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Ask a Senior Pastor
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Ask a Senior Pastor: Where to Start?

Where to start?

That’s a question most of us feel the tension of on a semi-regular basis, whether we’re youth ministry rookies, veterans or something in between.

It’s the core question in this installment of “Ask a Senior Pastor” as we address three different hurdles related to teamwork and administration. Check out these three questions that all lead to the same actions steps:

  • seniorpastor“What does it mean to recruit passionate volunteers and ignite passion in current volunteers?”
  • “I just started at my second church, and the youth ministry role is a brand new position for this church. While I have seven years of experience in youth ministry, I’ve never helped a church start a new ministry. Any advice as to how I help the church transition (creating a budget, structural stuff, policies, etc) so it is something that we create together and not just something I hand to the church?”
  • “Getting new kids to church – how do we do it?”

These are amazing questions! I so admire the maturity underneath them, for they each recognize how youth ministry is a shared responsibility.

It begins with relationships: The Church is a Body with many parts. Student ministry allows you to explore that intergenerationally inside and outside your congregation.


Imagine that everyone around a student you want to reach is taking a solo approach at impacting that teen. Perhaps one adult says a good education is most important while another demands that sports or a good paying job be the top priority. You can end up one of these many voices trying to the student to pay attention to your thing, much like a politician campaigns for votes.

In contrast, picture what it would mean to work with the existing network around a student by investing into those individuals. It means introducing yourself to coaches, teachers, parents, bosses and more not just as someone who also had that teen’s best interests in mind but as someone who wanted to serve each adult, too.

Considering these various people groups, might there be an opportunity for your ministry to uniquely affect the spiritual climate of a school or social organization in a powerfully positive way?  I sense that has to be one of the questions you ask from the ground up. You may find that in doing so you find new volunteers for student ministry – or at the very least, advocates for what you’re doing who may send new kids your way as you advocate for what they’re doing in the kids you already share investments into.


careIt requires people who aren’t like you: If you had to describe yourself, would you say you’re more of a creator, an advancer, a refiner or an executor?

At some level, you’ll embody one of these leadership types more than another. Be confident in this versus trying to appear like you can do all three roles equally. It’s actually a template for what youth ministry needs in its infrastructure and a way to recruit volunteers who CARE:

  • Creator: Looks at a blank piece of paper and knows what needs to go on it.
  • Advancer: Takes what the Creator started and moves it forward.
  • Refiner: Asks “BUT…” questions that adapts things as needed.
  • Executor: Implements whatever has been decided to happen and administrates it to maximize results.

For example, let’s say the hurdle is getting new kids to church. The Creator might say, “Most of our kids come from the same area of town. Let’s develop a transportation ministry.” The Advancer says, “Yes, and what if we raised funds for a 15-passenger van to do it?” The Refiner likely would add, “But that will take some time… so what if we come up with an interim plan of carpooling among parents? They’ll likely be okay with it for a while, but then become advocates for the fundraising for the van as the driving becomes tedious over time.” The Executor says, “I think I got it. I’ll start making calls to parents and check prices for vans.” At this, the Creator may say, “Great, because I have an idea for a fundraiser.” The cycle continues from there.

Make sure you have at least one representative of these four types on a team… and make sure you’re okay with whatever role you’re good at versus the ones  you aren’t as great at.


It has likely been done before: There is something special that you bring into student ministry, but don’t turn that uniqueness into pride. Other churches and youth ministries locally and globally have been at this for years. It’s quite possible you can learn something from them if you’re willing to humbly sit before them with a notebook and a pen. Sometimes you’ll get the answers to the questions you’re looking for. Other times you’ll end up asking better questions.

physical-4090One resource that can spur this on is “The Skinny Series.” It’s practical, biblical wisdom on Communication, Discipleship, Outreach, Parents, Service and Volunteers that you can read on your own or with a team of others. Imagine sitting down to pick someone’s brain on a topic and in less than an hour feeling more grounded and inspired.

Seriously, check this series out.


What did I miss?

What observations can you offer?

What questions does this stir up for you?

– Tony

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Ask a Senior Pastor: Where to Start?

Get free weekly resources from us!
Get free weekly resources from us!
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Thanks, you're all set!