I became a full time youth pastor at the age of 21-years-old. I remember being scared and nervous, but at the same time, eager and excited to see what I could bring to the table.
With all the work that is involved, some would argue that youth ministry may be one of the most challenging and underpaid jobs in ministry. I’ve heard my share of stories from other youth pastors and ministry leaders that are struggling on a weekly basis because:
- They have no budget;
- The senior leadership at their church doesn’t really see a need to put that much time and energy into a youth program;
- Church is optional to many people nowadays, so no one really shows up;
- No budget. (Did I say that already?)
My former youth pastor, Glen A. Guyton (now chief operation officer for Mennonite Church USA), always told me that you don’t need a lot of money to do youth ministry, just a box of pizza and some pineapple soda. Money definitely helps and allows you to do plenty of cool things, but it shouldn’t be a major hindrance to youth ministry, especially when you are passionate about seeing young people’s lives changed for the better.
In my four short years of experience, I’ve come to find out that youth and young adults care more about quality time than anything. If I could give one solid piece of advice before I get into some of the more exciting things that draw and attract youth and young adults I would say this: practice consistency. Consistency is one of the major things that will give you a following. You’ll be surprised how many youth are looking to see if you’re going to show up and actually be present. If you are inconsistent with them, they’ll mirror the same response and your numbers and influence will begin to dwindle over time.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, here are some of the things that we do @C3Hampton (in Hampton, Va.) to keep our youth and young adults engaged.
We start off with a huge planning template. Why do we exist? Who’s our target audience? What do we have to offer? I’ll give you a few of our answers, but you’ll also have to come up with a few of your own. @C3Hampton, we understand that our youth and young adults like to feel valued and appreciated, so we do our best to provide a comfortable and safe environment; provide eventful outings; establish a sense of ownership within our ministerial context; develop opportunities to volunteer within our community and our local church; and seek to open doors for networking, discovering and displaying your God-given talents at various events that we hold.
It’s not all about what money can, buy but what you can bring to the table. People are really looking for a place to belong and want to know if you’re willing to help them along their journey.