Suggestions for your very first youth group meeting

A reader-submitted question by Christina:

“I am a new youth pastor with my very first job and will be starting in a few weeks. I was wondering if you had any ideas on how to do your first Wednesday night ever?”

This is a great question because I’m in a similar situation right now. This past Sunday was my first official day at my new church here in Minnesota, so I’m starting new in a ministry position, too.

What suggestions do you have for this fellow youth worker?

My first suggestion is to keep it light and fun for the first couple weeks. Focus on building relationships with the students, learning their names and feeling out the group’s atmosphere. Come prepared with a couple games, ice breakers and personal stories. It’s usually better to over-prepare with a new group in case something doesn’t work out as well as you anticipate. I’ve had the awkward experience of watching a couple “fun games” I prepared flop pretty badly and then having nothing to do for the next hour. You can always cut material as time runs out and use it the next week instead.

Another idea is to ask some parents to provide snacks and drinks. Kids may feel more comfortable if they’re hiding behind food and have something else besides maintaining eye contact.

The top questions going through the students’ minds are probably:
1. Can I trust this person?
2. Does this person care about me?
3. Who is this person and what is he/she all about?
4. What’s going to happen with our youth group now and will I like what happens?

The first two are infinitely more important than the third and fourth. If they trust you and know that you love them, you could almost do anything to the youth ministry and still have their support. (Doesn’t quite work the same way with parents and church leadership, though!) The best way I’ve found to build trust is to model vulnerability and let them see that you’re a real person who is not afraid to be open and authentic. If they see that you can be that way, they’ll feel safer doing the same with you and will naturally be more trusting. That doesn’t mean you should tell them all your deep dark secrets — on the contrary! There are many things that are probably not appropriate for students to know, but you can easily share about trials, disappointments, successes, victories, heartache, etc.

Posted on February 21, 2007

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