Ten easy steps to guarantee a successful youth ministry

10 easy steps to guarantee a successful youth ministryUPDATE: Please read the comments below. This is not a serious post. It’s satirical sarcasm and does not contain a hint of truth. It’s a joke written by the founder of Youth Specialties describing in exact opposite terms what NOT to do. Do NOT run your youth ministry this way! This is written to such an extreme in order to point out the absurdity of running a youth ministry this way. It’s only a joke. Please don’t take this seriously or think that this is my personal philosophy of ministry. It definitely is NOT.

Ten Easy Steps to Guarantee a Successful Youth Ministry!
by Mike Yaconelli

1. Dumb Down the Gospel. Employ attractive phrases such as, “Since I’ve known Jesus I’m happier, getting better grades, and captain of the football team!” Even better, reduce the complexity of the gospel into group cheers (i.e., “Give me a J!”) or simple worship choruses like, “God is so good…blah blah blah.” (Try singing those words in Ethiopia.) Or even better, try out some hip slang (i.e., God is “phat”; Jesus is a “hottie”).

2. Count. Constantly make everyone aware of your group’s attendance figures and the increases in attendance. Make numbers an issue by setting attendance goals for each activity and reward the group for reaching those goals. Spend lots of time throwing pies at the leaders if goals are reached.

3. Put Your Students on Display. As soon as kids become Christians or rededicate their lives or show real growth, put them in front of the group and have them share their testimonies—especially if they’re physically attractive. Let young people talk about their faith as much as possible and don’t worry about the fact that most young people have no clue how complicated and rough the real world is with or without Jesus.

4. Don’t Allow Down Time. Hey, kids today are MTV kids! They can’t sit still for any length of time. Silence, solitude, prayer, meditation, fasting? All totally lame in the eyes of this generation! Nope, keep ’em busy, active, noisy, and shuttling from one Christian rock concert to another. Fill every moment of your program with something to do—otherwise you’ll lose their attention (which would be disastrous because then they’d have to pay attention to God and their souls).

5. Stay on the Technological Cutting Edge. What would Jesus do? Are you kidding? Jesus would have the best sound system you ever heard, along with a DVD player, the Internet, instant messaging, the coolest Web site, and of course a digital TV. Show your kids that when it comes to the latest technology, Christians are right there! I mean, who needs to read when you can watch?

6. Create Celebrities. Make sure your young people get an earful and eyeful of the latest Christian music stars, video stars, and NFL players who profess their faith in Jesus on national television. Encourage your young people to worship, idolize, and live under the illusion that these people are somehow better, deeper, more Christian, more together, and more dedicated than them. Let them believe that the marketed images of these celebrities are completely representative of them—even though you know it isn’t true.

7. Let Youth Group Take the Place of Church. Oh sure, encourage your kids to attend the contemporary service—even though you know most of them never will because church is “boring,” filled with “dull, old people,” and the music “sucks.” Whatever you do, though, don’t suggest that worshiping with people they don’t like and connecting with people who are older and wiser just might save them when their adolescent view of the world is shattered. Just keep convincing your students that youth group is a good substitute for church.

8. Tow the Parental Line. Whatever you do, don’t cause friction with parents by suggesting to their kids that grades, SAT scores, financial security, college degrees, and athletic scholarships really don’t matter. Just accept the fact that most parents want their children to attend youth group as long as it doesn’t interfere with hockey, football, ice skating, tennis, ballet, or baseball practice. And don’t encourage young people to resist their parents’ attempts to smother the call of God on their lives, either. After all, you could get fired!

9. Ignore the Arts. Never encourage painting, dance, sculpture, writing, poetry, ballet, or trips to the museum, symphony, and opera. Stick with activities that rock! The WWF rules!

10. Live in the Now! Verify the success of your ministry by visible, measurable, observable results you see now. Don’t waste your time worrying about lasting results. Who can wait?! Go for the instant return. Hey, once your kids leave youth group, you aren’t responsible for what happens to them anyway, right?

