Cultivating a Thriving Youth Ministry in Uncertain Times | Principle 2

This month we’re looking at the time-tested principles that lead to building a thriving youth ministry. Each week, we’re discussing one principle and digging into how it can be applied right now, even in the midst of changing methods and uncertain times. Read our introductory post with the first principle here.

Principle 2: RELATIONAL

Engaging the journey

When we say relational, we don’t just mean small groups. Most of us have experienced small groups that are far from being truly relational, where the focus doesn’t extend beyond answering that week’s questions as quickly as possible.

Relational to us means creating a connection where individual young people are engaged at a heart level, where lasting friendships are developed, and where we walk beside people on their particular journey of faith.

When young people share their story of coming to faith in the person of Jesus, it’s as varied and relational as that individual is themselves. It’s always a unique journey they’ve been on with Jesus, not a cookie-cutter experience.

If we want to cultivate thriving youth ministries, we need to develop a culture that relationally engages people in the whole journey. We need to develop leaders who are interested, rather than interesting. We need to cultivate mentors who seek to understand, rather than be understood. We need communities that will journey alongside our young people as they journey alongside Jesus.

This journey can’t be scripted. It must be lived.

Don Everts and Dough Schaup, in their book I Once Was Lost, talk about the many different thresholds that people have to walk through before they choose to follow Jesus. Coming to faith is often a long and slow process that looks slightly different for each person. But there are commonalities, thresholds we can look for and pray over.

A thriving youth ministry isn’t just evaluated by “success” metrics. It needs to be evaluated by relational metrics as well. Do our teens feel heard and cared for throughout all stages of their faith journey? Are we engaging with them, and walking beside them, during both the micro and the macro steps in this journey? 

Macro steps are those big moments that come with great celebration–and rightly so! Macro steps are things like baptism, choosing to follow Jesus, and going on a missions trip.

Micro steps are those smaller, less obvious moments, that lead up to the bigger steps. The first time a student raises a doubt in a small group is a micro step. Are we creating an environment where they feel comfortable sharing their doubts and questions? Are we meeting them with grace and connection in that space?

When someone is still feeling a bit unsure about this Jesus thing, but wants to share the positive experience they are having at your gathering and invites a friend to faith related event, that’s a micro step. Are we encouraging our teens to invite their friends? Are we cheering them on and supporting them when they do? 

And, of course, the first time any teen makes a decision to show up at one of our events, whether in person or virtually, is a micro step and an opportunity to start to journey alongside them.

To cultivate thriving youth ministries we need to take a long view of the whole journey, celebrate the macro and micro steps, and build relationships with our youth as mentors, friends, and guides, rather than just instructors.

This is the second in a series of four posts sharing core principles of reaching youth in a tumultuous time. Learn more about how the Alpha Youth Series can help create a space of listening and connection here

This journey can’t be scripted. It must be lived.


This track is full of amazing main-stage speakers who will showcase the power of prayer in every generation, equip you to live a naturally supernatural life and train you to heal as Jesus did. Senior pastors, church leaders, non-profit leaders, this track is you!

Workshops in this Track

Learnings from Asbury on the Power of Prayer

Speaker: Angela Chadwick, Global Director of Prayer, Alpha USA

Alpha’s Global Director of Prayer will interview some of the spiritual leaders involved in the Asbury revival where a chapel worship service caught the attention of our country. You’ll hear stories of how the students were deeply moved by God through the simplest forms of worship and how the leaders made sure the only celebrity on stage was Jesus. You’ll also be amazed by the powerful breakthroughs in young people’s lives through the gentlest of prayers.

Additionally, we will explore how the resurgence of faith in one small American town is relevant to every person in the Church and how it shapes how we share the good news in a good way with this generation.

How to Facilitate Eternal Connections with Jesus

Speaker: Danielle Strickland, Spiritual Leader, Justice Advocate, Communicator, Peacemaker

Encounter is God’s favorite way to spiritual revelation. Why do we emphasize information-formation as our primary means of discipleship? What if we put more time, energy, and effort into facilitating more encounters? Be prepared to discuss together how cultivating curiosity becomes a means to do just that. We will talk techniques, experiences, and new ideas.

Everyday Miracles

Speakers: Dr. Chloe Swart, Associate National Director for Alpha UK, and Dr. Russo Swart, New Wine Cymru Prophetic and Healing Team

This workshop will look at how to heal the sick as a part of our everyday missional lives. Following Chloe’s PhD studying healing miracles in Wales, Chloe found that Christians in Wales were praying for their friends, family, and colleagues, in the gym, in the supermarket, at work; wherever they found themselves, as well as in church services, and Alpha courses. Healing is a missional tool that points toward Jesus. Unpack the theology of healing, while also hearing very practical teaching and demonstration of how to heal the sick in an everyday way.

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