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 —  July 2, 2013 — 2 Comments

I’m in churches all the time because of my consulting work with Ministry Architects. The church sizes vary from “ginormous” to “could fit into a 15-seater van if we were still allowed to use those.” But small churches are my first love and here’s what I see that breaks my heart.

1)    Too Close-Knit: Its true that on the “plus side” of small church youth groups is their ability to know everyone. But all too often, I see groups that are so bonded, no one new can get in. The ultimate result? The bonded kids graduate and you’re wondering where your ministry went. Teach your students how to welcome new kids and what to do when they bring someone new themselves. Have a clear check-in, welcome and follow-up process that involves more than the adults.

2)    Dying Children’s Ministry: Churches bring me in to help their fledgling youth groups and that’s wonderful…but 80% of the time, the biggest area of need for a dying youth ministry is in the 3rd-5th-grade children’s area. That’s where the mass exodus begins and if it isn’t shored up into a vibrant sustainable ministry, then there’s no feeder interest once they reach the bridge for going into junior high.

3)    Low Quality: Some churches use the excuse of being small to offset putting any effort into making a quality youth event. Low/no technology, haphazard control docs, poor transition in events, etc. This is the one time where I give you permission to do it like the big churches would; think about what they would do and try to emulate their example within the resources you have available. Look for ways to make things sharp, smooth, and savvy.

4)    Misplaced Expectation of the Youth Ministry: Too many churches assume that the youth ministry will save their church. First of all, only Jesus saves. Secondly, a healthy youth ministry comes from the healthy investment of the church as a whole. So in basic math: church>youth ministry. Don’t expect the youth ministry to attract and bring in the people that the larger body isn’t willing to go out to meet themselves. Get out of the pew!






Stephanie Caro

Stephanie Caro

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Stephanie Caro has been involved in ministry to youth and youth workers in the local church since…well, a long time – 30+ years. Her humorous, straightforward style keeps her busy presenting and coaching at conferences, training events, camps, mission trips, retreats, churches, etc. Her latest books are, “Thriving Youth Ministry in Smaller Churches” and “99 Thoughts for the Smaller Church Youth Worker,” published by Group/Simply Youth Ministry. Stephanie is a contributing author to several youth ministry resources in addition to her regular column “Smaller Church Youth Ministry” in Group Magazine. Stephanie is Senior Consultant for Mark DeVries’ Ministry Architects and the director for their Small Church Ministry Architects division. She and her hubby, Steve, live in Houston, TX. All 7 kids are grown and out – praise God!


  1. Our church has no children’s ministry. This particular problem guts me hard. I get no growth from the younger students.

  2. Great post, Stephanie. I find it interesting that a lot of what you said can be applied to the broader context of an entire congregation, not solely a particular church’s youth ministry.

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