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10 simple youth ministry hacks to grow your youth group numerically and spiritually!

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

Healthy things grow. It’s true of babies, plants and youth ministry.

If you want a healthy youth ministry then you have to discover ways to get your youth group to grow, both with new believers and in spiritual maturity.

Here are 10 simple youth ministry hacks to get your youth group to grow:

  1. Pray like you mean it.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11

The Apostle Paul prayed for the Philippian believers to grow. He wanted them to grow in their love, knowledge, discernment, purity and righteousness. He wanted them to grow spiritually so he prayed that way. Do you relentlessly pray for the spiritual growth of your teenagers? Are your adult leaders following your lead?

If not ,start. It takes zero budget to unleash the most powerful force in the universe to transform your youth ministry…God’s.

2. Create an intercessory and invitational culture.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4

When teenagers pray for the lost they see the lost, just like when you buy a new car you start seeing that same brand of car everywhere.

Spend time praying for the lost personally, with your leaders and in your youth group meetings. I know of one large youth group that begins every youth group meeting on their knees praying for their lost friends.

Not a bad idea. And, again, zero budget.

When teens start interceding for their friends during youth group, they’ll start inviting their friends out to youth group. So create a culture that is authentic, fun, highly relational and not afraid to dive into the Word. What you lack in budget, make up for in prayer, duct tape and creativity. On a curriculum level Dare 2 Share has a growing number of high quality, FREE curriculum to help get you started. Click here to download.

3. Give the Gospel every week no matter what.

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2

An easy outreach hack is to give the Gospel in youth group every week no matter what. When teens realize that you will always give the Gospel they will be inspired to bring out their friends to hear it.

When I was a youth leader I did this and our youth group grew significantly. When I was a church planter I did this and the church grew significantly. When you give the Gospel every week at youth group (combined with prayer and a contagious culture) your youth group should grow significantly.

4. Take your teen on regular mini-mission trips (in your own city!)

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” Luke 9:1,2

Over the course of Jesus’ ministry he took his disciples on at least six mission trips. Actually, his whole earthly ministry was a mission trip of sorts.

What if we applied that same strategy to youth group? Teenagers , especially in this post-pandemic world, want to get out and do something. So why not something significant? Why not something that saves souls and changes lives?

A simple idea to implement right away is Go Share Day. Join youth groups from around the world to go out on the last Saturday of every month to do an outreach. Make sure it includes praying, caring and sharing the Gospel (out loud with words!) #GoShareDay a simple way to reframe the Great Commission as the Greatest Cause and equip your teens to evangelize in the process.

I go out with my teen daughter and a group of her friends on the last Saturday of every month to pray for people, care for people and share the Good News of Jesus with people. Actually, in just a few hours from right now, we will all be in downtown Denver handing out slices of pizza to homeless people, praying for them and taking them through the Life in 6 Words faith sharing app or card.

For a list of easy outreach ideas go to

Don’t just wait for the annual big mission trip. Join thousands of youth groups from around the world by taking mini, monthly mission trips!

5. Relentlessly share stories of Gospel conversations and changed lives.

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.‘” Luke 10:17

Just like the 72, when teens return from sharing the Gospel they want to tell stories. These stories can inspire the entire youth group. Even if they get mocked for sharing their faith by unbelievers, they can share the battle scars with the youth group and rejoice they “they had been counted worthy of suffering for the sake of the Name” (Acts 5:41.) And, when someone actually puts their faith in Jesus as a result of the outreach, the crowd goes wild!

Of course, these stories shouldn’t just be shared as a result of your teenagers participating in #GoShareDay or a mission trip, but also as a result of their day to day Gospel conversations with unreached friends. This is where point #5 comes into play.

6. Equip your teens to evangelize. Expect your teens to evangelize.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up….” Ephesians 4:11,12

Are you equipping your teenagers to share their faith? Do you expect them to?

As a super easy hack, I really encourage you to sign your church up for Dare 2 Share Live. This 7 hour simulcast event (complete with bands, speakers and artists) is all crafted to highly inspire and effectively empower your teens to evangelize. And you will all actually go out and share the Gospel simultaneously with hundreds (perhaps thousands) of youth groups across the nation.

This ain’t no watch party. It’s a “Do” party! All you need is internet, adult leaders and a commitment to participate in the outreach!

Dare 2 Share LIVE 2021 is FREE!

It all happens on November 13th. Put it on your calendar. Sign up here. Sign up now!

Did I mention that it’s completely FREE?

7. Embrace a “messy discipleship” approach.

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’ He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:17-20

Jesus’ primary discipleship strategy was messy. It was responsive and reactive. He would see a fig tree and curse it. The disciples would ask about it. He would respond with a spiritual truth. Sure, he had plenty of times for his “Sermon on the Mount” type curriculum series, but he taught primarily as they lived on mission together.

When his disciples came back rejoicing after an outreach he calibrated their excitement over being able to cast out demons with a disclaimer that basically reminded them to get way more excited about the “steak” of salvation (“rejoice that your names are written in heaven“) than the “sizzle” of miracles (“even the demons submit to us in your name....”)

When your teenagers are living on mission you are going to have more and more messy discipleship opportunities that are unscripted, Spirit-led and exponentially more impacting. These are the lessons that will stick the best.

8. Set a different standard for your student leaders.

A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, ‘If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:25-27

Getting on Team Jesus is free because he paid all the fees with his blood on the cross. But getting on the starting team (AKA “becoming a disciple“) will cost you and your teenagers everything you have.

Don’t be legalistic about it, but make it a challenge for your teenagers to be on the student leadership team. They should be in the Word regularly, praying consistently and setting the pace for evangelism and discipleship for the rest of your teenagers. They shouldn’t just be the ones who set up the chairs and bring snacks to youth group. They should be the ones who fill the chairs and bring their friends to youth group.

9. Build a Gospel Advancing philosophy.

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.” Philippians 1:12

I love the term Gospel Advancing far more than Gospel centered. Gospel centered just sounds like a bunch of people sitting around watching Matt Chandler videos. Subscribe to Chandler on your podcast (he’s great!) but then get out and actually advance the Gospel.

The Gospel is not just to be discussed, exegeted and analyzed. It is to be proclaimed.

For a deeper dive into how to build a Gospel Advancing ministry, mindset and model go here.

10. Prepare for war.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:10-12

Be warned. If you start doing the first 9 hacks (actually, some of these may be a little more intense than just hacks) Satan will come gunning for you. So get empowered by his Spirit and put on your armor every day. This is not a joke. This is war.

In the words of my buddy, Dave Gibson, be “Prayed up. Armor on. Battle ready.”

If you want your teenagers to grow then you have got to get them to go…and make disciples. Apply these hacks to get started.

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