Youth Group Struggles

Most Christian blog writers tell you how great everything is going in their churches. I want to switch things up and tell you a little about one of our struggles this year in the hope it may help some of my readers. First, I need to give a little background. I started working with teenagers in youth ministry 14 years ago. I have spent countless hours hanging out with teens, riding in 15 passenger vans, and doing way too many gross games that involved food. This blog even started out when I was in youth ministry. But 3 years ago, I accepted the call to pastor the church I’m now at. Since that time, I have juggled youth responsibilities with the responsibilities of pastoring and leading a church, and I haven’t always done a good job.

With the start of this past school year, we made quite a few changes. In hindsight, we made way too many changes at the same time. The effect has been that our Sr. High youth group has really struggled through this school year. In fact, it has been one of the most frustrating years ever for me in youth ministry. So what happened and what have I learned from it.

  • We graduated a huge class of seniors last year. I neglected the impact that it would cause on the group. Losing that many leaders at one time really created a sense of loss for the group. We didn’t do a good job of preparing the current students to rise up and take leadership.
  • We changed the time and structure of our meetings. This may seem like a small change, but we moved it too early on Sunday. We currently meet from 4:30 to 6, before our 6pm Sunday night service, and that just hasn’t worked. We wanted to change the main meeting time to mid-week, but because of scheduling problems, we couldn’t make it happen. I’m not sure what to do next year, but it won’t continue at the current time for our Sr. High group.
  • I stepped back from teaching and leading the youth and got more people involved. This was a very positive change, but yet it was still a change. It made things a little rough at the beginning of the year and it took some time for the youth to get comfortable with the new leaders.

Looking back, I think our group would have been fine with just one or two of these changes, but when combined, the changes posed some serious problems. We really do have a great group of students, but things just haven’t worked out the way we intended. It is going to take some work to regain momentum for the summer and for the next school year, but I am also excited about the possibilities. I know the teens in our group have a huge potential and God can definitely stir them up to do great things for the Kingdom.

And lastly, it’s not been all frustrating. Our Jr. High/Middle School group has had a wonderful year. It has grown and continues to be strong. We had some great leaders step up and serve (thanks Ed and Veronica!) and I’m confident that it will continue to grow. I’m just a little nervous because my daughter will be in that group next year. 🙂

Hopefully this may help some of you who are planting churches and juggling responsibilities. Please share your thoughts on youth ministry in the comments below.


I am a former design engineer who now pastors Cornerstone Community Church in Galax, Virginia. I'm passionate about following Jesus and I love technology. I've been married to Jennifer for 28 years, and we have three adult children.

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3 Responses

  1. Angela says:

    Ashley looks forward to youth every Sunday. Every time we go out on a Sunday, she will always ask "Will we be back in time for youth?" It has been a true blessing to watch her grow in her relationship with Jesus. It is great to have the support of our church to help us through the struggles of raising a teenager. Thank you Cornerstone.

  2. Kim VA says:

    Mike, I was so humbled to be able to work with the youth this year. I learned a lot from them. I will be praying for them and will miss them dearly when we leave. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve them!!

  3. Rhonda says:

    Mike, I totally agree with the "too many" changes taking place at once — the main one having the meeting time too early . I also think that there will simply be some years when there aren't as many seniors to "lead". The positive is definitely that we have added a new group of Jr. High kids that will hopefully grow strong spiritually together, as did the last year group (if they are so challenged). However, don't underestimate the impact that you and Jenni have had on the presently small Sr. group – my daughter, Hannah, being one- She has grown so much spiritually and has made so many good choices in her high school life. From helping to lead the FCA at school to simply witnessing to her friends, she has received much encouragement from your Cornerstone youth group teaching over the years. Our large group of kids going off to Christian colleges says a lot about them too! Thanks so much for your service to these teens! You and the leaders have done a great job!

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