Nazarene General Assembly 2013Brian and Jason are seasoned members of Olive Branch Church. They were discussing the lack of growth their church has experienced over the last three years, while they sipped their favorite coffees at Starbucks. Suddenly, the conversation turned from generalities to the very specific.

“I’ve always felt that if you attract and keep the youth, you’ll get the whole family,” reflected Jason.

“It’s interesting you bring that up,” responded Brian, a father of two teenagers. “I’ve been wondering about how effective Eric is. I mean, as Youth Director, what does he do all week? He’s taken the kids on a couple of trips, and he has that Sunday night thing he does with the high school students, but what else? Ever since my son, Brett, became a senior, he hasn’t attended youth group much at all.”

Here are some of the contemporary challenges Eric is facing as a Youth Director: I- Pods, cars, jobs, grades, The Simpsons, the multiplex theater, Blockbuster, cell phones…and, yes, Starbucks!

The real issue, however, is perhaps what ministry focus the church may have on young people before all of these distractions compound the complexity of their lives. Many churches are recognizing that the traditional target of youth ministry focused on young adults, 12 to 18 years old, must shift to younger children. You want a better youth group? Grow one, by focusing on children.

Focus on these issues:

  1. Ministry dynamics that used to be targeted for junior high and high school youth are now the focus of children five to twelve years old.

  2. If you perceive youth ministry as important, you need what is referred to as a “farm club” to baseball. Most churches call this a children’s ministry.

  3. Don’t fire Eric. Hire his wife, Rachel, as a director of children’s ministry.

  4. Tie together children’s ministries like Vacation Bible School, Sunday school, midweek ministries, children’s music ministries, children’s church, sports for children, and parenting ministries for their parents.

  5. If your church can’t afford a full-time children’s minister, hire one part-time. Can’t afford that? Start the position with an energetic volunteer.

  6. Provide opportunities for young adults in high school youth ministry to model Christian life to the children. For example, let the high school youth provide the worship team for children’s church. That way the children with musical gifts are the “farm team” for the future high school worship team and the high school youth worship team is the “farm team” for the future contemporary worship service for your church.

The best way to develop an effective youth ministry is to grow one, starting with the children. Do this with all the ministries and your church is more likely to grow!

How has your church developed an effective youth ministry? We welcome your comments below.

Kent Hunter, founder of Church Doctor Ministries, is known as the Church Doctor. His most recent e-books are The Future Is Now and The J-Dog Journey, available at no cost. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, by emailTwitter, Facebook, or visit

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