5 More Things Youth Pastors Need to Start

David Hanson wrote a fantastic rant post, “5 Things Youth Pastors Need to Stop”. Hopefully, you have stopped doing those 5 things by now but if not, there is still time. And if you have stopped those things or are planning to stop, here are 5 things Youth Pastors need to start!

1. Start Communicating the GOSPEL Dynamically

Entertainment can’t be the KING of your youth ministry and yet sadly it is for many churches. The KING has a throne and the KING’s name is Jesus. He needs to be the MAIN focus; the biblical story, his story, the gospel needs to be presented at every gathering or you’ve missed an important opportunity.

However, if you are going to push the gospel you need to learn to communicate it in a way that is engaging and dynamic. Primarily, because the gospel IS engaging and dynamic! So when you bore it all up, create a slumber party in your sermon, and cause people to leave scratching their head saying, “What?!” – it’s time to adjust the way you present the most life-changing, exciting news of ALL-TIME! If you don’t know how or where to start on that, stayed tuned for a followup post to this point.

2. Start Making it About Fruitfulness

Numbers can’t be your focus. When numbers are the focus, you lose sight on what Jesus thought was important. Jesus wasn’t anti-crowd or anti-big groups, however, he did push crowds away if they didn’t seem to get it. (John 6:60-66) Through Jesus’ teachings we learn that his primary goal was not MORE butts in seats but those that are growing the right fruit.

If God has entrusted you with 10 teens, disciple them so they are bearing good fruit! And they will then begin to disciple others. If God has entrusted your ministry with a 1,000 teens then find ways to make sure they are bearing good fruit so they also begin to share it with others! Both are HUGE tasks that need lots of prayer and all of the Holy Spirit.

3. Start Being You

If slang, trendy clothes, and knowing the lyrics to a Taylor Swift song is you. BE YOU and the teens will love it even if they pretend to hate it. If wearing New Balance shoes, cargo shorts, and saying things like “Aw Shucks!” is you, then BE YOU.

Don’t try to be a teen, cause you aren’t one. Don’t try to be considered “cool” by them because that actually will stunt their spiritual growth. What they really need is a Youth Pastor that is confident in who God has them to be! That’s what they want to become! I’ve seen very effective Youth Pastors on both ends of the “cool” spectrum but the defining quality was they were themselves, they weren’t faking it. Just be you, and lead your teens.

4. Start Creating a Long-Term Plan

You simply can’t allow anymore throw-away nights. Off-nights? Maybe. But don’t throw-away anymore nights. Create a plan for your gatherings and a goal/vision behind the gatherings! Pray that God gives you vision for these students for the six years (academics pending) you get to invest in their lives.

5. Start Implementing Healthy Margins In Your Life

Margins are what allow you to do youth ministry or any ministry for more than a few years. Burnout is real and you can’t do everything. Maybe this is a reminder to say “No” to a few things and “Yes” to a few days off. The reality is, inside ministry there is always something else that you can do so it’s important to find healthy margins.

David Headshot

Mark Knight is a Children’s and Youth Pastor in Tacoma, WA. He leads a team of directors that cover ministry from birth through young adults. He graduated from Northwest University with a double-major in Youth Ministry and Biblical Studies. Mark is married to his amazing wife, Lindsay, and they are expecting their first child in December.

5 Things Youth Pastors Need to Start

After ranting about 5 Things That Youth Pastors Need to Stop, I figured I should flip the script. So if you are a youth pastor, and your not doing the following…you need to start!

Below you will find five things that Youth Pastors Need to Start:

1. Start Engaging Parents.

Everyone who is doing research (i.e. Sticky Faith, Orange) related to youth ministry is pushing parental engagement and parent ministry. All of these studies are show that parents play the most significant role in the spiritual development of teens. Why fight upstream, trying to influence students on your own in 4 hours a week, when you could tap into the number one influence in the life of a teen?

2. Start Student Follow-up.

I know this seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve been shocked how poorly follow-up happens in youth ministry (I’m guilty)! And when I say “follow-up,” I’m not just talking about first-time visitors. Follow-up needs to happen with first-timers, students who make decisions concerning salvation or baptism, and students with serious prayer requests.

3. Start Planning Ahead.

Student Ministry has a bad reputation when it comes to both planning ahead and communicating to students and parents what’s happening in the near future. If you want the ministry you lead to be taken seriously, you need to show that you are not flying by the seat of your pants. Communicating regularly with parents about upcoming events, as well as the purpose behind these events, help build trust and rapport with parents. I plan out my teaching series for an entire year, and communicate major events quarterly. Find a schedule that works for you and stick to it!

4. Start Handing Over Ministry to Students

A temptation for Youth Pastors is to do everything themselves. You have probably experienced this! Do I let a student do the announcements or do I do them and make sure they get communicated clearly? Do I teach the lesson or do I let a student fumble though one? Do I tell students to invite friends to church so I can share the gospel or do I equip my students to go out and share the gospel?

