4 Outside of the Box Program Ideas for Youth Ministry

Outside of the box ideas wanted

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

  1. 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)
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.)
  4. 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


11 responses to “4 Outside of the Box Program Ideas for Youth Ministry”

  1. KJ Avatar

    “Starting a tutoring program would be a slam dunk in just about any context.”

    ….emphasis on “just about any”. We tried…we tried really, really hard a few years ago. We had close to 20 current and retired teachers committed, we advertised like crazy in church bulletin, at local schools, etc. we had an incredible space dedicated to it and it flopped.

    It felt like a slam dunk to us, too. But we managed to clank the ball off the rim BIG TIME. Would love to learn where we went wrong.

    1. Adam McLane Avatar

      Were you doing it at the church or somewhere really close to a school? (Just curious.)

      1. KJ Avatar

        Church….but it is very close to 2 schools.

  2. Austin McCann Avatar

    Love the tutoring idea! We have some killer high school students that could be tutors for middle school students!

  3. Shae Pepper- Youth Workin' It Avatar
    Shae Pepper- Youth Workin’ It

    Adam these are fantastic ideas! We feel really strongly about youth ministry branching out into other areas that, while still be spiritually focused w/ a development on faith, look at it from a different perspective.

    I love the idea of combining a 6 week program w/ a service oriented experience that lives it out practically throughout or at the end… i.e. some good Samaritan learning for 6 weeks and then a practical project to help the sick or under-served.

    With the tutoring, I’m not 100% about it being in the church building every time, but if other places are anything like my city, the local Housing Authority probably has a community center in their areas and a need for tutoring the youth. So a church could choose the closest community or apartment complex that is nearest them to partner with and offer the programs there.

    I would also say you could start a community garden program on church property if there is space. Learning about the earth God created, how nutrition impacts your physical and spiritual life and how to serve others through that ministry might be a great tool to connect with local partners like the 4-H club, scouting groups, the local gardening clubs (ours is called Virginia Cooperative Extension) and many more.

  4. GeraldNC Avatar

    Adam I love what you’ve been posting these past few blogs! I’m right there with ya on several of the ideas, though I do not lead a ministry. I’ve volunteered for over 10 years. I’ve thought of my own program including an after school opportunity that would include tutoring but offer more as well. I picture a gaming area, tv, quiet space to just hang, all of this offering a safe location for teens to hang out a few afternoons of the week. One of these days brother, one of these days…

  5. Daniel Griswold Avatar

    I’ve had great success with having older youth coming on in internships and helping lead up the youth ministries we have. I’ve also seen youth take over certain ministries and really take off with it. I like the courses idea that you put up. If there were a good group of people who are passionate about teaching/creating/growing with youth – that can be powerful. I do that every year in a course I consider Basic Christianity and the History of Methodism, but we call it “Confirmation” ;D

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  9. Matt Overton Avatar

    Adam, here is what I talked to you about some months ago. It is off the ground and running. It is also profitable at this point. We train students 4 times a year in life and job skills, pay them, and are intentional with life and faith conversations along the way. We are starting to talk with other churches about setting this up in their area as well. This has been the best experiment I have ever done in youth ministry and the conversations are WAY better than with normal youth stuff. Our goal is to be the single biggest job finder for teens in our county within 10 years. I think work/employment is the single best medium for teaching kids about life and faith.


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