How can a youth pastor start and maintain an awesome youth group from scratch?

Starting or sustaining a youth ministry or a youth group is very unrewarding.  But if you like a challenge than it’s very rewarding.  You start a youth group and you will NOT  see any results for 3 years. The youth ministry work is very important.

To start a youth group from scratch you have to work ON  your youth ministry and work IN  your youth ministry which is a double task.  You are constantling building systems and adjusting based off of feedback and observation.

This article is ideal for:

–  the new youth pastor who just arrived at a new church who either needs to maintain a thriving youth gorup or needs to start a youth group

–  the 1st year youth pastor starting to lead their first youth group and youth ministry

–  a youth worker leading a youth group of 0-50 students

–  a college student who is majoring in youth ministry

–  a youth pastor who loves to think about systems and sustainability

–  a part time paid youth worker leading a youth group

–  an individual who wants to become a youth pastor

–  a youth worker who is feeling “distracted” and unfocused


Here’s the  formula that helped me think through how to build a youth group from scratch:

CSS+$ = Healthy, Engagaing Youth Group  

C=  Core Values

S= Strategy

S= Staff

$= Fundraising


Core Values:  Before you start a youth group, you have to know the values that will guide your youth group.  There are three statements that need to be crafted:

(1)  Theological-  What will be your theological focus in your youth ministry?  What scriptures will guide the way you do youth ministry? I explain how to think theologically about your youth ministry here.

(2)  Mission-  What do you want the aim to be for your youth ministry?  The mission statement will define who you are and what you do as a youth ministry

(3)  Values-  what are the essentials of your youth ministry?  What are the non-negotiables?  What 3-5 things define the uniqueness of your youth group?

Remember your strategy and systems will have a greater impact on your youth group culture than mission statements.  So don’t spend too much time on these statements.

Strategy:  You have to decide on a youth ministry strategy.  It took me a LONG time to realized that having a consistent strategy will determine the longevity and effectiveness of your youth ministry.  I had to realize that adopting a “C+” ministry strategy was way better than not having a youth ministry strategy.  Coming from the academy not only was I introduced to many of the major youth ministry strategies, but I learned how to quickly deconstructed them.  I had to get over the fact that there is no perfect strategy and every youth pastor needs to pick a strategy and just stick with it.  Too many youth pastors think it is okay not to have a comprehensive plan or strategy for orchestrating their youth group.

Here are 6 reasons why your youth group needs a strategy:

1.  Strategy will give your youth group structure and focus

2.  Strategy requires tested research to be applied

3.  Strategy saves you time

4.  Strategy requires you get other people to assist

5.  Strategy gets your ideas and process in a document format

6.  Strategy automatically gives you a solid network and community of like minded youth pastors

A strategy instructs youth pastors on what to do with your parents/families, service, communication, leadership structure, program, volunteers, teaching, and small groups.

Staff-  The book Good To Great talks about getting the right people on the bus so you can conquer the world.  The key is finding the right people and get them in the right place.  Make sure to write out what you want your staff to look like.  Draw up an organizational chart, clearly define attributes that you want your staff to exhibit, write out how you will find staff/leaders and the hiring protocol, and how you will train your leaders/staff.  I would highly suggest giving staff/volunteers personality profiles (i.e. strength finders, DISC or Enneagram ) so you are able to accurately place them in positions they will be passionate about.   In Steve Job’s book he reiterates why organizational leaders need to be great at recruiting and keeping talent. Be persistent at getting great people to be apart of your youth group.  Healthy youth groups attract healthy people.  The goal is to be good at cherry picking people in your church and community and convince them why caring and loving students is an incredible gift.

Money-  Your start up wont be possible if you don’t have the funds.  You need the strategy to get the funds, and you will need funds to fund the strategy.  My annual youth ministry budget was $2500 for 65 6th-12th grade students.  After scholarships, doing 4 events, buying curriculum and bibles and renting vans my budget was gone.  I hated asking for money.  But I had to learn how to do it in a very tactful and compelling way.  This is way I am a huge advocate youth pastors getting some business education so they know the process on how to raise capital to fund the mission of their youth ministry.

My final-cautionary thoughts: It is really easy to do youth group start ups but it is really hard to keep momentum.  At first, things seem to be really focused but over time things will become fuzzy.  This is why every 3-5 months the youth pastor needs to revisit their core values, staffing, money and programmatic structure .  Healthy youth ministries mean what they say the value is clearly represented in the youth ministry.  Remember the mission of your youth ministry will stay the same but the plans will always be changing.  Be flexible.