Here are 100 things you can try in your youth group. Get programming and curriculum ideas, and much more!
Always take pictures of your youth group activities. Hang them up on the church or youth group bulletin board. Post them on Facebook and tag them. Have kids create crazy captions for them.
Subscribe to a popular magazine like Rolling Stone or Teen that will help keep you on top of the current youth culture.
Use the mail a lot. Send birthday cards and personal, affirming notes to each of your young people. Send postcards and announcements on a regular basis. Really, snail mail is still cool.
Use surveys and questionnaires to their best advantage. Find out what your young people are thinking on a regular basis.
Join a youth workers' fellowship in your area. If none exists, organize one. (Here's help for finding one) Meet periodically with other youth workers in your area to share ideas and problems. They can be a great resource for you.
Never ignore a disturbance during a meeting. When a distraction occurs, acknowledge it. It's the best way to regain the attention of the group.
Avoid making promises to parents you can't keep.
Get a phone number just for your youth group. Check out Google Voice, it's free and includes texting.
Give kids the opportunity to reflect on what they have learned after each meeting. Have them write down "I learned . . .," or discuss what they have learned in small groups.
Don't meet in a room that is too big for your youth group. If your group is small, meet in a small room. This gives kids the feeling of being "packed" in. Always make sure your meeting place is casual and comfortable.
Have the young people in your group put together a "youth group yearbook" at the end of the year. It should include photos and articles about the past year's activities. It will be a positive reminder of the good times shared by the group.
Prepare a good job description for yourself and stick to it.
If your group is small, go in with other groups on things. Pool your resources. Share costs. Don't be afraid to invite another youth group to some of your activities, even if they are of another denomination.
Always deal with problems as they come up. Don't expect them to go away on their own. They won't.
Set up a "phone chain" to help spread the word regarding upcoming events. If you have ten young people who will call ten other kids, you can personally contact a hundred kids in one evening. Personal contact is always the most effective.
If your church does not have a good youth resource library, then start one. It should grow every month. Include books for kids, their parents, and your leaders.
Allow the young people in your group to select adults in the church whom they would like to have as youth sponsors. It's easier to enlist those adults when they know they have been chosen by the kids.
Volunteer to be a sponsor or chaperone for events and activities at your local junior high or high school. Most schools need help for the lunchroom, dances, assemblies, field trips, or sports events.
Meet regularly with your volunteer staff and sponsors for training, prayer and fellowship.
Periodically keep track of your time for a week to see where it is really going.
Always arrive at the church or meeting place early enough to greet youth and their parents as they arrive. Stay late for the same reason.
Develop programs that reflect the needs, interests and energy level of the young people in your group, not the adults who work with them.
Take two days away from the office to prepare for busy times during the year.
Host local high school international students at a dinner in their honor. Have them tell about being a teenager in their country and how that differs from the United States. Present each one with a gift certificate for a free call home from your youth group.
Plan some early morning or late night activities. There will be few conflicts and the kids will enjoy the adventure.
Develop realistic goals and expectations—the harvest is at the end of the age, not at the end of your meeting. Avoid depending on immediate results to determine success or failure. Lasting results come later—often much later.
Take a youth worker from another local church or parachurch organization to lunch. Don't talk about youth.
Consider planning youth activities from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Many kids of working parents are left unsupervised in the late afternoon and have nothing to do.
Preview everything. Never use a video you haven't seen or schedule a speaker you haven't heard. Your students should not be treated like guinea pigs.
Get to know the parents of your young people. Learn their first names and use them.
Take time to read several new books each year. Try to read a book on youth ministry, one on time management, one on theology, one of the classics, and a couple popular novels.
Avoid creating a "youth ghetto." Get the youth involved in the life of the church—not just the youth group. They can serve on boards and committees, work with children or the elderly, participate in worship, and attend other events and meetings.
Don't be afraid to smile and laugh a lot.
Visit each of your youth in their homes. Good insight can be gained by noting how a student's room is decorated and what is on display.
Print up brochures or postcards describing your youth group and its activities, and make them available to parents, youth group members, and youth who might be unfamiliar with the group. Include photos, brief descriptions, times, and locations.
Plan at least two retreats a year. One day at a retreat is worth an entire month of Sundays.
Lighten up and let kids be kids. They aren't adults, so don't expect them to act like adults.
Never cancel an event or meeting simply because not enough youth show up. You may need to adapt your plans, but don't send everyone home. Let those who show up know they're just as important as those who don't.
Familiarize yourself with the music your students listen to. Periodically discuss the music with your kids in a positive way.
Take a Red Cross first aid course and encourage others on your staff to do the same.
Keep a file of referrals for crisis counseling. If you feel inadequate or unsure of yourself, don't hesitate to refer young people to professionals who have the appropriate training and experience.
Offer to serve as a volunteer chaplain at a local hospital adolescent unit or drug and alcohol treatment program.
Get a set of Ideas books from Youth Specialties. You'll never be able to use all those ideas, but next time you need one, you'll have plenty to choose from.
Put together a "skit closet" full of costumes, old clothes, and props for your drama productions or even last-minute illustrations. Ask people in the church to donate ridiculous looking clothing and other items. Your local thrift shop is a great resource, too.
Communicate availability. Don't give your kids the impression that you're too busy for them.
When students help you with a game in front of the group, don't make fun of them. Use activities to build them up—make heroes out of them, not idiots.
Take up a hobby or some outside interest. Learn to play a musical instrument, take up a new sport, or start a collection of something.
Don't do everything yourself, even though you can do it better. Learn to delegate.
