Growing a Youth Group

Numbers are tricky and often difficult to analyze. Sometimes the pastor or parents want to know “how many youth are attending?” It can be hard to quantify, especially if you have different areas of programming.

We all want to grow our youth group. It’s part of our calling – to share the good news of Jesus Christ!

But we’ve also seen the statistic that only 8% of youth in today’s culture are devoted to their faith. Our culture doesn’t value faith and religion like it once did. Youth have more choices about how to spend their time. Growing a youth group is getting harder!

To effectively grow a ministry, we need to focus on Jesus’ example of mountaintop experiences. Jesus preached the Beatitudes on the mountain, he was transfigured on the mountain, and he went to the mountain to pray. Those were transformative experiences that shaped Jesus’ ministry. But the majority of Jesus’ ministry happened in the valley. People live in the valley, and they occasionally visit the mountain. Jesus did most of his ministry in the valley, in the presence of people, near their homes.

Every week, we plan youth group, Sunday school, and other weekly youth events. Those are valley experiences, because those are our “home” ministry experiences.

And, usually in the summer, we plan a mission trip or camp. We look forward to that experience all year. It is our mountaintop experience!

Most youth ministers accentuate the mountaintop experiences, because they only happen once a year. It’s exciting! Join us! Travel with us! Jesus’ example is to use the mountaintop experience to shape the ministry that we do every week – ministry at home.

On your next mountaintop experience, ask your youth to help plan the evening devotions. Ask them to help plan the menu. Ask them to help plan your group outing or activity on the free afternoon.

Then, ask them to keep doing it as part of a youth leadership team that meets all year. They’ll get excited about their youth group. They’ll be more devoted. They’ll claim ownership. They’ll bring their friends. It will take time, but your youth group will grow!

Need more ideas? Check out our Executive Director’s blog post on how to nurture different-sized youth groups, from 10 to 90 youth.

Fact: churches that partner with Youth Ministry Institute often see their youth groups DOUBLE in size during the tenure of their YMI-trained youth minister.


Matt Regional YMI DirectorMatt Vaughan is the regional director for Youth Ministry Institute Midwest. Matt previously served as a youth minister for over 18 years at three churches with varied memberships of 350 to 4,500 members. During his career, he planned over 70 trips, taught 700 confirmation students, and hired 45 interns (of which 18 pursued vocational ministry). He began his career at at United Methodist church and most recently served a Presbyterian church. Matt received theological education from Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City and was later certified as a school teacher by the University of Missouri – Saint Louis. He is a graduate of theUniversity of Kansas. Matt and his wife, Amy, live in Prairie Village, Kansas with their two sons. When they are not at a basketball game or tennis match, they yearn to hike, camp, or ski in Colorado and Arizona.

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