Let’s start this series on Building a Youth Ministry from Scratch at the very beginning. You have the idea, the calling, the urge or however you want to describe it to start a youth group or revitalize something that’s there but barely alive. Where do you start after that first idea?
There are two things you need to start with: personal prayer and finding facts.
You can’t start anything without making sure it’s God who is calling you. I know, that seems like a given, right? You’d be surprised how many leaders—and with the purest intentions I might add—forget this step.
The fact that you have an idea or even an urge to do something in the church, doesn’t mean that a) this is God’s idea and/or urge and b) if it is, you’re the one who needs to execute it. Personal prayer is crucial to find out the answer to both of these questions. Spend time in prayer and in studying God’s Word to make sure this is a calling from God specifically for you.
It’s possible that God merely wants to use you as a catalyst. Maybe He wants you to inspire and motivate someone else (or a group of people) to take up this task. I’ve seen this happen, where God gave a ‘pioneer burden’ only and wanted someone to merely pass on the burden to the right people, who then actually started the ministry.
If you’re already knee-deep involved in the church, this is a good question to ask. If you are certain God is calling you to start the ministry yourself, what can you drop to make time? Your calling cannot mean your family gets cheated out of your presence, not in the middle to long term anyways.
The second step is to do a little fact-finding mission. A mistake leaders make sometime is that they think they’re starting fresh when in reality, the past is still very much present. If there has ever been a youth ministry before, even if it was only a failed attempt to start one, you need to know as much as possible about this. Who was involved? What happened? Are there still hurt feelings anywhere, a trauma, or bad memories?
This matters because it will impact how and when you will start your ministry. Ignoring the past never works, because whatever has been buried will come to the surface at some point. It’s better to bring it all out in the open from the start and deal with it, so you can process it and move past it.
If there are still people in your church who were involved in whatever happened in a previous ministry, talk to them. Even if you had nothing to do with a negative experience they had in the past, they need to be heard and seen. Starting something new without letting them know could resurface deep feelings of resentment and hurt and that’s not what you want. If you’re dealing with a moral failure from a predecessor, make sure to read the post I wrote about how to handle that tricky situation well.
Armed with the assurance that you’re stepping out in God’s will and that you have the facts you need, it’s time to get started. Your first order of ‘business’: preparing spiritually. We’ll unpack this in the next post.
Have you ever been involved in starting a ministry in a church where there was still trauma from a bad past experience? How did that manifest itself?