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!