y t h o l o g y

minneapolis | MN

The Value Of A Great Youth Service

Jeff Grenell

I am asked this question every week in some form or another. What is the best model to grow a healthy Youth Ministry?

Before I give you my favorite model for a healthy Youth Ministry, let me say that I know there are many healthy Youth Ministry settings using a variety of methods. There are many models, including, Discipleship, Evangelism, Event-based, Small Group, and Fine Arts driven philosophies.

Many Churches emphasize programming and graded age group formation similar to the public school (such as the Orange, Catechism, Awana, Middle School, or High School-based approaches). Even the setting of the Youth Ministry and Church will often influence the type of model used to reach students (urban, sub-urban, or rural). A Youth Leader must stay true to their competencies and core values.

However, let me talk about my favorite healthy Youth Ministry model. It is the one place we have the whole attention of the leaders and students. The one corporate setting where we can communicate to everyone at the same time.

It is the value of a well-planned Youth Service. I hear the thoughts coming from some of my readers already: 'Youth Ministry is relational', 'I do small groups', and 'teens have Sundays to be in service'. Or, maybe a Youth Leader has been asked by a Lead Pastor to develop young people a certain way, or hasn't been trained in good homiletical practices, or they feel that they lack the communication skills to effectively reach teens, or they do not have a hip youth room and equipment. But, there are a variety of ways that a Youth Service can transform students. Atmosphere, Preaching, Prayer, Peer-interaction in a spiritual moment, and the fact that most Sunday approaches are not geared toward the Millennial and younger teen set. This emphasis is a powerful model in Youth Ministry.


All of this aside, here are 7 principles to increase your outcomes in Youth Ministry though a healthy Youth Service.

Preaching And Theology Is Vital To Disciple-making
Maybe one of the many reasons a Youth Ministry is shallow and retention is difficult is because we are not making disciples. We are attracting crowds. And what you get them with you have to keep them with. There are no gimmicks seen that produce godly teens. You might be thinking that Preaching in a Youth Service for 45 minutes on random musings from an unprepared speaker is never gonna work. Where students sit and listen with their arms folded. And walk out of the youth setting and never think about the message again. That is not what I am alluding to at all. Let's define what I am talking about.

Theology is the foundation of discipleship. And it can be communicated effectively with planning. Effective Youth Services can use Preaching as a holistic approach to communicating the Word of God through speaking, spoken word, music, art, discussion, response, and many other forms. Not gaga ball or bubble ball or video games or pizza parties. Those are a necessary part of relational ministry. Leave those things for the event. But, build in your leaders and students a culture that the Youth Service has a unique purpose. Spiritual formation. That theology cannot be replaced in a healthy Youth Ministry.

Spiritual Formation Comes In Many Forms

The temperature in the room must be raised. How this is done takes creative thought and time. It takes an intentional and collaborative effort of a Youth Leader and the team to do this. It is easy to develop a 60 - 90 minute message to a youth setting weekly. That message could come through words, pictures, movement, and feelings. Kinesthetic and not just linguistic. Think of it with the number '40' in mind (4 T's). You have the topic/the series you are planning. The text/the scripture that will anchor the series. The tale/the communication of the message or story you will tell. The takeaway/the transformation in the students lives. This covers the theme on the walk-in and the truth on the walk-out.

Creativity and Preaching do not have to be enemies. Theology takes place through sight and sound, through feeling and response. And this is where storytelling, spoken word, music, art, discussion, response, and other forms aid in your weekly Preaching. Let everything that is planned for the Youth Service lead to 1 (one) theme each evening. If it doesn't fit, quit it. Leave it on cutting floor as they say. The students can only handle one theme or topic each week. And all of this should lead to that theme. Remember, the service doesn't have to be filled with words.

I Just Got Out Of A Classroom!

The communication of Theology and the Word to this generation can be a blast. Try changing the setting. I know that most Churches do not have a slick youth room or center. So get creative with decor and setup and lighting. Create space for worship and response. Think about it. Most students are in public school for 6-7 hours daily. They are moved from classroom to classroom and from lecture to lecture. Throw in a lunch or practical class such as gym or study hour and most students see structure for about 35-40 hours a week in education. Then add the homework and assignments to this and our teens are putting in 45+ hours.


