Starting a youth ministry for only one teenager

I got this email a couple weeks ago and was encouraged by the recipient to share my response publicly. Feel free to chime in your two cents, as well. Here ya go!

We moved to a very small town in KY this summer and are attending the church my parents go to because of the people there. The problem is our daughter (6th grade) is the only youth in the church…. We tried going to a church a town over that had a youth group, but the people were not very friendly. Do you have any suggestions on how to handle the single youth church? I end up teaching her Sunday school class, like your article said about teaching the ones who are there, but it is hard to find someone willing to give up going to Sunday School to teach just one child. Do you suggest to keep trying other churches? We have suggested they hire a part time youth director (the church is inheriting a sizable sum) to find other kids in the community. Any other ideas to get other adults involved or to make sure our daughter gets the knowledge she needs? We do a devotion each night at home, but I think having other adults help with her Christian education is a good idea.

I totally understand your situation because I grew up in a church with a story similar to yours. The only difference was that I wasn’t the only teenager because I had a couple of my brothers with me.

While it’s honorable that you see the value in youth ministry and are striving to start one in your church, I must say that there’s nothing wrong with not having your daughter in a youth group. Many parents have raised their teenagers quite well without the influence of a church youth ministry. If your main reason for wanting to have a youth group is just so your daughter had some cool activities to do with some Christian friends, I’d tell you not to start it because it will probably cause you more headaches than anything else with that kind of purpose in mind (even if that purpose isn’t the one that’s explicitly stated). However, it seems that your reason for wanting a youth group is because you know that other adults can leave a big spiritual impact on your daughter’s life. That I agree with 100% because that’s how I got kick started in youth ministry in the first place. An adult from a local high school campus ministry started meeting with me for lunch, picking me up to tag along as he did normal errands and meetings, and eventually his passion for students became contagious. It’s because of that relationship that I’m in youth ministry today, not because I grew up in some dynamic youth group.

For you guys, I would recommend not pushing the youth group thing if that’s not a huge need of your church. Instead, I would push the adult relationships. If your daughter has one or two adult women she seems to enjoy and respect at church, ask those ladies if they’d be interested in spending time with your daughter outside of church. If your daughter doesn’t seem to naturally connect with any adults there, pick a couple Godly ladies yourself and talk with them about investing into your daughter. Maybe start by having a “girls night out” where you and those ladies just go do something fun together. Invite your daughter along as if she’s one of the “big girls.” As she starts to feel comfortable with them, start to back out a little and let your daughter go alone with them. Also, if you’re involved in a women’s bible study, take your daughter to that. Furthermore, find unique ways she can serve the body as the only teenager in the church in order to teach her that youth ministry isn’t just what the church does for her, but youth ministry is youth doing ministry.

Essentially, forget the youth ministry thing and pull her up to the adult ministry stuff where that eventually becomes the “youth ministry” to her. Hope that helps a little. God bless you guys!

Posted on February 19, 2008

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