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How To Actively Engage the Youth In Your Church

Looking for ways to get young adults involved in church? Here are five reliable ways to build relationships and connections with the youth in your ministry.

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When you look around at your church, how many younger members do you see weekly? 

It depends on the church, of course, but statistically, churches often struggle to connect with kids and teens. 

In fact, a 2020 study by the Springtide Research Institute found that only 8% of participants between the ages of 13 and 25 who are part of a religious group say they have a trusted religious leader they could turn to if needed.

If your church is struggling to form lasting relationships with its younger members, then it’s time to consider better ways to engage the next generation of churchgoers.

With that in mind, here are five best practices taken from real church leaders (and me, a former youth group member and leader) to help you build strong relationships with the youth in your ministry and keep them eager to come to church.


The 5 Best Ways to Engage Your Youth Group 

First thing, take a breath. Connecting with the young ones in your church might seem intimidating, but it’s simpler than you think. Just follow these tips and strategies.

Be Sincere

As a kid, how many times did you roll your eyes at the adults in your life who clumsily tried to act relatable?

Meme of an older adult trying to relate to youth

Teenagers want to interact with adults who are genuine and honest. They’re not looking for an act or for someone who tries too hard to relate to them. 

The key here? Be open, understanding, and willing to admit that you don’t always have the answers — but that you’ll help them navigate whatever they’re facing.  

Jesse Bradley of Grace Community Church offers this advice: “There’s no formula, just genuine love and connecting. We need each other and a real community. We are made to serve, love, and encourage one another.”

The long and short of it is, younger members will be more comfortable if you act like someone your age, rather than trying to pass as a 16-year-old.

Ask Them What They Want

Too often, church leaders agonize over what they can do to keep their youth active and enthusiastic about being part of the church community and never realize that they could simply ask.

Ask the young people themselves, that is. 

Take a poll or post a survey for your youth group to ask for suggestions on future events or activities and gather their reactions to things you’ve done in the past.

Youth leader Amaya Mauro notes, “I ask for input from the young people to understand what kind of activities they would like to participate in and open up lines of communication between them and their mentors.” 

This will not only take the pressure off of you to read their minds, but it will also help them feel like they’re an active part of the youth ministry and its future.

🔖Recommended reading: Reach More Members With Our Church Texting Service

Bring in (Slightly) Older Mentors

In the same vein of being relatable, consider who your youth group might feel most comfortable talking to. 

In other words, it’s well and good (and even advisable) to have grown-ups presiding over the ministry, but bring in your college-aged or younger adult church members to work with the students, too.

This is a good idea for a few reasons.

  • Your young people will see these closer-in-age mentors as older brothers or sisters, leading to closer relationships.
  • Having younger mentors helping with classes and activities can open up more high-energy options for the students.
  • College-aged helpers have been where the younger students are more recently than older ministry leaders, meaning they may have an easier time understanding their struggles in the context of the current societal and political climate.

Communicate the Way Young Members Want You to Communicate

As of 2020, a Gallup poll found that just 47% of Americans reported that they were members of a house of worship (the first time this number has dropped below 50% in the history of the eight-decade trend). 

Among Americans aged 18-29, only 21% say they go to church weekly. 

Translation? If you want your young people to come to church, you’ve got to reach out to them where they already are (Hint: That’s on their phones).

Text out your daily devotionals and Sunday teachings, and encourage kids to text their concerns or prayer requests to your staff. This comes with the added perk of being confidential and building trust.

This works in the real world, not just on paper. Milestone Church uses text messages to engage its youth ministry. Over 7,000 contacts have subscribed to Milestone’s texts in the past two years ago. Similarly, Coastal Cathedral was able to increase its volunteer turnout by 100%.

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Update Your Programming to Reflect Teens’ Attention Span

They say that the average attention span is around eight seconds. That is less than the nine-second attention span of your average goldfish.

While this makes for an attention-grabbing headline, the underlying research shows that people aren’t bored in eight seconds – they simply want to be shown something they care about within eight seconds.

Meet this need by keeping services and classes short, engaging, and broken up with plenty of opportunities for interaction and activities (think games and problem-solving).

Young People Are Your Future (Take Care of Them)

There’s no one silver bullet when it comes to engaging youth in your church. 

But by focusing on creating an involved, inviting culture that communicates the way your young people want you to, you can make leaps and bounds in engaging the students in your church community. 

Drew Wilkinson
Drew Wilkinson

Drew Wilkinson is the Head of Marketing at SimpleTexting. Drew has more than a decade of experience managing successful integrated marketing programs to build brands, raise awareness, and generate demand.

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