11. “Us” Versus “Them.” (Yeah, yeah, I know I said “Ten Steps”—sue me.) Convince your kids that the only way Christians can make a difference is through public, physical confrontation with the “world.” Explain that this “world” is “them,” and Christians—the good guys—are “us.” And since it’s us against them, we have to “stand up for our faith.” Encourage them to march in rallies, wear slogan-filled T-shirts, hang banners, and do whatever it takes to get in the world’s face. Convince them that the Devil and his demons are running around, wreaking havoc—and the only way to deal with the Devil is to confront and “bind him.” Don’t let them believe that evil is much more seductive, much more camouflaged and tricky than they could ever imagine. And whatever you do, don’t start getting into Jesus’ strategy of powerlessness.

Now go get ’em!

(ht jacob)

Posted on December 11, 2006

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  • Paul

    I don’t know if I should be laughing or crying as I read these 10 (I mean 11) easy steps.

  • kyle

    Ah, the reverse psychology is fascinating!

  • adi


  • Hannah

    This is a joke right? Please, tell me it’s a joke :).

  • Tim

    Yes, Hannah, it’s something like satirical sarcasm or something, I dunno. It’s a joke with a hint of unfortunate reality.

  • Zeb

    I can’t figure this out. I hope and pray that it is a joke.

  • Anthony

    I got confused several times, next time just say what you mean. God Bless

  • James

    WWF is way better than Painting

  • Yes, this is sarcasm. It has taken some reality of what has happened in ministries before and using them to tell what should NOT happen in ministry.

  • So i started working on these 10 steps I figuered I would take it one at a time, and my kids really seem to be reacting to this theory! It’s awesome, as I was preaching the Gospel I let them know that “For God is so Pimp and so Phat!! that he gave hiz only son-son and whoever believes aint no death gonna come upon’em but will live 4eva!” and of course smacked my teeth and wore my gang colors. And half of them accepted da truth! Next week TESTIMONY WEEK for the Newbie Christians!!!

  • Tim

    LOL! Julio, you crack me up! Thanks for your comment. :)

  • Julie Anna

    Well you managed to get a rise out of me with this one. I can’t stand scarcasm – why use lies to attempt to communicate the Truth? Scarcasm only works in American society.

    • Hey Julie,
      Looks like sarcasm is one of Jesus' faves. Sames with the major and minor prophets and I'm not sure if you've read much of the Pauline letters (Gal 5:12 "I wish those troublemakers would castrate themselves".)

      Sarcasm seemed to do just fine in Ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Works pretty good in Australia too! Don't be too hard on American's they can't choose where they're born.

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  • Hmmm, 10 easy steps. I’ve been involved in youth ministry since 1985. I have yet to discover any 10 step formula for guaranteed success.
    Youth ministry is a bizarre combination ofthings, it’s thrilling, fun, challenging and exciting, yet it can tear your heart out, drive you to the roots of your faith,. It’ll keep you young and it’ll give you grey hair – or no hair !! Every second of it is worthwhile . Our teens are a vital and integral part of our church right now, here, today. We can not invest enough time, effort energy or resources in these awesome people. My “secret to success” is to be in the Word, be in prayer and then just pour into them what God pours into my spirit. Bottom line – teens love to eat, that’s true physically but it’s also true spiritually – Get them hungry for the Word – for the things of God. Don’t create an entertainment fun club. Leave all the rest up to Him!
    God bless

  • Jason

    I am completely at a loss of words, shocked and appalled. What are you thinking ? using the words “dumb” and “gospel” in the same phrase ??
    The Gospel message was designed by God so that even a child can understand.
    The claims of Christ are anything but complex. To “reduce the complexity” of the gospel has another term ” watering it down”
    I was gloriously saved at the age of 7 and even at that age, I understood the plan of salvation. Today we live in a world where the Gospel has been watered down to be socially acceptable.

    GROW UP !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • tyd

      ok in his defence at age seven did you pick up new king james and read th all the gosples…? or did some simplify it for you…? " jesus who loves you very much died for you so all your sins can be forgivin, would you like to no jesus" if thats not a dumbed down version idk what is??? yes the bible was made so a child could understand. but that means the message NOT the way its brought across. heck if you say you can read what jesus said and know exactly what he ment the whole time as a full grown adult even id say odds are your lying.rough

  • Tim

    @ Jason: This was written by Mike Yaconelli, the founder of Youth Specialties. Please read the above comments.

