Cultivating a Thriving Youth Ministry in Uncertain Times | Principle 3

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 and the second post here.

Principle 3: RELIANT

Explanation and experience

Our explanations about God aren’t enough. Students want–and need–to experience God’s love, power, peace, and closeness for themselves. 

In an uncertain world, our teens need to hear from the God who “does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). When society leads them to question their value, they need an experience with the God who calls them “very good” (Genesis 1:31). When racial and political divides argue for their attention, they need to meet Jesus, who broke down barriers and shared meals with the outcasts on countless occasions. 

Our young people need more than just stories, doctrine, or explanations–they need to taste and see. Our youth need to know that they are loved and cherished, that there is a uniqueness they carry that is a gift to others and not a burden. Ultimately, they need to hear these things from God’s Spirit, because one word from the Lord ministers more than a trillion words from us. 

If we want our young people to experience the love of the Father for themselves, we need to create space for Him to show up.

You may be thinking, “He’s already here, why do I need to create space?” You might already be mentally reciting countless verses about how Jesus is with us and for us. These are promises we cling to! Yet, being present and engaging his presence are a bit different.

Let’s say I hosted a party for my best friend and invited you. Then I talked for hours about my best friend’s story, passions, and character, but didn’t let him talk at all. You’d leave knowing a lot about my friend, but you wouldn’t really know him, even though he was there with us the whole time. 

Every illustration breaks down, but at the end of the day we don’t want students to just hear explanations about Jesus, we want them to have a personal encounter with God. We want them to develop a relationship with Jesus that will last. We want their faith to be rooted in a demonstration of God’s goodness and power, not in persuasive and eloquent words that can be knocked over by more eloquent words. 

Thriving youth ministries create space for students to encounter Jesus. 

This requires the humility to sit down, to be quiet, to let things get uncomfortable. Just as we need to train ourselves to become good listeners to our students, we also need to discipline ourselves to become good listeners to the Spirit of God at work among us. 

We love our students by listening to them. 

We love God by listening to Him. 

A thriving youth ministry, in any age or context, isn’t about the youth ministry itself, it isn’t about the youth pastor or leader, it is about Jesus. Centered on Jesus. Looking toward Jesus. Listening to Jesus. And inviting students to look to Him and listen to Him as well.

Join us for the last post in this series next week where we’ll talk a little about building a youth ministry that is reproducible.

This is the third 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

We love our students by listening to them. We love God by listening to Him. 


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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