Sep 02

Firm foundations for a growing youth group

Picture the scene… the youth group is buzzing, there’s a trickle of newcomers each week, there’s an excitement about meeting together, young people pray for each other and want to encourage one another to live for Christ. The end of the meeting comes all too soon and people leave challenged and inspired, talking about how next week can’t come soon enough.

That’s what I want to see, I won’t stop until we get there! Does this seem like another world compared to where your group is? If your group is to grow like this, you need to do some building work, look at the foundations and check that they are strong enough to take such growth. Read more … I have been involved with lots of different youth groups over the years and, of course, each has its own unique challenges. But whether it was starting my first youth group at the age of 18, because the church never had a youth group when I was growing up, or taking two twelve year olds and starting a group for 11-14s and seeing it grow to twenty in two years, or taking an established group and building on the excellent youth work that went before me, it is clear to me that it is essential that we spend time making sure the foundations are strong. Some might think these are unnecessary, but I think if we focus on these five areas, we will see ‘quick wins’ and see our group grow without loads of effort needed.

1. Prayer It may seem obvious, but making sure the leaders are praying regularly for the group and the individual young people is essential. It is God who will make any significant and lasting differences to what takes place. Make sure you always pray as leaders before the young people arrive, start and end the evening with a prayer, and before the leaders dash off home, give thanks for what God has been doing. When you meet for your team meetings (you do have those, don’t you?!) make sure you allocate a good chunk of time to praying through the needs of the group and letting God’s Holy Spirit guide you as you plan.

2. Welcoming A friend once said to me that the best way to prevent bad behaviour in a group was to make sure that each person was welcomed properly when they arrived. If they feel accepted, valued and at home then they are less likely to play up. This is so true and we cannot underestimate how important first impressions are. Make sure that every young person is spoken to and greeted as soon as they arrive by a leader. This is important too for visitors and newcomers so they know who is in charge and what they should be doing.

3. Individual attention Building on the welcoming, no matter how large or small the group is, it is essential that each individual feels important and significant. We need to build our groups so that each member feels that they would be missed if they didn’t come one week. Sending a text message or a Facebook message to someone who didn’t turn up is a great way of saying ‘we missed you!’ and, more importantly for them, we noticed you weren’t there. When they know they will be missed, they will be more inclined to come each week.

4. Fun I visited a youth group once where the content of the evening was fine, a good Bible study took place, people chatted together at the start and end, but it just felt that something was lacking. I couldn’t quite work it out until I was on my journey home and I suddenly realised no one laughed all evening! Jesus came to give us life in all its fulness, and surely that must mean we should enjoy being with other Christians, and that means laughing! Fun is so important in our youth groups. Fun is what attracts, what bonds people together and prepares people to fully hear from God.

5. The Word of God Some youth groups seem to shy away from reading too much of the Bible, if any, because they fear it will be boring for the teenagers. If this is true, just think about what you are saying. Is the Word of God really boring, and therefore irrelevant, to teenagers? Of course not! We do need to use it, to teach it and to help young people grapple with it. A growing youth group will always have studying the Bible as a firm foundation.

I want to explore each of these foundations in a bit more detail. I’ll do this in 5 separate blog posts that you can find by clicking the link on the name of each area. I am convinced, if we make sure our foundations are strong, then we are in better shape to build our groups in a strong and healthy way, to last for the future.

Which of these foundations do you find easiest to overlook in your youth group? Leave a comment below.