Starting a youth group can be a frightening prospect to the uninitiated. Dealing with teens? It is not a task for the faint-hearted. However, if you follow a few simple rules, the process can be more effective. Here are five essentials that I wished someone had shared with me before we started a youth group:
1. Find your focus.
This is so important that I placed it first. It also comes first chronologically. You’ll definitely want to establish goals before you begin. From those goals form a vision statement that explains the purpose for why you want to begin a youth group in your church.
For our church, the definite need in our community was evangelism. We had no youth in our church but plenty in the neighborhoods around. So our vision statement was something like: “We will strive to reach youth with the gospel of Christ by going into the community and drawing young people to our church through the activities of this youth group.”
You may want something shorter or more precise, but this worked for us. Make it as simple as possible. Expanding this idea happens later.
2. Prepare your plan.
Now it was time to act on our vision statement by first finding out what it would take to start a youth group. We knew that there were several variables we had to consider.
One of these variables was insurance. Some insurance companies may look down on youth groups because of increased liability.
Speak with your insurance provider first. You don’t want to get into the process only to find out your insurance would rather cancel your policy than allow you to begin a youth outreach. Your agent may also be able to give you some pointers on what you should look into as you begin the process.
One item your insurance company may require is a youth policy. This is a set of organized guidelines that dictates how your youth group will function. Depending on the size of your church, the length of such a document may be as detailed (or not so much) as you desire.
There are many great examples of youth policies on the internet. Just do a web search for “youth policies” to find a gold mine of ideas. Keep a firm hold on your youth policy. It will be your plan for the future.
3. Hire your help.
This one will depend on the size of your church. Larger churches may opt to hire a youth pastor. There are definite advantages to this, one of which is the pastor can delegate all responsibilities regarding the youth group to the youth pastor.
Our church is very small. What we ended up doing was hand-picking a small team of volunteers who would share the load of the youth group. As pastor, I headed up the team along with my head deacon. That system has worked well for us.
If I were to give my expert opinion on this issue, I would say put together a youth leadership team rather than just hiring a youth pastor. But there are pros and cons to both. You’ll just have to determine what is best for your church’s situation.
4. Canvas your community.
Promote! Promote! Promote! What more need be said? Put up posters. Post on Facebook. Send out emails. Get the message out by word of mouth.
5. Set up your support.
This one is key. Once you have everything in place, plug your vision to the church. Get them involved by getting them excited about reaching young people.
My wife came up with the idea of assigning people to provide snacks for each youth gathering. We created a sign-up sheet for our ladies Bible study with dates for times we needed snacks. Viola! Instant refreshments for youth group!
We also started a project to send some of our young to summer camp. The people in the church got excited when we asked them to bring in whatever recyclable materials they had on hand. It was something simple and something they could do. We ended up fully paying for some of our needier young people.
The point? Get your whole church involved in your youth program. Things will go much smoother if everyone shares the vision.