I doubt any of you would admit to having these doubts, but don’t lie to yourself! We have ALL felt this way. But we must continually find ways to transfer ownership of the student ministry to students!

5. Start Reading.

We should all desire to be lifelong learners. The minute you think you have it all “figured out” will be the minute God throws a curveball your way. Any veteran pastor will attest that every year in ministry presents an new opportunity for growth and development. How are you actively studying and growing in your craft?

Need a place to start? Here are a few books I’ve read recently that got me thinking:

1. Middle School Ministry by Mark Oestreicher
2. Recovering Redemption by Matt Chandler
3. Center Church by Timothy Keller 

Thanks for reading! What else do Youth Pastors need to Start? Comment below!

David Headshot

David Hanson: Texas native, Texas Tech Red Raider, M.Div. at Truett Seminary, husband to Ashley, father to Ava & Ben, Student Pastor at LifePoint Church in Plano, Tx, table tennis (ping-pong) extraordinaire, addicted to coffee. For anything else…you’ll just have to ask.


4 Ways to Honor Graduates

Yesterday, our church celebrated the graduating seniors of 2014. As I called names and shook hands, I started thinking about all the ways we celebrate graduates. So today I want to share with you 4 ways to honor graduates.

1. Get involved with local baccalaureate services.

As youth pastors, we need to be continually looking for ways to integrate ourselves with the school system. One excellent way to do this during graduation time is through baccalaureate celebrations. Last year, our church had the good pleasure of hosting a baccalaureate service. And to be completely transparent, it wasn’t because of anything I initiated! The parent of one of our graduates was on the parent board and reached out me as they began to have discussions about locations. I quickly offered our space!

This year, another parent reached out to me and asked if I had interest in doing the opening Scripture & Invocation. Once again, I quickly said yes!

Did you notice the common denominator? PARENTS! What if you were to be productive and reach out to parents at the beginning of the year and offer your services for the end of the year baccalaureate service? The very next week I had a student, whom I’d never met, say she saw me at the service. A bridge was built.

Me getting my baccalaureate on…strike a pose!

2. Get grads in front of the church & then pray!

Every year we have a Senior recognition Sunday where we march the graduates across the stage, announce where they will be going, they shake the pastors hand, and then we pray. This is such a special time. Every year I hear people talk about how they taught the graduates in 3rd grade or held them in the nursery as babies. Bringing them before the congregation not only blesses the graduates, but it blesses the saints who have poured into them over the years. They get a chance, once more, to pray over the graduates as they prepare to take the next step.

praying over graduates

Praying over graduates.

3. Give grads & parents food & a personal charge.

After our second service we do a lunch for our grads and their parents. We have done fancy food in the past, but found that everyone gets excited about BBQ (cheaper than fancy italian). As the parents and students dine, I take the opportunity to charge both parents and students. This talk usually involves some combination of: keep Jesus preeminent, who you surround yourself with matters, parents don’t “helicopter” your grads, but give them responsibility.

I then give them a gift. But not a Bible or a cheap “graduate prayers” book. They get so many gifts during this season and with a youth budget, let’s be realistic, it’ll be under $5, not that great, and in the end they’d probably prefer the $5! No, what we give them leads me to my next point!

4. Help grads find a new church.

We give our students the gift of community! Having read Sticky Faith, I wanted to be intentional in the way we help transition our grads. We want students to find a church the first week they step onto their new campus. We want them to be forward thinking about where they will attend and where they will find gospel community. We do this in two ways. A) We look up churches that we would want to attend if we were going to each respective college. B) We pass along the information of our students to the college pastors of these potential churches!

So what do you do? How do you honor grads and set them up for success? Post in the comments below!

David Hanson: Texas native, Texas Tech Red Raider, M.Div. at Truett Seminary, husband to Ashley, father to Ava & Ben, Student Pastor at LifePoint Church in Plano, Tx, table tennis (ping-pong) extraordinaire, addicted to coffee. For anything else…you’ll just have to ask!

Youth Ministry Questions | Part 2

This Sunday my associate (Ben) did something very cool during his teaching time. He asked questions. On Sundays we run two student services with worship through song and preaching. This Sunday, rather than preach AT our students Ben engaged our students.

Throughout his teaching he paused and allowed students time to reflect and answer questions we had printed on the bulletin.

When students, and everyone for that matter, put pen to paper there is an ownership that takes place. When you write down what you think and believe about God you are taking ownership and clarifying your belief.


Here are some of those questions he used to get student thinking critically about their faith:

1. What blows your mind about God?
2. How does God’s holiness effect your life?
3. God is Understanding. What does that mean to you?
4. God is Faithful. Why is that important to you?
5. God is Worthy. What does that mean?
6. How are you hypocritical in your walk with Jesus? Do you focus on your works, or His?
7. How are you sincere in your walk with Jesus Christ?

If you missed the first installment of questions, you can find them here: Youth Ministry Questions