BY BENNY PEREZ
Throughout my years of youth ministry I have had the opportunity to see God grow two local church youth ministries. I write this article not as an expert on growth, but as one who is still learning and growing as well. However, I have seen the Lord grow one ministry from 18 to 200 in eighteen months and more recently, another from 20 to 700 in six years. It is with this experience that I want to share a few of the principles I have learned.
ADDITIONAL PRINCIPLES FOR BUILDING ATTENDANCE
-Take care of the youth you already have. The most effective attendance builder is to make sure your are nurturing and building into the kids who are already a part of your group. If their needs are being met, then they will be your greatest helpers for growing your youth group. Disciples will reach their friends.
-Find a need and fill it. As you strive to meet a need in your community that isn’t being met, your group will grow. Starting a late night basketball league, a computer lab, an after school learning center, a recreation program, a drop-in center, etc. are great options for building relationships with unchurched teens.
-Have enough leaders. If you want to increase attendance, then first increase your volunteer leadership team. The better the adult to student ratio, the greater probablility for healthy numerical growth.
-Work within your area of strength and recruit to your weakness. If your strength is discipling Christian students, then recruit street and campus level outreach workers. If your strength is teaching, then recruit creative leaders to help with drama, music and media!
-Think Small. The most effective large youth groups think small and build their ministry on relationships. If youth don’t make friends in the group and feel a genuine part of the community, they probably won’t stay very long.
First, understand God’s perspective regarding growth. I believe that it is God’s will for your youth church to grow. You must settle this in your heart that God wants your youth ministry to grow. I believe that God wants to build it in two ways. The ministry should be growing both spiritually and numerically. We find in Acts 2:42-47 a tremendous explosion of numeric growth along with spiritual growth simultaneously. As long as this continued, the Bible says that the Lord added to their number daily those being saved. I believe that growth is important to God because He mentions numbers in the book of Acts. However, numbers just for numbers sake is wrong. Each person in your youth ministry should be important to you because they are important to the Lord. So really settle it in your heart that God is into growth both spiritually and numerically.
Second, the Holy Spirit is essential for growth. The Bible says that where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. I believe that young people need to sense that there is something different when they walk into our meetings. My friends, we cannot out-perform the world, but we can out-power them. We read in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 and 4:20 that we need to have the power and demonstration of the Spirit. This way the faith of the young people will not rest on the wisdom of man but in the power of God. Student after student has told me that they have felt something different when they came to TC (Totally Committed to Christ) Youth Church. The atmosphere is charged with the presence of God. The tangible presence of God is essential for growth.
Many people would ask, “How do I get that power operating in my life and my meetings?” It begins with prayer in your personal life. Prayer is the key that plugs you into the power source for your life and ministry. Listen my fellow youth pastor and youth worker, we are in a spiritual battle like never before and this battle is fought and won on our knees. E.M. Bounds once wrote that the devil trembles most when he sees saints on their knees in prayer. Also, we need to be leaders who spend time in the Word of God. You see, the more we spend time in the Word for our own enrichment, the greater will be the flow of the Spirit. The reason for this is that we will operate out of the overflow of our heart because it is full of the Word. Faith will increase in us because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. The Bible makes it clear that the Word of God is a sword and an offensive weapon that is essential if we want to see the power of God operate in our meetings. Make no mistake friend; prayer and the Word of God are keys to seeing growth in your life and your ministry.
Third, have a Kingdom vision for your youth ministry. In Proverbs 29:18 we read that without a vision the people will perish. Young people need to have vision cast before them so that they can understand the plan and then be released to fulfill it. In Habakkuk, we read that we need to write down the vision and make it plain so that those who read it may run with it. Once the vision is defined, then build your youth ministry around it. The first thing you must do is to start with the meeting. The weekly meeting must have the three R’s. Your meeting needs to be radical, real, and relevant to the young people.
Preach messages that they need to hear. You must speak about salvation, prayer and praise, The Holy Spirit, radical evangelism, identity, etc.
Remember this, if you are speaking truth young people will not only respond, but they will return. Essential to being real is that your meeting must have genuine worship which is imperative for growth.
The Word of God must be preached clearly and concisely. Call young people to commitment at the altar. In ten years of youth ministry I have kept Worship, the Word and the Altar as the focal points and I have seen God move powerfully.
Well, many of you may be saying, “That is great, but tell me some practical things I can do to see growth take place in my ministry.” I want to give you the following ideas that have worked for us:
-Train and mobilize your young people to share their faith.
-Print up tracts for young people to hand out.
-Print up T-shirts and hats to promote your youth church.
-Make yourself visible and known among youth. Go to the campuses, their sporting events, the neighborhoods, parks, etc.
-Get your youth involved in ministry. Involvement is the key for keeping and developing young people.
-Start up cell groups to close the back door.
-Start a visitation program that follows up on all visitors.
-Pray, pray and pray some more. Organize pre-service prayer, personal prayer and early morning prayer times.
-Keep the vision, purpose and strategies in front of the people!!
-Whatever you do, NEVER GIVE UP! (Galatians 6:9)
This generation needs you and your ministry to touch them. Let us believe God for a mighty youth revival that will cause change in this nation. God is looking for you to believe Him for growth both spiritually and numerically. Let us go after it for the sake of this generation!
Benny Perez is a graduate of Southern California College in Costa Mesa, CA and is the founder and president of Pacesetters International; an organization dedicated to helping people live life at a higher level in God. He has actively been involved in ministry for ten years. His ministry currently consists of being the youth pastor at Marysville First Assembly of God in Marysville, Washington, and ministering across the nation as an itinerant evangelist.