Helping students develop a desire to grow on their own is an important part of the discipleship process. Too often, youth ministries primarily encourage attendance at programs, which sets students up for a spiritual drift after graduation if they can’t find a “program” to attend. Here are a few ways to help students develop their own relationship with Christ.

Give them a book you’ve read.
Think about the books that shaped you as a teenager and find the equivalent today. Tell students the story of why this book was important to you and your faith and encourage them to take steps down that journey as well.

HINT: Avoid the temptation to assume the same book is perfect for each student. If you can say, “I picked this out just for you…” it will make reading the book much more compelling.

Issue a challenge that’s out of their comfort zone.
Owning your faith usually takes root when a student rises to a challenge. Want to see someone grow? Push them to participate in a missions trip a long way from home. Watch them grow raising the funds to participate, and enjoy a front row seat to the refining process as they get to push past their breaking point into a moment of deep spiritual cementing.

HINT: Again, a personalized challenge is stronger than a generic one. Seeing a pattern, here?

Read something alongside them and meet occasionally to discuss.
You gave one of your core students a prayer journal? Did you share a 1-Minute Bible with them? Read a copy of it yourself at the same time, and meet up a couple times to check in and discuss what you’ve been learning.

Equip your small group leaders.
Last year we did “grow on the go” tubs filled with a few resources for leaders to give out to their students along the way. A push for a devotional during a message is great, but a personal nudge and gift of a devotional from a small group leader is the best.

Live it out yourself.
If you want to help your students grow on THEIR own, model it to them yourself. So much is caught rather than taught, so frequently do personal “check ups” in your own life to make sure you’re growing, too.

How are you helping students grow on their own right now?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

There is a tension most youth workers face in a smaller ministry setting: They want their group to be bigger! Ironically most youth workers in a large setting face a similar tension: They want to be (or at least feel) smaller! This week we’re hoping to help you think big when you’re small and think small when you’re big.

So if you are leading a smaller ministry, here are a few “big thinking” ideas that will help you where you’re at, and help pave the way for where you’re heading:

Think About Infrastructure
As you grow, how many volunteers will you need? Start recruiting volunteers now, so you are ready when growth happens. How will your follow up strategy need to evolve? Start tweaking it now! Do you have room to grow or will you need to ask to move your ministry to a larger broom closet? What will growth demand of your budget? These are just a few areas of infrastructure worth thinking about in bigger ways while you’re still smaller.

Think About Scalability
Look at virtually every aspect of your ministry and ask yourself if it’s scalable…in other words, can it handle a growth spurt? Pretend 10 new students joined your small groups—could your current system handle it? Thinking big means organizing in such a way that growth can be accommodated without completely upsetting the apple cart.

Think About Communication
More students, more problems! And one of the biggest problems larger youth groups have is in the area of communication. As your group grows, gone will be the good old days of calling every student once a week, or taking each volunteer out to lunch on a regular basis. You won’t be able to stop each parent in the church foyer to touch base.

The good news is we minister in an era that has seemingly unlimited tools and technology to meet our communication needs. Start experimenting now, so you are ready when growth arrives.

So when you’re small, think big! Prepare now for the students that God will trust you with in the future. Get ready…here they come!

P.S. Big youth groups are over-rated. Trust us on this one.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.



We often discuss church growth or student ministry growth. This is a topic of conversation for good reason, because we all are interested in building our student ministry. Here are a few reasons why your student ministry may never grow:

  1. Lack of Prayer — This is the biggest part of growth. You must daily pray and ask God to build your student ministry. You must be praying for your ministry to grow. Do not expect any growth (or perhaps the wrong kind of growth) if you are not daily praying over your ministry. Bathe it in prayer, and trust God for the growth.
  2. Lack of communicating clear vision — This is often times that the biggest problem with growth. You have to regularly communicate vision to the people. It must constantly be in front of the people. Then, you must live out the vision. “If your church does not know where it is supposed to be, then, they will attempt to go everywhere and eventually wind up nowhere.”
  3. Leadership — Ultimately, it could be a reflection on YOU. Make sure you are a passionate leader. Make sure you are living the Word. Make sure that you are carrying out the vision and communicating it clearly to your people.
  4. Selfishness — This can be a reflection upon leadership and the people. Sometimes, God may want to take the church in a place where you do not want to go, but you are still responsible for going in that direction. Do not be selfish and want the church to be what you want. Also, your people must not be selfish in trying to create the church that they want to have. It is not about us, but all about Him.
  5. Energy — If you fill the leadership with energy-less people, you will create a energy-less congregation. Be energetic and passionate, and the congregation will follow suit. Create a load of energy every service for the people to desire to come back.

Let’s make sure that we are doing everything that we can to grow our ministry!

Josh Evans is the student pastor at Union Grove Baptist Church in the Winston Salem, NC area. He has been a mentor and pastor to students for 4 years. You can connect further with Josh on his blog or send him a direct email at joshhevans@gmail.com.

I found out while I was reading 10 Stupid Things That Keep Churches From Growing that the author Geoff Surrat, was coming on staff at Saddleback the next week. If what he’s written is any indication of who we’re getting, I’m super excited. Taking a swift turn from his thought-leading Multi-site church books, Geoff takes on the common mistakes church leaders make in an effort to serve the church. Right out of the gate, he had me with his “the pastor has to do everything” trap – and I fondly recalling taking on everything and in the end everything suffering. Lots of great stories, mistakes and failures punctuate the points on how to be effective in ministry. I could have lived without the cartoons and layout, but the book is solid nonetheless. Welcome aboard, Geoff, we need you more than you know!

JG