How to lead a youth group


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Youth Ministries are often the pillar of any Christian church’s continuity. If you can’t set teenage hearts on fire with love of God, they may go on to lead less fulfilling lives (or worse, be tempted into sinful ways). This being a difficult time in most teenagers’ lives, it is more important than ever to get a good youth ministry program started. See more information on how after the jump. It is important to raise youth that are absolutely sold out to God. Youth who are incredibly unstoppable in every aspect of life.


  1. how to lead a youth group

    Find a good meeting location. Many churches already have a great hall for their youth group, but if not find some location where everyone will feel comfortable. A large room, a park in good weather, or the beach in the summer are great places for teenagers to connect.

  2. how to lead a youth group

    Get the word out. Word of mouth works great, so encourage frequent members to talk to their friends about the youth group. Place an announcement in the church newsletter and Sunday bulletin. If the church has a website, add a link for youth ministry information. Don’t forget Facebook and Twitter, as these are very popular with youth.

  3. how to lead a youth group

    Break the ice. For a lot of these kids, the youth group will evolve into their greatest friends base, and that’s a wonderful thing- if you can get it to happen. Play some get-to-know-you games, encourage group discussion and mingling. Get the teens out of their pre-set cliques. Make sure there are no teens left out or uncomfortable.

  4. how to lead a youth group

    Let the youth lead. The youth know what the youth want. Often, it’s best to pick 11th or 12th graders to form a “core” or “leadership” team to plan events and the like. At this age, they’ll have developed maturity, planning skills, and hopefully a sincere love of God.

  5. how to lead a youth group

    Sing praise to the Lord. Youth love music, and if you can find the right kind of music, even the quiet type will open up eventually. Set a mood, and use song as prayer. Those who aren’t willing to sing under most circumstances tend to find themselves singing with joy when the Holy Spirit acts through them.

  6. how to lead a youth group

    If you’re a youth, push to effect these changes. Many youth groups are stagnant because the youth just don’t care. Love of God is contagious, so let yours show for the benefit of those around you.

  7. how to lead a youth group

    Sign up for or plan your own retreats. Away from the hustle of routine life, retreats can truly cause amazing spiritual conversions, and encourage youth to attend the regular meetings as well.

  8. how to lead a youth group

    Pray for the youth of Christianity daily. There is perhaps no more important thing to do for your youth ministry than this.

Community Q&A

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  • Question

    What do I need to do when the youths lack passion for the regular services?

    wikiHow Contributor

    Community Answer

    Get them involve in the planning and execution. Choose a leader who has charisma from among them.

  • Question

    Can organizing sports competitions help improve youth interest in God?

    Oluyemi Sokunbi Emokpare

    Community Answer

    Yes. Every forum to gather people is an opportunity to showcase the goodness and love of God. Before the competition, you can arrange to pray and join hands with the team and share a scripture that will become a seed in their lives.

  • Question

    What are the most effective messages to preach in a youth service?

    wikiHow Contributor

    Community Answer

    The Gospel. While this may seem like a overly simplified answer, the greatest mistakes that youth pastors tend to make is to try and make every message conform to what they think the youth want to hear. Young people today have a very strong desire for “real” leadership and can see quickly through all of the fluff that pastors are trying to feed them. Trust your young congregation with full and unabridged lessons from scripture and you will find that real leaders with real hunger for righteousness will come out of your congregation. When it comes to being effective and relatable, tie this real Biblical teaching to ways that they can apply it at home and in school.

Unanswered Questions

  • The youth today is very naughty. How could I get back to them?

  • Functions and qualities of good leaders example treasurer and also the teens?

  • What do I do if the youth won’t listen to the youth ministry?

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  • Don’t allow cliques to develop.
  • Be aware that some youth may not have money to participate in activities like pizza and a movie, or going to a theme park. Try to establish a fund for such contingencies.
  • Bible study isn’t a lot of teenagers’ cup of tea, but if you can approach it right, you’ll have your youth group enjoying themselves while learning the Word of God. Maybe pick a familiar coffee shop where the teenagers will feel comfortable for the purpose.
  • Know your audience and plan lessons accordingly; it’s easy to talk over their heads, which leads to kids just tuning you out and disliking youth church/group.
  • Any disciplinary problems should be dealt with immediately.
  • Take note of the shy ones and make sure they feel welcome.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about God and religion, even if that’s not what a lot of the teenagers really want to talk about. Take the issue head-on, pray, sing, set a mood where the teenagers will be prodded toward falling in love with God.
  • Encourage the friend base to grow. Friends made at church are generally friends who will not lead you astray.
  • Understand what youngsters like so that you can plan your Bible study in the same line.
  • Be accessible without being too indulging.
  • Correct wrongs in love and give them a task to do like going out evangelism.


