5 Big Questions: Part 1

INTRO: A class of 1st year Youth Ministry students asked 40 questions at a recent panel discussion I was part of. We were able to answer only a fraction of the questions, so I decided to take the time to answer all 40 of them. Here are the answers 5 at a time.


  1. Do altar calls have a place in middle school youth ministry retreats?

Yes, I 100% believe altar calls have a place not only in middle school but at all student ministry levels. The challenge you will always face is finding the balance between students genuinely coming forward because they feel God tugging on their hearts vs. coming forward because their friend came up first. The social pressure to respond is always a possibility, but that shouldn’t keep you from doing it. 

My suggestion is to mix up the options you provide. Maybe it’s coming forward in a classic “altar call,” but next time it’s talking to a leader in the back, or filling out a card where they are sitting. No matter what you do, make sure you follow up with whoever responds. 

  1. How do you find balance between having fun & spiritually equipping your youth?

As a rule of thumb, I’ve approached this question based on group type. For middle school students, I aim to be active 75% of the time and teach 25% of the time. For high school students, we teach 75% of the time and play 25% of the time. Activity time can consist of games, team building, etc., and the teaching time can be small group, sermons, and even worship. We do this both on a weekly night basis and a monthly calendar planning. Here are some examples (MS = middle school, HS = high school):

WEEK NIGHT – MS

    • 7:00 Students arrive
    • 7:15-7:30 Welcome / Announcements
    • 7:30-8:15 Games / Activity
    • 8:15-8:45 Small Group time
    • 8:45-9:00 Social Time

MONTHLY – MS

    • Week #1 – Games / Small Group
    • Week #2 – Games / Small Group
    • Week #3 – Game / Worship & Sermon / Small Groups
    • Week #4 – Big Event

WEEK NIGHT – HS

    • 7:00 Students arrive
    • 7:15-7:30 Welcome / Announcements
    • 7:30-7:45 Mixer Game
    • 7:45-9:00 Combination or Worship, Sermon and Small Groups 

MONTHLY – HS

    • Week #1 – Mixer / Worship & Sermon / Small Groups
    • Week #2 – Mixer / Worship / Small Group
    • Week #3 – Big Event
    • Week #4 – Mixer / Worship / Small Group
  1. What is the best ratio of bible study to games?

I say this question sounds a lot like, “How much fun can we have at youth?” (see question #2). I think Bible study can be fun and engaging, and games can teach and challenge. This is all about prospective and how you chose to approach it. 

  1. How does a youth leader show that they are genuine without oversharing?

I have a golden rule about student ministry, and it goes like this: “Students are students, not adults.” It’s meant to remind me and my leaders that my students are not my peer group. I’m leading them, and they are following me. For me, that means what I share is intended to “lead them somewhere”. The issue with oversharing comes when we start to treat the group like they’re peers and not students; hence, the golden rule. 

The second thing is that you need to share “age appropriate” stuff with your students. Don’t talk about your marriage problems with your 6th grade boys or your worries about starting to have kids with your grade 12 girls. But, do share your life experience when you were their age. 

  1. What are the necessary qualifications to be a youth leader?

I struggle with the word “necessary” in this question, because when I think about it, I think all you need are two things: you need to be a Christian, and you need to like students. That’s it! Everything else can be worked on, coached through, or encouraged. Every youth group will be made up of every type of kid you can think of, so you need a variety of types of leader. All that really matters is if they love Jesus and have a heart for students. 

Jesse Signiture
If you would like to know more about this topic or learn how to implement this in your youth program feel free to contact me.

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