Do you think that students want to show up at midweek service at Church or a Youth Retreat weekend and sit through another 2 hours of lecture and fill in the blanks? For most students there are not many opportunities to be in a corporate spiritual setting. A well-planned Youth Service can be a dynamic atmosphere where students can sing, pray, move, and interact with God and their friends. Where the Spirit and the gifts operate. It can be a struggle to see the Spiritual gifts used in a casual youth service designed around games and videos, or, in a classroom setting that is designed to go through a catechism or booklet. Do everything you can to get students out of a classroom mentality for the Youth Service. 

You Must Burn On Fire
People love to follow fire trucks. Where's the smoke? Maybe you should light yourself on fire and people will come and watch YOU burn. Preparation breeds involvement and excitement. Volunteers and paid Youth Leadership must make the presentation of the gospel a priority. We cannot afford to raise another generation in the Church who are ignorant of Theology and the Bible. It simply must be a non-negotiable. Begin with 15-20 hours a week for study, research, collaboration, and writing. And you will also need the following essential tools. Two Commentary sets, an Expository Dictionary of New Testament words, Manners and Customs of the Bible, Hebrew and Greek Lexicon, Abingdon’s Exhaustive Concordance, and internet capability for research. Once you take your study serious, you will see the response from the students increase. Depth does that.


Ask yourself this question. How much time and detail are you spending on events? Is this the central role of a Youth Leader? Is the faith of the young people in our Youth Ministry going to come from a pizza party, a car wash, or an ice-breaker? Remember, faith comes by hearing the Word. 

A Kaleidoscope of Involvement
Collaboration can bring many elements to building a Youth Ministry. Someone on your team is great at flow or hosting the Youth Service. Give them freedom. You have musicians who can handle the setting also. Use the creatives for social media or audio visual needs. Some students or leaders would love the opportunity to research the internet for sermon illustrations or a bumper video. This saves the Youth Leader time and places greater ownership on the Youth Ministry by the students and leaders. You broaden language, approach, and even personality when you use a variety of people. When a Youth Ministry uses a kaleidoscope of people and ideas in their Youth Service the results are dynamic. Take the pressure off and put together a Service team or collaborative team for all of the details.


Here's what that should look like: recruit a male and female student (junior high, high school, college or university aged), a young adult, and an adult leader. Use as many creatives on this as possible. The make-up of that team will assure you creative impact, cultural reference, tribe or clique buy-in, and Biblical accuracy.


Answers To Questions No One Is Asking
Do not be afraid to deal with issues that are divisive. Somebody has to speak to our culture about the evident issues of our day from an authoritative and biblical position. If students think that the Youth Ministry is afraid to deal with the Sexual Revolution or the break-up of the family in this Father-less and Mother-less Generation or even evangelism and Campus Access, we might lose their interest. These are the issues they are faced with daily.

This can be done with a few simple steps. Talk with teens directly about the things they are dealing with and formulate your topics and series from this information. As Youth Leaders we cannot shape a great Youth Service without having the answers to questions teens are asking. Nobody wants to listen to someone who has information that we do not care about. Watch social media trends. And pop culture. We used to say that a great Preacher had a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. Today, you might say that in the other hand is a smart phone.


Pray Before Play
I know that young people love to play. And so do I. But, the one thing we can afford in Youth Ministry is prayer. Most Churches cannot afford a setting that will compete against Hollywood or the corporate world. If you think you have to outsmart or outspend MTV and NYC to attract students, you will end up broke and without a crowd. Aside from the 20+ hours of study preparing a message, I like to have at least 1 hour of prayer on the day that I am preaching or teaching. Don't miss the most important draw for a teen. The Spirit of God. 

Here's what that should look like: Your prayer and preparation time should be scheduled and not interrupted. Keep a journal that you can review for Preaching series past and future, personal illustrations, and your own personal spiritual growth. And fast one day a week. Also, create an atmosphere for study by using music, no excuses during study times, get to a comfortable setting with space, snacks, and no distractions like visitors, outdoor noise, or phones. These will ensure that you will be healthy and that you will produce healthy young people.

What is the best model to grow a healthy Youth Ministry? We all have our ways. And whatever way you use, please just include theology. In the Evangelism, the Event, or the Small Group. Whatever your philosophy.