  • Have fun, but remember why you’re there. Youth Groups are designed to bring God’s teenagers closer to Him. Social time is excellent, and necessary, but don’t overdo it to the point where the meetings may as well have taken place at the mall down the street.

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Do you have a passion that you’d like to explore more? Maybe starting a group with others who share the same interest would be a good way to meet people, do fun activities, and plan events around your group’s mission. Starting your own group can require a lot of responsibility and organization, but it can also be great, because you can make the group just the way you like it.

how to lead a youth group

A lot of Christians think they aren’t cut out for youth ministry. But if you love Jesus and you care about kids, everything else falls into place.

In my five years working with middle school students I’ve met multiple 80 year olds who are incredible youth leaders—and it’s not for their spunky personalities and crazy dance skills. They love Jesus and they love kids. When you boil it down, that’s what really matters.

If you start with Jesus, all of the intricacies of youth leading should align conceptually, biblically, and practically. You should be able to trace everything back to Jesus.

Here are ten things every youth leader should know:

Let’s be honest. From the outside looking in, there’s a lot of weird stuff that happens at youth groups. Beach ball ballet, cricket-spitting contests, fruit baseball, and an endless list of games, skits, and programs that don’t seem in any way connected to sharing the gospel.

But if you know the purpose behind each component, then even the goofy and weird parts make sense.

Some games give lonely, left out, or neglected kids the chance to be noticed, cheered, and celebrated. Other games force kids to work together—regardless of who they’re friends with at school.

Wacky leader skits can create laughter, break down walls, and show kids that there is a childlike joy in everyone. For leaders, those same activities can offer an opportunity to step out of their own comfort zone and put kids before themselves.

I’ve worked with leaders who refused to put themselves in front of kids and be goofy alongside them because “it wasn’t their gifting.” It’s definitely important to recognize what you’re good at and what you’re not good at (so you know how you’re best suited to serve your team), but if we understand the why behind each aspect of youth group, it becomes a lot less about us and a lot more about the kids, Jesus, and the ways we let God use us.

The more cool, holy, or amazing you present yourself as, the more distant kids will feel from you.

You’re also the person who happens to be proclaiming the gospel and sharing about Jesus—do the math.

Leaders should show kids that Jesus meets them right where they are, loves them as they are, and desires to be a part of their lives right now—not once they become as cool, holy, and amazing as their leaders.

When Kids Hurt is a great resource to help you navigate the adolescent world.

You were a kid once. If you’re made of flesh and blood, you probably sinned once, too. It’s not always best to share all the details of your sin without a relational foundation, but the more vulnerable you are with kids, the more likely they are to share the sin in their lives too. If we hide, so do they.

Humility isn’t just important for our relationships with kids. If you serve in a youth ministry, chances are good that you work with a team of volunteers.

Serving in ministry together is a surprisingly dangerous opportunity for selfishness to creep into our lives. It’s easy to feel like by being on the team we are fulfilling our duties, checking the box, or doing our time. But if you’ve committed to being a part of the team, share the load. Don’t dump everything onto one person—especially not the person giving the message. If someone else on your team is directly communicating the gospel, help that leader give kids their best by allowing them to focus on preparing their message.

No matter how awesome your youth group is, there will always be kids in the corners. The ones who show up because their parents made them come, or a cute boy or girl is there too. They think the games are dumb and the leaders are weird. Or maybe they just want everyone else to think they’re too cool to be there. Either way, God has brought them to your youth group, and he’s entrusted them to you for an hour or two each week.

Sometimes kids genuinely aren’t interested in what’s going on, and you can’t and shouldn’t force them to join in. But sometimes kids stand in the corners to see if anyone will notice.

If a kid without friends comes to youth group, where he/she doesn’t have friends, how do you make the body of Christ look different than school? Involve them. Love them. Imitate God’s relentless pursuit of their hearts.

The gospel isn’t boring. A lot of kids think it is, because their only exposure to it is from reading a translation of a 2,000-year-old book, or listening to messages crafted for adults. Jim Rayburn, founder of Young Life (a youth ministry designed for kids who don’t go to church), once said “It’s a sin to bore a kid with the gospel.” Whether or not you agree with Rayburn, Christians can’t overlook the potential damage of presenting the most exciting truth in the history of the world as stale, old, and irrelevant. The Bible is living and active (Hebrews 4:12), and there are countless ways to show kids that the life and truth it contains is applicable to their lives today.