  • Stuart T. Jameson

    Good idea bro!

  • Stuart T. Jameson

    Tim, my friend if I were you I’d seriously take your own advice – think before you post. Be careful who you quote on your site. I have to agree with Jason
    There are no 10 steps to guaranteed success in ministry any more than there’s no guaranteed 10 steps to success in child rearing. (we’ve raised a few)
    In my years of ministry it’s been a matter of prayer, prayer, more prayer, seeking God, preaching the whole counsel of God and allowing the Holy Spirit to do a work only He can do. Magic formula ?? NO WAY !! It’s just a matter of listening to the Father and acting in obedience.

    Pastor TJ

  • Tim

    I guess I should post and update in the actual post rather than assuming people will read the comments.

    This is not a serious post. It’s satirical sarcasm and does not contain a hint of truth. It’s a joke written by the founder of Youth Specialties describing in exact opposite terms what NOT to do. Do NOT run your youth ministry this way! This is written to such an extreme in order to point out the absurdity of running a youth ministry this way. It’s only a joke. Please don’t take this seriously or think that this is my personal philosophy of ministry. It definitely is NOT.

  • Stuart T. Jameson

    ps. love your other stuff ! keep it up !

  • Guy

    I hope most of the people that posted comments which “down” you and take offense to this post do a much better job at reading their Bible, Tim! “To Bearean or not to Berean, that is the question.” Research before you retaliate!
    Come on guys… who actually read this, took it wrong and prayed about it, asking the Spirit to help you DISCERN truth in it?
    I admit, at first I took it the wrong way. Then, when I went back and actually READ THE WHOLE, COMPLETE, ENTIRE post, I felt like a fool!

    Good job, Tim. Keep’em comin’ brah!

  • Tim

    Thanks, Guy! It does get a big frustrating when people jump to conclusions without reading the whole thing. Miscommunication is never a good thing.

  • Laurence Rock

    hey man, I really was offended when I first read it, than Iooked at the comments to see how other people would respond and I had an GREAT laugh.
    I sent this to my youth pastor, as a prank….pretty funny stuff.
    It is so true, there are SO MANY churches (in my opinion) around where I live that do this exact thing man….anyway…good stuff
    Thanks God Bless
    -Laurence Rock

  • Tim

    Thanks for reading the whole post and the comments before passing judgment, Laurence! :)

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  • Jasmin Jasper

    Well, u nearly got me too! Actually I thought it was a good idea, except that some of the steps are way too extreme. I'm thinking of trying some out and see the reaction here (God help me in the long run!).

  • rene

    this generation isn't afraid of boundaries. this generation is hungry for love and for youth leaders who will lay down their lives for them. it isn't about faking it till you make it in your ministry. it is about being an instrument in god's hands where he can use us to reach our generation through the power of god. this generation needs another pentecost. they need to connect with the holy spirit in such away that he captures the affections of their heart. dont entertain them. be yourself. face your identity crisis and quit doubting that you arent called. just catch the fire of the holy spirit and let that fire spread on the young people. if you dont got the fire, if you dont have the will or the calling then you dont need to be in youth ministry. u need to be learning to be a child of god.

  • John Kim


    I’ve been leading youth ministeries for about 5 years now and it’s surprising how lots of big churches run their youth group this way. After many years of this “Pizza and yo-yo” youth group, kids go to college/graduate school and become atheists or agnostics. For kids to become salt and light in this world, churches need to set the example distinctively as salt and light and fearlessly preach the word of God instead of trying to come to a compromise.

  • @ John Kim: Yeah, it’s not just big churches, though. Small churches can be just as guilty, especially when trying to create hype and excitement for their smaller groups thinking that having a bigger group is better than being diligent with the fewer kids they already have.

