Our focus this week on relational youth ministry brings us to the practical question: How can we make our student ministry more relationship-based? Here are a few ways we’re trying to do just that in our ministry.

1 – Add a “welcome time” to youth group each week.
We’ve all seen this before, the “shake hands with 15 people around you” but when used sparingly it can be really effective. As your group grows, it’s surprisingly easy for the “basics” like a warm greeting to slip through the cracks!

Our students have come to love this time—we’ve expanded it to several minutes so that people can actually have a short conversation rather then just a cursory greeting. This is a great chance for introductions to be made, too! We have a volunteer every week who works hard to get to know someone new and makes it a point to introduce them to us specifically each week.

2 – Have everyone in place before and after the service.
If you are still running around finalizing details of your program when everyone is coming in, it’s gonna be tough to be relational! Work hard to do program-related stuff before students arrive; if you’re still dialing things in as they’re walking in, it’s simply too late. And tell everyone on your volunteer team they are “dead to each other” once youth group starts.

3 – Build down time to hang at every event.
If you’re at a youth conference, camp, or other big event, the planners have been paid to fill up every waking moment with something. In many cases, youth leaders choose a late-night option or yet another training session when what the group might need is some discussion time.

Maybe a break is in order, and you need to ditch a session and go get some frozen yogurt and just talk over what they’ve already learned. Relational ministry fights the go, go, go approach.

4 – Train your leaders in the art of asking good questions.
Help your leaders ask good questions—open-ended questions that require thoughts instead of a simple yes or no. Help them have an instantly ready queue of questions to ask someone they are meeting for the first time. Give them the tools to help them fight the awkward silences of first getting to meet someone.

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.