Knowing your kids means more than just knowing who they are. It means knowing how they will respond to different situations, and preparing your events with them in mind.

Some kids love being the center of attention, and some kids fall apart when you put them in front of a group. It’s important to give kids equal opportunity to shine, but the risk of humiliating a kid or making them feel alone and outcast is not worth the potential reward of making them feel adored.

If a kid is checking out your youth group for the first time and you’ve never had any interaction with them, you might want to be careful about throwing them into a game that requires them to be outgoing and comfortable in front of everyone.

It’s also important to know where your kids are at spiritually. This doesn’t mean you should ask every kid who comes through the door, “Do you believe in Jesus?” Those conversations should happen, but not before you develop a relationship with them and earn the right to ask those deeply intimate questions.

There are countless reasons why a kid might walk in through the doors of your youth ministry, and a lot of them aren’t Jesus (at least, not from the kid’s perspective). Over-spiritualizing a kid’s experience can actually prevent them from having a spiritual experience. St. Francis of Assisi is often attributed with saying, “Preach the gospel always, and if necessary, use words.” Youth ministry is an excellent context to practice reflecting Christ through the way you love and live.

Kids live in constant fear of humiliation. The last place they should have to live out their worst nightmares is at youth group—where they are also learning that they are loved and valued by God.

*See #5 and #1. If you know a kid well enough and you’re confident that their class-clown spirit will allow them to embrace and appreciate the experience, and the embarrassment serves a purpose, mild embarrassment may be acceptable.

You could be the nicest, most caring and trustworthy person on the planet, but if parents don’t know you, how can you expect them to trust you with their kids?

Building a relationship with parents is especially important for middle school and elementary school ministries, where kids are fully dependent on their parents to even be able to show up at your events. Sometimes meeting parents is effortless because they actively seek out the leaders who work with their kids. Other times, meeting parents takes work.

Even if they don’t care who you are or who their kids hang out with, it will always be worth it to you in your ministry to get to know the people who have raised the kids God has placed at your feet. When kids leave, walk them out to whoever picks them up. Better yet, offer to give them a ride, and use it as an opportunity to introduce yourself to their parents. Don’t let the inside of the church be the only place your life overlaps with your kids’.

This may seem selfish in a way, but the reality is, the more we put Jesus first, the more we love those around us. When you put your relationship with Jesus first, the purpose and significance of everything you do and say to others is amplified, not reduced.

Phrases like, “You can only lead someone as far as you’ve gone” may be cliché, but they still carry weight. If you aren’t pursuing your own relationship with Jesus, how can you honestly encourage kids that it’s important to their faith? If you aren’t reading your Bible, praying, and surrounding yourself with Christians who are wiser than yourself, you aren’t offering your best to your ministry, your kids, or God. These are your tools of the trade, and if you aren’t using your tools, how can you do your job?

Hopefully getting involved with a youth group wasn’t just a passing fancy you had in church one day. Stepping into ministry of any kind is something that should be prayerfully considered, discussed with God and with wise people in your life, and surrounded with spiritual preparation.

If you’ve committed to leading kids at your church or through another ministry, honor God, your kids, and the leaders on your team by being trustworthy, accountable, and invested in the work you are doing together.

Today’s kids have been dubbed “the fatherless generation.” Youth leaders can’t abandon them too. Leaving ministry should be considered just as carefully and prayerfully as entering it.

One of the biggest dangers facing people in ministry is burnout. It’s easy to be excited about something when you first get going, but after a couple years, or a decade, how do you stay excited? And more importantly, how do you draw from your experience while still treating each experience and each kid as something entirely new and wonderful?

The key is having a mentor.

If you are constantly pouring into the lives of kids and nobody is pouring into you, sooner or later you’re going to feel empty. Whether that mentor is a pastor, a more experienced leader, or a wise friend from church, you need somebody who can offer you fresh perspective, hold you accountable, pray for you, love you, and inspire you to keep going (Hebrews 10:24).

What else do you think youth leaders should know? Tell us in the comments!

* * *

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Almost two years ago I published a list of “100 blog topics I hope YOU write” addressing various aspects of youth ministry. Many people responded, used the list as a springboard of ideas for their own blogs, and covered over a third of the content I suggested. Earlier tonight I was skimming through some of the old posts people wrote and there’s a lot of real gems of wisdom here.

Let’s try to complete this list! Take one or more of these ideas and run with it. Take the best ideas from whatever these spark in you and keep coming back to this page as often as you want to see what topics people are covering. Or just use them as a way to bounce into better posts of your own. Make podcasts, blog posts, whatever. Have fun and be creative.

