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7 crucial steps you must take right now to have an outstanding year of youth ministry in 2021

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier
  1. Get your God time back on.

I rise before dawn and cry for help.  I have put my hope in your word. My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.” Psalm 119: 147,148

King David got his God time on, both early morning and late at night.

When is your God time (Prayer, Reading God’s Word, Meditation, etc)? For me, it’s at 5 am every single day. There’s nothing more spiritual about 5 am than if it was at 11:30 pm or lunch time. What matters is that you choose a consistent time to dive deep into God’s Word and prayer every single day.

We need God’s guidance now more than ever. Youth leaders are scratching their heads about how to do ministry in this Covid crazy world and the only way they are going to be able to find direction is from the Director of the Universe, God himself.

Choose your time and stick to it. Then remind yourself throughout the day, by every means necessary, to keep abiding in Christ! As Jesus reminded his disciples in John 15:4, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

Get your God time back on.

2. Work off your Covid 15.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8

The Covid 15” is slang for the 15 pounds that many have gained since the pandemic began. Some have eaten out of fear. Some have eaten out of boredom. But many have eaten and eaten and eaten out of the refrigerator.

And we have to work hard and eat well to burn it all off, especially in the 21st Century context of fried foods, sugary drinks and Lazy Boy recliners.

The apostle Paul, Peter and the boys didn’t need to work out. They walked hundreds of miles and ate fish, bread, veggies and fruit. 

But, although he probably didn’t work out personally, Paul seemed to understand the connection between spiritual disciplines and physical ones. This thread of connection reminds us that our bodies do matter. Healthy bodies make sharper minds. Sharper minds make better study. Better study habits make stronger sermons.

There is a connection. We don’t want to over-spiritualize the connection. But we don’t want to underestimate it either.

1 Peter 4:7 reminds us, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.” It’s easier to be alert as you pray if your heart is strong and your body is healthy. Take it from me that sweet hour of prayer can turn into a fat nap pretty darn quick if you’re out of shape physically.

For more on this check out an article I wrote called Flabby Bodies, Fat Naps and the Need for Ministry Leaders to Get Fit!

3. Keep the best of stay-at-home.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Exodus 20:8

While this pandemic has been horrific and devastating on many levels there has been a silver lining to it as well. The run-around-free-for-all-never-ending rat race has been largely halted for a time. In many ways we got our Sabbath back, our days of rest.

As a traveling evangelist most of my ministry travel has been grounded to a halt over the last several months. Although I’ve have gone on a handful of ministry trips, I’ve spent more time at home in the last 9 months than any period of time in the last few decades.

Although I expect my schedule to pick up significantly in 2021, especially after the vaccine is available, my prayer is that I can keep a strong rhythm of time at home with my wife and kids. The stay-at-home orders, recommendations, etc have fueled my desire to be at home as much as I can.

As your schedule picks up steam in 2021, my prayer for you is that it doesn’t steamroll your time at home with your family. And, if you are a single youth leader, I pray it doesn’t steamroll your time with friends, extended family and the Lord.

4. Sleep like you’re lazy and work like you’re not.

In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat– for he grants sleep to those he loves.” Psalm 127:2

There’s something about a good night’s sleep that’s like a reset button for your life. Getting sleep recharges you physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally. God’s mercies are new every morning but, if you’re so tired you can’t recall them, then you may need to hit the snooze button a few more times.

I’ve met some chronically crabby ministry leaders who say they’re too busy to sleep. What’s interesting to me is this, if they were worried about getting more done then they’d work on getting more sleep. Study after study shows that well rested people get far more done than tired people.

Getting the right amount of sleep will make you more productive, joyful and pleasant to be around.

5. Rethink your youth ministry strategy while you still can.

By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” Proverbs 24:3,4

Do you want to build a youth ministry that is filled with precious and pleasant teenagers? Then plan for it now! Plan while you have some time. Plan now before the craziness of Covid is over!

Typical youth ministry done in the typical way will get typical results…and those results, traditionally speaking, have sucked. We are losing Generation Z because we have a lame youth ministry philosophy whose programming is stuck in the eighties. For proof check out this shocking report on

If you are ready to build a youth ministry that breaks the mold and reaches the next generation, then I want to introduce you to a radically “new” paradigm of youth ministry that’s actually 2,000 years old. It’s called Gospel Advancing.

It’s not a model as much as it is a mindset. And here’s the thing, it doesn’t take any money from your budget to do it. But it does have a cost. That cost is the hard work it’s gonna take to “Gospelize” your youth ministry. While I don’t have time to dive into it here, I have written a book on the subject that you can download for free. Click here to get the book.

6. Build a student leadership team like Jesus…no pressure.

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?  For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.” Luke 14:25-30

Anyone could come to Jesus’ “youth group” and his youth group was awesome. Instead of pizza he had free fish and chips (okay bread.) Instead of games he healed lepers and yelled at Pharisees. Instead of Capture the Flag they played Walk on the Water. Thousands were a part of his youth group. It was the biggest thing in town.

Anyone was welcome. The rebels and the religious, the rich and the poor, the Jew and the Gentile, anybody and everybody was invited to the banquet.

But for those who wanted to be a part of his leadership team (aka “the disciples“) it would cost them everything they had.

The requirements were stiff. They would have to love Jesus so much their love for anyone and anything else looked like hate by comparison. They would have to die to themselves and live solely for Him. They would have to count the cost to see if they had what it took to be a part of his leadership team.

As I like to say, getting on Team Jesus was free because Jesus paid all the dues with his blood. But getting on the starting team (his leadership team) would cost you everything you had.

Like Jesus, it’s time to up your game when it comes to raising the bar for your student leaders. If you get enough of the right student leaders with the right stuff they can change the DNA of your entire youth ministry.

It doesn’t take many. As a matter of fact, it only takes 10%.

According to the July 26th, 2011 edition of Science Daily, if you can get 10% of any group 100% committed to a vision or a set of values, then they will inevitably have a major influence on the other 90%. The key is having an all-in 10%. Science Daily calls them “True Believers.”

Have you found your 10%ers who are all in for Christ and his Cause of making disciples? Are they setting the pace in their personal lives, their relationships, their habits and their evangelism for the other teenagers in your youth group to follow? Are you wiling to do what it takes to inspire, recruit and train them?

Your student leaders need to be the ones who are willing, not just to set up the chairs in the youth room, but to fill them with the teenagers they are reaching for Jesus.

I believe that one of the biggest mistakes that the average youth leader makes is focusing on the size of his/her youth ministry and not on the strength of his/her student leaders. Jesus did the exact opposite. For help in this area consider taking your potential 10%ers to Lead THE Cause this summer. We specialize in raising up and training up the 10%ers!

7. Get ready for the roar!

Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:35

In a recent interview with several youth leaders, Vince Parker, the head youth leader of Life Church, said that he believes that when teenagers are released, fully released from Covid and the accompanying restrictions, that youth ministry events, camps and conferences are gonna come back with a roar. He said that he believed teenagers are longing for group dynamics and face-to-face interactions like never before. He then challenged all of us to get ready for it.

All twelve youth leaders on the Zoom call agreed with Vince.

I do too.

Let’s get ready for the harvest! Let’s get ready for youth ministry to come back with a roar! And let’s make sure we are following these seven steps so that we are fully prepared for the harvest!

Unlikely Fighter

#1 new release in Evangelism on Amazon

The story of how a fatherless street kid overcame violence, chaos, and confusion to become a radical Christ follower.

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