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3 steps to create dream youth ministry

3 Steps to Create the Youth Ministry You Want

By Doug Franklin January 8, 2020

Ever noticed a difference between what your youth group “is” and what you want it to “be”? I like to call it the great divide. As a youth pastor, I used to think that my next big outreach or discipleship initiative would change everything and that my youth group of today would magically change into the youth group of my dreams.

I have also met a lot of youth workers who dream about an improved youth ministry and think it will happen with the passing of time. Over time, they believe their youth ministry will just get better. But time is a cruel trickster. In my experience, youth ministries decline over time; they don’t improve. Only a change in strategy followed by action makes ministries improve. 

But no one had ever taught me how to develop any kind of ministry strategy, let alone a plan that was intentional.

As a youth worker, I so badly wanted to build the dream youth ministry, so I used the “try anything” approach. The more activities the better! It wasn’t that I lacked vision,  but, rather, I lacked skills. I wanted to be able to create and execute an intentional youth ministry plan. But no one had ever taught me how to develop any kind of ministry strategy, let alone a plan that was intentional. I bought the lie that I wasn’t designed for organization or strategy. I believed that as long as students liked me, my youth ministry was doing great.

So before you spend any more time convincing yourself that your “current situation” is close enough to your “dream,” let me offer you some practical ideas.


Step 1: Build a bridge

refuel retreat team discussion

On the left side of the piece of paper, write down the characteristics of your youth group today. On the right side, write down the characteristics of the youth group you want to have. The gap in between the two is your great divide. Now that you see the difference, build a bridge of intentional actions that will take your ministry to the other side.

your action step

Lead a whiteboard session with your ministry leaders. Show them the great divide by drawing it on the board. Make sure you get their viewpoint on the youth program. Ask them for their ideas on how you can together build a bridge to a dream youth ministry. This will also help them buy in to any changes you will need to make to reach success.


step 2: get organized

I am not talking about starting on time or making sure you have all the right forms. The real questions to ask are: “Does each event in your youth ministry match up to your mission statement? Are you intentional in creating activities that will lead to long-term growth in your students’ lives?”

your action step

Have a trusted leader look over your ministry plans and give you feedback on the connection between youth group activities and the mission statement.


step 3: think differently

I used to think that every winter retreat had to revolve around skiing until one year, I decided to take my students caving. They wanted to kill me. The truth was, participation on the ski trip had been declining for years. I had to use all my built-up goodwill to get students to buy in to the caving idea. That winter, 40 feet underground, we became the group I dreamed we could be. Instead of skiing by ourselves or in small groups, we became a team helping each other over rocks and through small holes, defeating fears and discovering the best about each other. Every year I tried to improve the ski trip, but I didn’t need a better ski trip, I needed a better trip. The teamwork developed in the cave was a better trip.

your action step

refuel retreat blueprint
Dream Team Blueprint | Refuel Retreat

Determine what activities you do because you have always done them. Then determine if they are helping you reach the goals you have. Be willing to take a risk and change an activity. Don’t do activities because you have always done them, do them because they help your students grow.


Youth ministry is a growing experience for you as well as for your students. The skills you have used to get your group to where it is are not the same skills you need to get your group to where they can be. The great divide can be conquered through hard work, dedication, and support. Helping your group reach its potential is worth the effort.

If you are looking for more training and resources on how to create the youth ministry you dream of, come check out one of our Refuel Retreats this year. At a Refuel Retreat, you will have the opportunity to discuss and share ideas, collaborate with fellow youth workers, receive focused training, and take time to pause and recharge. 

You can also watch this quick 3-minute video where I explain what you can expect at one of our Refuel Retreats. I hope to see you there!

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More