As youth ministry leaders, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of looking at numbers as a sign of success. After all, this is how much of the world seemingly operates. The sports team with the most points wins; the restaurants that make more money stay open; sold-out concerts attract attention… It can be frustrating when efforts to increase participation in youth group seem to falter and students don’t attend in droves.
In the church, however, we must value quality over quantity. Relationships count more than head counts. If you find yourself working with only a handful of teens, don’t lose hope! There are wonderful benefits to ministry programs with fewer numbers. Even as you pray for growth, learn to embrace the positives of what you have.
Small can be mighty! Here are 6 blessings of working with youth groups in smaller churches.
1. Tight-knit friendships:
Having fewer students almost forces groups to become closer. Teens get to know one another on deeper levels, and exclusive cliques are less likely to form. In small churches this is a natural process because everyone knows your name. Plus your youth group discussion time leaves room for everyone to share their ideas.
2. Positive adult-student relationships:
Youth leaders have opportunity to develop better relationships with teens when groups are smaller. Leaders can get to know each student and pray for individuals. If possible, consider attending sporting events or activities of students to communicate care.
3. Different youth games options:
you might not be playing a full game of soccer with less group size, but you can still have fun with board games or small group events. See our ideas for small youth group games.
4. Group reservations are easier!
If taking the youth group to a restaurant or special activity, it’s easier to book and approach things with fewer teens to arrange and keep track of! Less stress means more time for actual ministry.
5. Event scheduling is easier.
Although fewer students might be available for events, coordinating can be simpler with lower overall numbers. If you’ve ever been to summer youth camp then you’ll understand.
6. Ministry team potential arises.
If possible, smaller youth groups can gather with other small churches. This is a great way to expand reach, get to know others, and make new friends.
The important thing to remember when working with more limited resources is to embrace and work with what you have. It is worthwhile to encourage increased participation and hope for expansion in numbers, but as youth leaders we also need to hone in on those who come. Head count growth is not the same as spiritual growth. There is tremendous potential and power in impacting the church, one young life at a time.
Share your small church youth ministry experience
Leave a comment below to share your own thoughts on ministry to teenagers in a smaller church. Do you agree with the benefits we listed? What would you add from your own experience?