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I want to be a better youth leader one year from now than I am today. Do I hear an “Amen” or a groan from you right now? Probably both.

But if you’re like me, you feel a little overwhelmed. You already know ways you want to improve yourself and your youth ministry. It’s just a matter of finding the time to actually translate those thoughts into actions. So allow me to give you one of my most freeing youth ministry principles:

If I improve myself and our youth ministry by a mere 1 percent each week, that will eventually result in a more than 50 percent growth curve one year from now.

Let me suggest a few 1 percent changes that could really give you big results a year from now:

  • At least once a week mention that your youth ministry is a “family”-or express your authentic affection for the teenagers in your group.
  • Work to include one really good story in your talk each week, and play unobtrusive music behind it to make your communication more powerful.
  • Print out a list of the teenagers in your group and pray (even briefly) for one each day (or each week).
  • Make a mental note to encourage your senior pastor face-to-face or with an email or note at least every other week. On the other two weeks of the month, share with your pastor something positive or encouraging that’s happened in your ministry.
  • Take five minutes after every youth service to journal some reflections on the evening. It’ll provide an invaluable road map for the future and a powerful self-portrait of your growth.
  • Ask one adult per week (or month) to consider joining your youth ministry staff. And remember, all good salespersons know it takes six asks for every one yes.
  • Tell one of your current leaders something you legitimately appreciate about him or her.

The trick for me is to not make change too hard. That’s why I’m motivated by the power of 1 percent changes. Want a “testimonial”? I’m finally in a pattern of daily exercise! My secret was in making small commitments to exercise that get gradually longer each day.

So consider making some 1 percent changes in yourself and your youth ministry. It may push you a little, but remember: Youth ministry “water-treaders” focus on the present they desire; youth ministry champions create a future they desire.

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