Here’s 5 ideas that are outside of the norm for youth group. (Nothing wrong with traditional youth group, just sharing ideas.) My hope is that these ideas will spark you to create programs that your community actually needs as opposed to building your ministry purely on a combination of felt need & what you experienced as a teenager.
4 Outside of the Box Program Ideas for Youth Ministry
- Christ-centered after school tutoring – I don’t understand why tutoring isn’t the default youth ministry program for more churches. Many churches have proximity to schools and access to educated adults. While there is decreased funding for education in almost every U.S. state there is actually ample money available (private, state, federal) to fund after school programs, even with a religious component. Starting a tutoring program would be a slam dunk in just about any context. (See Reality Changers for an example of this)
- Short courses – One negative of joining a youth group or even small group is that it lasts too long and you don’t know what you’ll get out of it. So why not offer 6-week sessions of a specific course of study? (Specific books of the Bible, overview of the Old Testament, Introduction to Christianity, etc.) Students could earn certificates, cover the cost of their course, and they could really learn a ton while connecting to God. Plus, this would give students an easy way to check Jesus out without a lot of commitment. Or it might just hit a personality type that wants to learn about God without all the other stuff youth group does. (See The Wheel from The Navigators as a historical example of this.)
- Leading Christ-centered Learning Experiences – A core competency of many in youth ministry is creating experiences. (Retreats, thematic teaching, mission trips, etc.) So why not make this a program? We anecdotally say that students learn a lot more when we take them on these trips… so why not build a program that does just that? Backpacking, cycling, adventure travel, etc. (Check out Youth Dynamics for the outdoors part and The World Race for the mission part.)
- Internships and youth employment – Some churches do this really well (with adults) while others seem to have never thought of it. Why not create a program where you hire high school students to run specific areas of your church? (You could either self-fund this or get outside funding to cover stipends) I also think it’d be cool for churches to partner with small business owners to hire summer employees. The church could provide job training, some oversight, and a Friday afternoon gathering to encourage student employees. I can actually see how the church could house a grant system to help offset the costs of youth employment in the community. Talk about a partnership opportunity! Every service organization in your area would love you if you took the lead on this. (I don’t have an example for this one. If you know of a church doing this well, leave a comment with a link.)
So these are four outside the box ideas I came up with over a cup of coffee. Imagine what your team could come up with if they’ve done some ethnography, evaluation, and prayer?