Youth Ministry – Rebuilding After COVID, Part 1

By Shane Thacker July 26, 2021

“We’re finally reopening!” 

“What programs should we use?” 

“What curriculum should we purchase?” 

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. I just want to encourage you with this: How you do youth group matters, but let’s do some groundwork first

I’ve watched youth leaders over the years start up in ministry shining bright. They have all the “right programs” in place, all the “right curriculum” in place, but within a year or so they end up getting burned out and are ready to step out of ministry for good. Why is that? It’s like building a house: You don’t start with the walls; you start with the foundation. 

What is at the foundation of youth ministry?

It’s not found in your reopening plan, your programs, or your curriculum. It’s found in your relationship with the Lord. Let’s look at Matthew 22:36–40:

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 

Are you following this command? This should be at the foundation of everything we do. In order to lead with a healthy foundation, let’s continually bear in mind that God has to be at the center of it all. If not, we’re on a slippery slope that will lead to short-term ministry, every single time

Youth ministry should be treated as a marathon, but most of the time it’s a 100-yard dash.

Every time a youth leader gets burned out and leaves, our students (and the churches we serve) suffer greatly for it. Wouldn’t it be better to start slow, have a healthy and sustainable foundation to be set up for long-term ministry? Here are 4 things you can do to work on the foundation and follow the Greatest Commandment.

Have a regular prayer time

We can’t have a relationship with someone we’re not even talking to. Prayer time is different for everyone, but before I get out of bed, I spend a few minutes thanking God for whatever he has given me for that day. Jesus told us how to pray in Matthew 6:9–13. Take a few minutes to look at that passage and try modeling your prayers after his.

Get into a Bible study

Whether it’s at home or at church, you need to get into God’s Word. This is separate from your duties at church, it’s for you personally. If you don’t study separate from your duties at church, the Bible will quickly become a textbook. 

Get a “Paul” in your life

Everyone needs a “Paul”. The Apostle Paul was a spiritual leader for Timothy. You need someone in your corner that can point out what you’re doing well and call you out when you’re doing wrong. A good “Paul” will be there to mentor you, to pray for you, and to check in on you. 

Get a “Barnabas” in your life

Barnabas means “son of encouragement”. Sometimes it’s not wisdom that we need the most, but encouragement (or a shoulder to cry on). This person is not your gossip outlet, they’re a friend that’s just there to walk alongside you in your life and ministry.

If we’d all do this, we’ll be on track for a healthy foundation for sustainable ministry. We’ll get into the nuts and bolts of what programs to use later, but for now, let’s take it slow and rebuild by growing deep roots in our relationships with God.

About the Author

Shane Thacker

Shane Thacker is the Youth Pastor at Inola Christian Church in Oklahoma. His mission is to develop content that points people to Jesus. He believes that if leaders gravitate to the right foundation for a healthy, sustainable ministry, it’s going to produce healthy leaders and healthy churches, leading people in their community effectively and in unity for…  Read More