One favor? Would you include a link somewhere back to I’ll do my best to keep up with these topics around the blogosphere as your incoming links show up in blog’s dashboard and will then link the appropriate title in this post back to your blog post so others can read your insights.

  1. How to use Facebook for ministry
  2. How to build community among teenagers
  3. Technology I use in youth ministry
  4. How to write Bible study lessons for youth group
  5. Conversation starters to ask a student you just met
  6. How to get parents involved in their kids’ lives
  7. How to handle confrontation
  8. How to teach students with learning disabilities
  9. How to market your events
  10. How to effectively use visual aids in teaching
  11. How to make time for personal prayer and devotions
  12. How to empower your youth leaders
  13. How to follow-up with new believers
  14. Using podcasts in youth ministry
  15. How to engage students in worship
  16. How to deal with a suicide in your ministry
  17. Everything a youth worker should know about eating disorders
  18. Addressing porn and masturbation at youth group
  19. How to help parents prepare their students for college
  20. Recommended books for every youth worker’s library
  21. How teenage girls best relate to each other
  22. How teenage guys best relate to each other
  23. Teaching students to evaluate their media consumption
  24. How to equip your students to achieve their dreams
  25. Sermon presentations versus small group discussion Bible studies
  26. Necessary elements for any youth meeting
  27. Balancing youth group events with athletics, homework and jobs
  28. How to achieve longevity in youth ministry
  29. What students need from their youth leaders
  30. How to take an idea and make it happen
  31. How to plan a youth ministry budget
  32. The real influence of celebrities on students
  33. How to change a teenager’s world forever
  34. Why youth ministers should read their students’ blogs
  35. How to evaluate ministry and implement change
  36. Addressing sin in your own life
  37. How to make youth group visitors feel welcomed
  38. How to use the arts in youth group
  39. The youth event no one has ever seen
  40. What I wish every Sr. Pastor knew about youth ministry
  41. Balancing youth ministry with my personal life
  42. The difference between part-time and full-time youth ministry
  43. How to fix your mistakes in ministry
  44. How to develop students to be spiritual leaders
  45. When I feel frustrated in ministry…
  46. Youth group strategies for evangelism
  47. How to come up with creative ideas
  48. How NOT to introduce visitors to the youth group
  49. What every youth worker needs to know about Jr. High students
  50. What every youth worker needs to know about Sr. High students
  51. How to earn the trust and respect of your Sr. Pastor
  52. How to lead a youth group when you’re the only volunteer
  53. How to help a student break an addiction
  54. How to teach through a book of the Bible
  55. What youth group students need from each other
  56. Internet tools I use for youth ministry
  57. How to develop a world missions strategy for your youth group
  58. How to simplify your life and ministry
  59. The future of youth ministry
  60. How NOT to use video in youth ministry
  61. How to handle the most common youth ministry struggles
  62. How to keep God’s Word fresh for teenagers
  63. How to work in a church that doesn’t support it’s youth ministry
  64. What to do with “God sightings” stories in your youth group
  65. Tools for working with hurting teenagers
  66. How to get kids plugged in to God’s Word
  67. Youth ministry topics that need more coverage
  68. How to become a student-led youth group
  69. Expectations to hold for any youth worker volunteer
  70. How to turn conversations toward Christ
  71. How to respond to criticism
  72. Ten youth ministry sites I like and why
  73. How to work with the hyper-active kid
  74. How to address self-esteem at youth group
  75. How to get your kids sharing and contributing to small groups
  76. A story of how Christ changed my youth group
  77. When to let go of a student and trust God take care of the rest
  78. How to recharge your emotional batteries
  79. How youth ministry made me go crazy!
  80. How to make the most of a youth group retreat
  81. How to shake a student from their apathy for God’s Word
  82. Things to consider before purchasing a curriculum
  83. American youth ministry and how I would change it
  84. How to give yourself away
  85. How NOT to give advice to a student
  86. The top 10 excuses every youth leader makes
  87. The top 10 excuses every youth group student makes
  88. How to settle a disagreement with your Sr. Pastor
  89. Common mistakes to avoid in youth ministry
  90. Guidelines to follow for selecting new youth leaders
  91. How to facilitate communication between students and parents
  92. How to partner with parents in youth ministry
  93. Reaching rural kids versus reaching urban kids
  94. How to support a student through difficult times
  95. The #1 best thing you can do for the kids in your youth group
  96. How to promote an attitude of prayer in daily life
  97. How the Internet is changing students’ perspective of community
  98. Why I’m in youth ministry today
  99. A passage of scripture every student should know
  100. How to get students involved in the rest of the church body

Posted on June 2, 2010

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