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Growth Barriers in Youth Ministry (pt. 3)

In this continuing, very slow-developing series we're looking at the attendance barriers that youth ministries face. You can check out part one here and part two here.

I would imagine the 25-30 barrier is a tough one.

Here are some characteristics of it:
  • Multiple adult leaders
  • Size-wise it feels "just right" to students
  • Everyone knows everyone
  • I think this is the size group where lots of inside jokes and group memories are made. Maybe this happens across the board, but I have a gut feeling that in the 25-30 member group, people just say "pineapple" and 85% of the students bust up laughing because of a shared experience or memory.
Challenges:
  • Growing beyond a holy huddle. Because the group feels like the right size to students, they probably will not want to see it grow much larger.
  • "Youth Group" mentality. I very rarely use the term "youth group" because I think people tend to view everyone in broad, generalized terms rather than as individuals. Some see the "youth group" mentality as unity. I disagree. I think unity has to do with sharing common purpose and values.
Ways to Move Beyond the Barrier:
  • Multiply, multiply, multiply. Multiplying groups is huge at this stage. I think a shift has to happen from seeing the ministry as one unit to seeing it as one body made up of many units.
  • Develop leaders - both adults and students. X Leader can only care for x number of students. When you develop more leaders you add capacity to care for students. This is also a great point to begin identifying student leaders. A formal "program" may not be needed for the student leaders, but identifying them and investing in them is a great starting point.
  • Leverage the energy that this size brings. 25-30 students is a great size to do some events and gatherings that will have some energy to them. These can be great events to bring friends to.
Last Thought:
As we look at expanding beyond barriers I think it's important to understand a couple principles. We need to embrace and enjoy the level we're at. If we are constantly only looking ahead, students will feel used and de-valued. We also need to structure for the next level. If you have 10 students in your ministry, ask yourself what the structure looks like for 20. How many leaders would you need? What would your programs look like? How many groups would you have? What would they do? Then you build the skeleton for the next size and you fill it.

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“Growth Barriers in Youth Ministry (pt. 3)”