It never occurred to me what would happen if I couldn’t attend youth ministry one night because of an emergency.  I had always made plans for when I went out on vacation; however, what would happen if I got sick or my family needed me.  I was finally put in that situation during the time of my wife’s pregnancy with our son Matthew.  I not only had to plan for the dates I thought I would be out, but just in case our son had come early.  I had to answer the question:


In youth ministry you need a back up plan because it will help you prepare for times when:

  • You are sick
  • Something happens in the community
  • The church has a big announcement
  • Weather disruptions
  • Family Emergencies

Your team, parents, and teens depend on your back up plan, because it gives them stability in moments of change.  If there isn’t certainty in what to do, anything can and will happen.  To build a successful back up plan you need to:

  • MAKE IT SIMPLE: If the power went out, leaders didn’t show up or your message got magically erased what could you simply do with the students.  For us the answer is FORM SMALL GROUPS that pray together, share life together and pray for one another.  This is already at the core of what we do in our ministry.  If you keep your plan simple and it stems from the foundation of your ministry leaders will have an easier time adapting to the sudden change an emergency will bring.
  • COMMUNICATE IT TO EVERYONE:  Make sure everyone on your team knows what to do.  That means everyone knows who is leading the ship in your absence, and what they need to do if they are in charge.  Provide an accessible document, cover this in leadership meetings and constantly grow leaders.  Great communication leads to effective preparation.
  • PRACTICE IT: You need to practice your backup plan so that people get a feel for what it looks like.  Great times to practice a backup plan are in the summer, during a weekend you know that there will be competition (i.e. Sunday after Thanksgiving) or when you plan to go away.  This way you can troubleshoot any errors in the plan.

No one likes to think that they need a back up plan because it can mean a drop in excellence.  But, the best youth ministries are the ones that prepare for moments that may never come.  Your ministry should not be a program, it needs to be a movement.  Make sure it can move with your life, your teens and your community’s.

What does your back up plan look like?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

The other day I wrote a post, “Is Your Ministry A Movement”, which asked the question:

“How are you making your ministry move?”

One of the suggestions was to partner with the community. This enables you to not only influence teens inside your church; but, ones who would never even come close to a church. A reader asked specifically, “What would it look like to partner with some of the local schools in order to be a movement in the community?” Here are a few suggestions for you to try in your local schools:

  • Recruit Advocates: These might be teachers or coaches (who are members of the church) who act as eyes and ears for your ministry. Have them inform you when anything major happens. They know who the Christian and unchurched teens are and can use you as a resource when appropriate. They are where you cannot always be.
  • Outsource: Instead of competing with para church organizations like Young Life, look to partner up with them. Most of their missions are to reach the unchurch and connect them with a local church. Be that local church for them and support them to live out their mission. This takes trust, accountability and transparency.
  • Commission Your Small Group Leaders: Invest in small group leaders to invest in teens outside your regular gathering. That means encouraging them to go to plays, sporting events, volunteering at dances etc. It’ll make your presence known in subtle ways and show the teens support in their everyday lives.
  • Be A Resource: If you have private schools feeding into your ministry meet with the campus minister and build a relationship with him or her. Offer your services to help with school retreats, chapel, etc. With public schools call the principals and guidance counselors and let them know that you can be available.

While you might want to start your own programs within schools look to building relationships first. This way you aren’t competing against others or using up valuable resources. Partnering in the community is intimidating because it means having awkward conversations and allowing other people to critique your ministry. But, that’s not a bad thing, because it will hold you accountable and allow you to grow in the best way possible.

How are you partnering with schools in your community?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr Day, a day when we reflect on the sacrifice and leadership of not just a great man; but, a powerful church leader.  Honestly, I’ve never really celebrated or reflected on what this day has meant until recently.  It’s a day that not only commemorates how this country moved forward; but, the church as well.  It’s a day that commemorates how the church was a part of a great movement.

Your youth ministry isn’t just a program, activity or a club, it’s a movement.  It’s easy to forget how much of an impact your ministry can have on the community.  You get lost in the details of meetings, paperwork and disappointment.  For us it’s hard enough to:

  • Write A Talk
  • Plan A Game
  • Show A Video
  • Serve Pizza

For us to challenge, encourage and commission your teens to go out and change the world is exhausing.  Sometimes it’s not just about what you say; but, what you do.  So how do you, in the midst of the business, transfer your ministry into a movement?

  • Include Application: Whether it’s an activity, or a message make sure that there is an action step for you teens to take.  Give them a vision so that they are inspired and the steps that will take them there.  The best action steps are tangible, clear and simple.  Once you set them up for success you will see the momentum and enthusiasm build.  They’ll realize, “I can be a part of something.”
  • Empower Through Small Groups:  It takes a lot of work to create big crowd mission trips and events.  You have to multiply your efforts which can lead to error and stress.  With small groups you put ownership on the leaders who will empower their 6-8 students.  Once you get one group going, you can use them as an example and inspiration to get the other moving.
  • Partner With The Community: While working in the trenches and sitting with the students is important, a youth minister needs to be working with schools, community organizations and local businesses to really increase influence.  Sometimes change happens by working within the systems.  As a youth leader that means looking at yourself a community partner.

There are times when youth ministries just need to sit back, relax and have fun; however, in the end it needs to also move.  A youth ministry that moves is one that creates change.  A youth ministry that moves is one that grows.  Next time you feel the ministry is growing stale or mundane, ask yourself, “Where does this need to move?”

How do you make your ministry a movement?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)