While in high school, I attended three different youth groups. Each one had strong potential, but they also had room to improve.
Below are ten observations that point to a quality youth group.
- They feel small. Not to say big youth groups can’t succeed, but teenagers need to feel like they belong. When I attended a youth ministry of nearly 500 kids, Sunday school was their way of breaking down the “bigness” and helping teenagers find their niche.
- They preach God’s Word expositionally. Exposition is a ministry word, but it simply means preaching what the author of a passage intended when he wrote it many years ago (exposing the original meaning of the Bible). The temptation is to be flashy and talk about things like teenager behavior, but teens will soon see through the façade and will crave the meat of Scripture.
- They make it easy to socialize. Not all teens are extroverts. Many are shy and insecure. Solid youth groups reach out to those that don’t plug in as quickly and help pair them with more established, outgoing teens in the group.
- They teach and push spiritual disciplines. Teens tend to be flighty and undisciplined, but they can still have intimate walks with the Lord. Good youth groups believe this and encourage their kids to love God’s Word and talk to Him daily.
- They push evangelism. High schools are fertile ground for the gospel, but also volatile territory for evangelism. Standing out in school is difficult. Still, good youth groups empower and encourage their kids to be bold and courageous while taking the gospel to their friends (and bringing them to church!).
- They love worship. It doesn’t have to be the most engaging worship experience ever, but quality youth groups have genuine worship. Finding talented and Jesus-loving teens with musical gifts is difficult sometimes, but God can use anyone so long as the individual is teachable and loves Him.
- They have a pastor that actually loves the kids. Loving students goes far beyond ministry gifting and capabilities. While it’s nice to have a gifted communicator on staff, simply loving the kids he is pastoring can encourage the group to start growing in the right direction.
- They reach out to local schools. They leverage sporting events and use para-church organizations like FCA well. Students who invite other students to church and church related activities have a strong chance to lead their friends to the Lord.
- They have student leadership programs. Giving teens some responsibility is a way to produce personal growth. Not only will they grow, but they will also pour into those under them, establishing their youth group even while students are leaving.
- They equip their students for graduation. It’s inevitable. High school doesn’t last forever. Colleges are waiting to devour Christians with liberal rhetoric. I am always encouraged when I hear of students going to college and growing deeper in their walks with Christ.
No youth group is perfect. If all possible, pray for and/or get involved with your local church’s youth group, and try to bring some of these qualities with you as you disciple younger folks. They are hungry and ready for it.