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5 Things Every Youth Pastor Needs To Stop Doing

September 23, 2021

Youth pastors have a really rough time. Usually, they’re underpaid, have almost no budget, but feel like they’re competing with youth groups that seem to have unlimited budgets, full worship bands, and guest speakers all the time. So they make big decisions that end up plateauing their growth, or causing students to leave.

Having heard from hundreds of youth leaders from all over the country, here are some of the things youth pastors need to stop doing, immediately

1. Stop Trying to Copy Other Youth Groups

I see this all the time. Youth leaders see a megachurch in the next town, see the photos posted by their youth director, and get jealous and try and replicate what they’re doing. Let me be very clear: It’s extremely difficult to do something better than those who are already successfully doing it.

The best advice I can give is that you need to figure out how to differentiate yourself from the other youth events in town. Does that other youth group attract students because they always have the best, over the top games? Think of something other than games you can excel in that can make you unique instead of copying their games.

2. Stop Treating Your Students Like Children

I have seen this way too many times. Youth Pastors get so scared to talk about certain topics or issues because of the age of their students, when they are hearing about those exact topics at school and at home. Let me give you permission: It’s OK to talk about biblical truths about sex, drugs, LGBT issues, abortion, politics, and other topics in youth group. These students desperately want to learn and discuss these things, and giving them a safe place to do it is going to keep them coming back, and bringing friends.

If students have parents who are more conservative in their faith, they may be scared or not know how to bring up many of those tough topics. You can be the leader who starts these conversations in their homes.

3. Stop Forcing Them to Bring Friends

Having been to a ton of youth groups, I’ve never seen more desperation than pastors who offer free things or keep begging students to bring friends for reasons that are anything other than genuine. If you’re looking to raise the numbers of your youth group for appearances sake, than you may need to reevaluate your motives.

The truth is, if you’re creating a youth group that is a fun place to be, where they’re being challenged and building relationships, they’ll bring friends naturally. If you force them to bring friends, you may see numbers grow in spurts, but likely won’t see long lasting growth.

4. Stop Only Caring About The Students on Youth Group Nights

There is nothing more disheartening to a student than feeling forgotten the moment they walk out the church doors. As someone who had great youth leaders, but didn’t have much investment in who I was outside of youth group, it got lonely, and even felt a little manipulative.

Show up for the school football games. Show up to the theater performances. Invite them out for coffee to learn about their lives. Many of the students in church may appear to have thriving healthy home lives, but it may be the opposite. You’ll never know unless you invest in them and spend time getting to know them and their faith personally.

5. Stop Assuming They’re Just Like Everyone Else in their Generation

I’ve seen so many youth pastors get frustrated because they think “I brought Chick-Fil-A to youth group and the numbers were still the same, I thought everyone loved Chick-Fil-A?”

Fact is, you might just have a youth group that isn’t motivated by food, and (shocking, I know) may not like Chick-Fil-A. If you get to know your students you can learn what motivates them to keep coming back. Is it a competitive group? Focus on games. Is it a more reserved, quiet group? Don’t focus on games.

Every student is unique, and every group of students is unique.

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