Recently I realized that if I am expecting excellence from someone … they need to have the tools to get there.

In youth ministry that isn’t always easy or sometimes possible – often we make do with ministry hand-me-downs and meet in youth rooms made from the old converted sanctuary. But when you expect excellence from your people, make sure you’ve done your best to equip them.

  • Want great small group leaders? Make sure your training is thorough and complete. Include supplemental trainings via email or video when you see a gap in their preparedness.
  • Want to develop some great teachers? Invite them into your prep process and allow them to be a part of the debrief and evaluation process afterward.
  • Want to raise up the next youth pastor in your church? Give him/her the books and resources to read and a place to dialogue what they are learning.
  • Want great videos? Make sure your volunteer has access to a great camera and a fast machine to edit on.

Too often we just expect people to be great … without ever doing the hard work of clearing the path to greatness. You can’t ask them to create the world without giving them a paintbrush. This week look for some places where you have expectations that aren’t being met and see if there is a gap in helping someone realistically get there.


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.

Our ministry at USAFA Club Beyond relies heavily on its volunteers and so there is a deep need to help set them up for success. Here are three things we do to ensure we achieve it.

Empower them. Training is one of the fundamental parts of a great team. Whether you have a group of veteran volunteers or first-timers to youth ministry, everyone can benefit from training. A single yearly training is not enough nor are one hour monthly events. The single, longer session is perfect for vision casting, youth ministry 101, and the overall mission of the youth group. At the same time, monthly meetings are perfect for Q&A from struggling volunteers, tweaking skills, and going over future curriculum. We incorporate both and find that they appreciate all of it.

Equip them. This includes a thorough and purposeful curriculum, a four or six month calendar of events, and all of the necessary equipment. Their job is not to come up with the questions or the lesson (though several of them are great at it and I ask for insight when writing up the curriculum). On their best nights, they stick to the core of the curriculum but follow the discussion of what the students bring up, asking different questions and using other illustrations than what is printed. But when life gets hard, they have a terrible day at work before youth group, or get into an argument with a family member, now they are not coming to club at 100%. This is when preparation key to providing success.

Encourage them. Sure our title is youth worker but at least 30% of our time is invested in adults like our volunteers and so we must make a point to focus on them too. Many of them are hurting just as much as our students but they have figured out how to cope. We need to minister to them in their successes, failures, mistakes, and accomplishments. So if a student is giving them a hard time or they are going through a crisis, buy them a Starbucks and give them an hour or two of your time to be a sounding board or help bear their burdens.

Jeremy Smith is a 26-year old youth pastor at the Air Force Academy chapel, working for Club Beyond, and attending Denver Seminary for his Master”s of Arts in Counseling Ministries. He has been involved in Youth for Christ for eight years and absolutely loves sharing the life of Jesus with teens. Check out his blog at Seventy8Productions.