Training Tools

How Do I Make My Youth Group Grow?

One of the most frequent questions I am e-mailed is “How can my youth group grow and reach more people?”

1.  P R A Y I N G:  Start by praying. . . and pray hard. 

Ask God to increase your group size.  Sure we all say we pray . . . but do we really pray?  Take a time out each day to specifically pray for individual students and the friends they’ll reach.  Pray for God’s direction in your programming and teaching.  Pray for the students that drive you nuts.  Pray that God will lay compassion on your heart, a compassion for lost students that you wouldn’t normally reach out to.  Be careful . . . God will answer those prayers.

2.  K E E P I N G the kids you got!

Give the students you have something to bring their friends to.  This means coming up with creative programming that students enjoy.  Meet the needs of the students attending.

A lot of people take this one for granted.  Why? Because it takes a lot of work. It takes a lot more work to arrange a bunch of vehicles for a video scavenger hunt.  It takes a lot more work to find a video clip and set up all the media stuff to kick off a video discussion.  It takes a lot of work to arrange an all nighter with laser tag, skating, a gym, etc.  It takes a lot of work to prepare dynamic talks or put together a budget that brings in dynamic speakers.  BUT IT’S WORTH IT!

That’s what I’ve dedicated my web site to: providing you cutting edge games, video clips, activities, discussions and programming ideas for free.  Can’t beat that with a stick!

3.  C O N T A C T I N G:  Find students that need Christ

Definition: meeting kids “where they are at” & getting to know them (discovering their physical, emotional, social & spiritual needs)

Guess what- your students aren’t the only ones who should be bringing students to youth group- you can meet students where they are at and build relationships with them.  This doesn’t mean walk up to a kid for the first time with a flyer in your hand, this means hanging out with students because you love students.  If you like basketball, find where students play basketball and play with them.  If you know students like to skateboard, provide a place for them to skateboard.  If your ministry reaches a certain campus, go to those sports games and meet students.

Once you contact students and get to know them, then you’ll find opportunities to invite them to youth group or church.  A few ideas of where to contact:

  • On Campus- during lunch
  • School sports games
  • The local teen hang-out
  • Taco Bell across the street from the school

Contacting doesn’t stop outside of youth group.  When students come to your weekly program, studies or events, use this as an opportunity to get to know them better.

  • being on their team during games
  • shooting hoops, ping pong, whatever you have in your facility
  • learning names, noticing their interests, asking them about their week
(Jonathan goes through this process step by step in his helpful book used by youth workers worldwide, CONNECT: Real Relationships In a World of Isolation)

4.  B U I L D I N G a relationship with them

Definition: Hanging out with them, now that we know them  (meeting their physical, emotional, social & spiritual needs)

Building relationships with students is one of the best time you and your staff can spend.  My weekly staff meeting always included my staff reporting about their time with students that week.  As we build relationships with them, we’ll find opportunities to share the Gospel, disciple them, and equip them to reach out.

Here’s some great “Building” activities:

  • Have them over to your house for movies, spa, games, etc.
  • Take them shopping.
  • Use small groups as part of your program to get to know students better and open doors to deeper conversation.
  • Take them to a “Kings” basketball game (I’m from Sacramento- give me a break!)
  • Laser Tag
  • Local mini-golf/video game places
  • Go to their house- meet parents/siblings

5.  C R E A T I N G a momentum of growth in your group.

Notice the definition: “Creating a momentum of growth in your group.”  Many of us don’t even talk about this- we talk about “advertising.” We make the mistake of thinking that advertising is simply handing out flyers or putting up posters.  Cool fliers and posters and a big draw (food, activities, etc.) will not guarantee a good event. We need to strategically plan our year with programs or events that give opportunities for your group to build up.

For example: if you’re going to do a big pizza event to bring out a bunch of kids to your Tuesday night program . . . don’t just start the year off with THAT event.  Some of us start the year out cold turkey with our big event, putting everything we’ve got into that event like a baby rattlesnake injecting all his venom in one bite.  Build a momentum.  Start the year off bringing out as many students as you can, maybe that’s only eight students.  Have them start bringing their friends. Build up the group’s size using events like “Manhunts” (see my EVENTS page ) and let them know the “pizza bash” is coming.  Finally use the students, your most effective marketing tool, to bring back as many of their friends for that event.  You can always offer incentives, like prizes for the person that brings the most friends, etc.

Yes this really works. I’ve used this same process with a group of 7 students meeting in a home each week. This ministry built to over 200 students weekly.Your group has the potential to grow and reach your community for Christ. If you’re ready to let God have the reigns, he can do incredible things in your ministry.

If you enjoyed this article from Jonathan McKee, you’ll probably also enjoy any of his numerous youth ministry books helping you reach out to today’s generation of young people. Take a peek at all of his books at a discounted price here.


Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

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