Always have at least one youth program "in the can" for emergency use. It will come in handy when your guest speaker doesn't show up or your video doesn't arrive.
Ask adults in the church to "adopt an adolescent" by getting to know one of the youth and praying specifically for that young person on a regular basis.
If your favorite songs are copyrighted, get permission first.
Don't neglect the "nerds" of your group. Give them as much of your time and attention as the sharp kids.
Occasionally invite the senior pastor to a youth group activity to observe the students and the program. It also gives youth a chance to see the pastor as a real person.
Teach your leaders—by example—to be player-coaches in ministry.
Keep parents informed. Publish a parents' newsletter or schedule periodic meetings for questions and feedback. Lack of communication with parents can seriously handicap your ministry.
Develop good job descriptions for your volunteer leaders. Make sure they know exactly what is expected of them and what is not expected of them. Provide them with good resources for the job you have asked them to do.
Make sure every meeting or activity is well organized. It lets kids know they are important and reduces discipline problems.
Foster creativity in your students by having brainstorming sessions. Allow ideas to flow without criticism—evaluate only after the ideas have stopped.
Never use religious jargon and worn-out cliches. Say what you mean in words today's youth can understand.
Build self-esteem in your students by affirming them both when they are alone and when they are with their peers. Over time make it a point to say something positive to each one.
When your students have obvious flaws, for example, in their complexion, weight, or personality, don't assume they are already being helped.
Use personal illustrations when speaking to young people. Abstract ideas need concrete examples to keep the message alive.
Never use curriculum without first adapting it to the needs of your group. Curriculum writers don't know your kids; you do.
Don't worry about numerical growth. Size does not equal success. Health leads to growth; not vice versa.
Hang a personal bulletin board in your office with pictures of your friends, students in the group, classic postcards, and other junk you collect. Kids love to look at it and they get a glimpse into your personality.
Don't take yourself or your circumstances too seriously. Nothing is ever as bad as you think it is, and nothing is ever as good as you think it is.
Be able to say "I don't know." Then young people will listen to you better when you do know.
Always reconfirm any group reservations or bus charters the day before the event.
Avoid all double standard rules for leaders and students. Whatever goes for the kids goes for you and your staff.
Deal with root causes, don't treat the symptoms. Rather than fighting or preaching on behavior, find out what the cause of the behavior is and deal with that.
Attend a youth ministry training event every year, like the National Youth Workers Convention. Never think you've learned it all.
Don't make threats you can't or won't follow through on.
Keep a supply of games and recreational items in the trunk of your car at all times. You never can tell when you'll need a football, a Frisbee, or a few water balloons.
Make sure you have at least one male and one female adult youth sponsor working with your youth group.
Always serve refreshments at meetings and activities. It's a relatively easy thing to do and kids love it. It also keeps them around a little longer for personal contact.
Take advantage of the free stuff from your local public library.
Don't worry about the problem of cliques. Instead, provide plenty of opportunities for everyone to interact with and discover each other. Breaking up cliques is usually an exercise in futility and somewhat counter-productive.
Keep a file on each of your students. Get personal and family information, birthdays, photos, notes from personal interviews and observations, and other information. Keep it confidential. It will benefit your ministry and make a wonderful gift for your successor.
When trying to improve the church, start with yourself.
Avoid counseling someone of the opposite sex in a private place. Prevent rumors and unfortunate misunderstandings by meeting in a public place like a coffee shop or a busy park.
Keep a youth ministry journal. Each week record and evaluate what you did with the youth group. Describe contacts with kids and reflect on each one. You'll be able to organize your thoughts and document important events.
Surround yourself with adults to whom you can go for advice or counsel. You need the accountability and support.
Take your student leaders on a planning retreat. Strive to become a team.
Show "the big game" after the game on a wide-screen TV. Invite the whole school.
If you have students who play musical instruments, let them play during youth worship. It will build their confidence and leadership abilities, and possibly improve your singing.
Visit the schools your students attend. If possible, introduce yourself to the principal, the teachers, and the coaches. Let them know who you are.
Make learning the names of all the kids a top priority. You'll never have a ministry to them until you know and remember their names.
Avoid disciplining youth in front of their peers. It's best to handle discipline problems privately and one-on-one.
Never believe camp or conference center brochures. Visit the facility before booking it. Ask questions about flexibility, and additional costs and availability of "extras." Eat a meal if possible.
When leading a discussion, refrain from making overly positive or negative comments when students offer their opinions. Remain as neutral as possible to encourage openness and honesty.
Learn to say "no." Make time for your family and friends, your outside interests, and your personal growth.
Occasionally meet in the homes of church board members so they can see first-hand what the youth group is like.
Use TV to your advantage. DVR and discuss good programs. Discuss and evaluate the programs that are most popular with your youth.
Get a good calendar system so you can plan your youth group activities at least a year in advance. If you don't know where you're going, you probably won't get there.
Become a listener. Learn to withhold your opinion on everything and just listen. You'll be much more helpful that way.
Get your group involved in at least one service project each year. Service projects not only give kids a chance to make a positive contribution to someone else's life, but they are great for building community.
Put on a drama once a year. It gives more kids a chance to use their talents and be in the limelight.
Begin a ministry at a local youth detention center. Involve students if possible. Offer to help the chaplain with counseling or chapel services.
Be a model for your young people. Whenever you can, take a student with you. Let them witness your life as you fix the car, run errands, and interact with others. Let them see you as a real person.
Don't attempt to be "one of the kids." If you're an adult, be an adult. Just be an adult who loves kids.