Culture | Families | Leadership | Volunteers

Kurt Johnston has been a youth pastor since 1988 and currently leads the student ministries team at Saddleback Church in Southern California. Widely regarded as one of the most trusted voices in youth ministry, Kurt loves to encourage other youth workers and has written and created over 50 books and resources with that goal in mind. In his free time, Kurt enjoys surfing and riding dirt bikes in the desert with his wife and two children.

Less is More.

We live in a culture that sends tons of “the more, the better” messages. And while that may be true with things like sweet tea and puppies, it’s not always true in some of the aspects of youth ministry. In fact, having a “less is more” attitude is often a great strategy that can result in everybody wanting more of what you just gave them less of. Here are a few places in youth ministry where less is almost always more.

Lessons/Messages—The only people who like long sermons are preachers. I’ve never heard a teenager say, “Gosh, Kurt, I really wish your lesson today was a little longer.” I’ve never heard a student on a missions trip, after spending the designated “60-minute solo reflection and journaling time,” ask for just 15 more minutes! Instead of trying to cram everything you learned in New Testament Survey into one lesson, why not break it into a month-long series of short, easy-to-grasp lessons that might actually cause your students to come back next week. Even the best interactive lessons lose their luster if the interaction lasts too long.

Games—I’m not saying play fewer games. I’m simply saying don’t play the same games too often. There is a tempting pattern in youth ministry that goes something like this: We play somewhat-fun games each week with somewhat-acceptable levels of enthusiasm from our students. Suddenly we stumble on a game that everybody seemed to like. In fact, for the first time in months students actually asked if you can play it again next week. So you do. And the week after that. And the week after that. Pretty soon, the very game that everybody loved has become a game that is routine and boring. Some kids even start rolling their eyes at the mere mention of it! Something that could have been in your game quiver for years to come can suddenly become a total turd. NOTE: Looking for some great games? Check out The Challenge. Just don’t play these awesome games too often!

Advice—I know you got into youth ministry because you love teenagers and feel like you have something to offer them. And you do! But you don’t need to offer that “something” every single time you have a conversation. You don’t need to turn every moment in a “learning opportunity.” Sometimes students just want to point out the homeless guy on the corner without you reminding them about Jesus’ commands to care for the “least of these.” Sometimes they want to throw away a half-eaten burger without the guilt trip of being made aware of the starving kids in Africa. When you are a good listener, when you can be around teenagers just because…then when you do decide to speak into their lives you just might be surprised at how eagerly they respond.

Articles—Short articles are better than long ones. So, I’m done.

Graduation SALE: Discounted prices on Jesus-centered graduation gift sets until May 1. Plus, FREE standard shipping. Prepare them for what's next!

Because Jesus-Centered People Don't Just Happen

Want to find out how you stack up against other youth workers? Take Group Magazine's fun, quick assessment HERE!

Leave a Comment

Please keep in mind that comments are moderated and rel="nofollow" is in use. So, please do not use a spammy keyword or a domain as your name, or it will be deleted. Let us have a personal and meaningful conversation instead.