3 Common Mistakes Made in Youth Ministry


At the end of the day we all want the same thing- to see thriving, growing, impactful youth ministries.

As the Generations Pastor here at Bethany Church, we get the opportunity to reach over 1500 students every week through small groups. I really do not say that to impress you but to let you know we’ve seen some victories, and as many mistakes.

I believe there is much more learning potential in the mistakes, and by reading this I hope you can avoid a few of the things that I didn’t. What are some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made as a YP?

Here's 3 of the Biggest Mistakes I’ve Made:


1. Having Big Event Syndrome.

  • If you have been youth pastoring 1 hour or 10 years you have to battle being an event-driven ministry. Early on I remember thinking, “Man this event is going to bring growth and change EVERYTHING.” This is what I like to call Big Event Syndrome (BES). What would happen is that an event would come and it may or may not go well, and the next day I would have that feeling that it wasn’t quite what I thought. What I had to learn was that events are not the end goal but they do point to the end goal.
  • Every event should reinforce the vision. I have found that many times we can replace actually having vision for planning for an event. While this may feel productive in the moment, it steals long term effectiveness. I had to learn to have a concrete vision, and implement it with consistency instead of living and dying by the results of “The one big event.”
  • Every event should support the vision and move people along in the process. Some good questions to ask are: What does this event accomplish? What is the win? Does this propel vision or stifle it?

2. Thinking I had to do it alone.

  • Imagine this: it’s time for a youth retreat and not only are you preaching, but you are thinking about when parents arrive, that problem with the registration form, and the leaders that texted you last minute that they are unable to make it. So you begin to go into a frenzy of set-up, soundchecks, greeting people all while your leaders/volunteers stare at you wondering what they should do. Sound familiar?
  • One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made is take on all the responsibility of the youth ministry instead of empowering people around me to do what God has called them to do. Now the size of your leadership team may be 4 or 40 but many times we do not keep leaders long term because they are not empowered to do ministry with us. Instead, they are watching you do ministry alone. Making this shift was all the difference in watching our leadership triple in 3 years. I started to really learn what gifts God placed in the people around me and begin releasing them to do ministry and carry responsibility, not just carry out a task.

3. Underestimating the power of culture.

  • You might think I’m talking about music culture, or movie culture but I’m talking about the culture of your ministry. Culture is the invisible lifeblood that defines your ministry. Every ministry has it, some take advantage of it, and others let it take advantage of them, but it’s the most underrated element of ministry. Is your culture life-giving, exciting, Jesus-focused? Or is it stale, serious and disengaging? I had to take responsibility for what culture I wanted us to have and intentionally eliminate and confront culture that was working against us.

Take A Week Off to Work ON Your Ministry

Sometimes you have to take a step back from working IN your ministry to make adjustments and work ON your ministry. Bethany College can you give you that opportunity. Our students are well-equipped and prepared to give you the night off, taking care of everything from worship to the message! If you would like to invite Bethany College to come to your church email Chad.harris@bethany.com and we will be happy to set something up.


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