At the beginning of the year Tahnee and I started a new youth ministry at our church (Christian Life Centre). Having grown up in youth groups the opportunity felt familiar – but the process of finding a structure that would work for our group was a daunting (and continuing) one.

The following article from Average Youth Ministry provides some guidance for new youth leaders just starting out. I wanted to share it because the first point particularly resonated with me.

Everything is built on a solid and simple programmatic structure. Your program is the skeleton, and without a good one, your entire ministry is in jeopardy. Just like humans, every skeleton is unique, but for the most part have the same parts. As you develop your skeleton, don’t try and reinvent the wheel. There is a reason that youth ministries for the past 30 years have had fun games, mixers, worship, teaching and small groups. Within every context, the flavor of this program will very, but most healthy ministries have all 5 ingredients. Whether your main program is Sunday morning or Wednesday night, or whenever, lay out your hour and a half and divide your time into 5 parts and begin to fill in the blanks. Before you know it, you have successfully created a youth ministry that builds community, grows faith, and creates space for ownership. — Benjamin Kerns, Average Youth Ministry

I’ve heard the idea of structure criticised for being restrictive or reducing the effort required (as if that were a bad thing?). So far this year, we’ve found that having a structure gives us a framework in which to play. It gives us the freedom to be as creative each week as we want to be without having to worry as much about planning. If you’re just starting out with youth ministry or have been doing it for a while, I’d highly recommend spending some time to think about your structure.

For more student ministry tips, you can read the full article here – 5 key ingredients for a thriving student ministry.