  • confused..

    this is rediculous.. i’m part of a youth group but seriously..
    phat? hottie? i don’t think i’ve heard ANYONE EVER say that haha

  • Andy

    tim that was awsome,
    Im a New Zealander (little place in the pacific)and the sarcasum was great! i think some of the readers need to lighten up!
    reading some of the coments make me laugh and shake my head


  • Keith

    I thought it was hilarious… But what is scary is the absurd remarks people give, unfortunately some of which are from youth pastors. My advice to those is be careful before being so critical. The world is looking at us, give them a picture of Christ when they see you.
    With Love Keith <

  • Haha, wow, it amazes me that people do not read the whole thing then take the time to post a comment bashing it. Nice. I love sarcasm by the way. Good job Tim.

  • Dude… hurts to read…

    I stumbled across this looking for successful youth ministry applications. If it wasn't written in such sarcastic language I would assume this was a hard hearted conservative fundamentalist hating on overpaid, milk drinking, under schooled, youth leader/rockstar types.

    I definitely think you've over emphasized a couple of preferential points. I'll expand.

    DUMB DOWN THE GOSPEL Yeah, no argument here on this point… Why would anyone want to dull down the most glorious romance action history has every experienced.

    2) COUNT There's nothing wrong with counting, after all we're working to win as many to Christ as possible. Counting becomes dangerous and idolatrous when used to define success.

    3) PUT YOUR STUDENTS ON DISPLAY. It is good to celebrate the lost son coming home! It reminds your students why the youth group exists, and encourages in every area of their life.

    4) DONT ALLOW DOWN TIMECan't really argue that one can I? Sad truth, would like to find the cure… even in my own life…

    5) STAY ON THE TECHNOLOGICAL CUTTING EDGE. Technology is not the devil. Thanks to the cutting edge technology of the 1500's bibles were translated and distributed widescale and tens of thousands were convicted daily in their houses by the God breathed word of life – providing they could read. Today the same revolution has re-evolved this time the distribution is global, the fruition is in the 10's of millions, and you don't even need to be literate to receive it. This is thanks to God's gracious redemption of Internet, and other A/V medias. Again, technology is not the problem, the idolatrous hearts of unrepentant men are.

    6) CREATE CELEBRITIES. You seem to be alternating your solid satirical illustrations with your hateful sarcasm… this point is rock solid… there is one hero… Jesus.

    7) LET YOUTH GROUP TAKE THE PLACE OF CHURCH. Your point is allowing the youth to form a segregated culture is about the opposite of what heaven's gonna look like. Good call. But your message is kinda starting to sound like… "ADOLECENT PEOPLE ARE EVIIIILLLL!!!! WHY CAN'T THEY BE NORMAL LIKE THE REST OF US????

    8) TOW THE PARENTAL LINE. After point number one, this is your most valid point. Love it!

    9) IGNORE THE ARTS. What??? Where the heck are you? Most youth groups are better at understand and appreciating multiple cultures than their parental congregation. Honestly… where do you live?

    10. LIVE IN THE NOW. Good. Any youth "pastor" living and working like this is going to feel the fire now or later. " 1 Cor 9:16 – Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!"

    11. Not gonna bother.

    Anyways dude. Sarcasm is a hard striking and effective way to make appoint, which is probably why the bible uses it so often. However when thing the prophets, Jesus and the apostles did do that you didn't is speak in the Authority of God, and offer the solution of repentance at the end.

    If you're not careful to provide a compassionate solution as did our Glorious God, you are more likely to offend and compel defensiveness than encourage and compel change.

    Otherwise, thanks for pointing out some of the serious dysfunctions of todays popular youth ministries. Something we can all use as a mirror to reflect our own flaws.

    • Kid Charlemagne

      Oh geez get your own blog dude .

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  • Good blog! I definitely love how it is easy on my eyes as well as the data are well written. I am wondering how I might be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your rss feed which should do the trick! Have a nice day!

  • Dave

    Man Tim! You really got rocked a few times by some people's comments! But I know this is just a joke. I'm actually reading a youth Ministry book by Mark now so reading this post was funny!

    Keep up the good work dude!

  • Wow, this was really vicious! I am just coming back from being backslidden and posts like this are DEVASTATING! Man, why dont you stop doing the Devils work and build UP the Body of Christ. GRRR

  • Kid Charlemagne

    This is an excellent article . People who don’t get it will probably never get it sadly.

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