministry from scratch! (Part 1)

You want to start a youth ministry at your church (or perhaps you’ve been kindly asked by your minister)? That’s great! Youth ministry is an important ministry but where do you start?

There are probably a thousand different starting points for a youth ministry, many of which probably generate out of circumstance and a pressing need or demand (“ahh! what do we do with our young people?”). I don’t propose to have all the answers for your situation but I do intend to equip you with some essential questions to help you get off on the right foot.

The first thing you need to do is work out what type of youth ministry you want to run based on your theological principles. This is where so many youth ministries come unstuck. There can often be such immediate pressure to get something up and running that your youth ministry is formed mostly around practical issues rather than thinking how your model of youth ministry might cultivate and grow young people into being more like Jesus.

Below is a table of 3 common types of youth ministry, the first 2 types are not exclusive to Christian youth ministry and can be found in secular youth work organisations as well (like the Police & Community Youth Clubs etc). The last column shows a type of youth ministry that is exclusive to Christian organisations (typically the church) and the model of youth ministry that you find resourced on this site fits into the “Bible Focus” type of youth ministry in this column. I’ve formed a model of youth ministry shaped on this third column and have been using it since 2005 starting with a new youth group of 6 young people and up to (currently) 40. That’s not to say that it’s the best or only faithful model of a “Bible Focus” youth ministry, but I’m satisfied that it faithfully puts our theological principles into practice and is a consistent outworking of biblical values and evangelical beliefs.

As a side note: To be fair, there are many people who run the “let me entertain you” type youth ministry as a culturally comfortable way-in for non-Christian young people to hear the gospel. This type of youth ministry often looks like the way it’s described in column 2 but with the introduction of a short gospel talk/explanation as part of the youth gathering and the further aim of moving young people on to a more Bible focussed youth group or Bible study group after they’ve heard the gospel. For a full assessment of this type of youth ministry strategy read “Changing the World Through Effective Youth Ministry” By Ken Moser.

Suffice it to say, the real draw backs of having this youth ministry strategy is that (1) it’s incredibly resource heavy, taxing on both financial and human resources; (2) you often lose people with every transition; (3) people rarely “graduate” or “move on” from the  “let me entertain you” type youth ministry into the Bible focussed youth group/small groups; (4) the maturing of faith in your Christian young people is often stunted. It’s a model of ministry akin to that championed by Willow Creek, which after 3 decades, has now abandoned as “a mistake” (read about it here).

Have you worked out which model you want to run?

Ask: Why do I want to start a youth ministry? What’s the aim?

Just to give you an idea of how your choice of youth ministry type affects your next step, if you chose:

  1. “the drop in centre” type of YM, then your first step will be to secure a large space (eg. a hall), some community funding for equipment (eg. gym/sports equipment, pool tables etc), and link in with your local social services. Once that is set up, recruiting and training volunteers is next.
  2. “let me entertain you” type of YM, then your first step is to secure an adequate budget (from your church or elsewhere) that will support the financial burden of creating and running new and exciting activities on a weekly basis. This model of youth ministry is quite resource heavy on youth leaders and so you will need to recruit quite a few very energetic and creative leaders to spread the load and keep things fresh.
  3. “Bible Focus” type of YM, then your first step is to recruit some leaders who can commit to sharing the Bible with passion and creativity and who are not skeptical that the word of God is powerful to change lives.

This is just a taste of how the foundation of your type of youth ministry will affect the process in starting a youth ministry from scratch. Check out “How to start a youth ministry from scratch! (Part 2)” for more detail on beginning a Bible Focus youth ministry.

13 thoughts on “How to start a youth ministry from scratch! (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: How to start a youth ministry from scratch! (Part 2) « (x) christian (m) ministry (2) to (y) youth

  2. Pingback: How to start a youth ministry from scratch! (Part 3) « (x) christian (m) ministry (2) to (y) youth

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I find myself in the position of being the last family with children in our church, as such it has fallen to me to “fix it”. Your series was very helpful for organising my own thoughts and offered some insight. I feel less like I’m trying to reinvent the wheel. Thank you from Texas.

  4. Wow! This is dynamic, I am a 17yr. old called Youth Pastor on fire for God, who was saved at the age of 9 for the building of the Kingdom of God. I have been so humbly chosen by Jesus to commit and serve the youth of today.I have been praying and working all week long on how to set-up a youth ministry, and you just don’t know how much I appreciate this webpage.It is so helpful and encouraging! Thank you so much and may God continue to shower you with Blessings.

    • I am also a dynamic 17yr old with the title of “Youth Pastor”. It is so encouraging to see other young people radically pursuing Jesus.

  5. Thanks for your article! It’s a useful resource to help in starting a youth ministry. It’s no doubt a blessing to me!

  6. Pingback: How to start a youth ministry from scratch! (Part 4) « (x) christian (m) ministry (2) to (y) youth

  7. Pingback: How to start a youth ministry from scratch! (Part 4b) « (x) christian (m) ministry (2) to (y) youth

  8. Pingback: How to start a youth ministry from scratch! (Part 5) « (x) christian (m) ministry (2) to (y) youth

  9. Thank You so much for the guidance. I learned a lot and I’m looking forward to imply what I have read here. God bless…

  10. I’m only 16 years old but I used to go to a youth group when I was younger it was a lot of fun and it kept me busy and excited for the next meeting. Sadly our youth group was no longer and not many teens or kids went to the church even on Sundays. The church is full of really old people (sorry if that sounds harsh) and no young including myself. Well today I drove past my old church and I thought why not try and start a youth group myself and maybe bring this church to where more families and kids would want to join. well this is my goal and I pray I’ll be able to succeed for God’s sake. Thank you for the help and may God bless you

  11. I want to organise a youth forum in my church, because i saw that no unity within the youth, people live the church most especially the youth without any reasonable reason. The fear of God is not in some of them, i thought to start something of that and let us see what God will do in our lifes positively.

  12. I am trying to open a Christian youth center in the inner city. So many youth there do not go to chuch, or know the benefit of knowing Jesus. This article is very helpful.

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