How to Build Your Youth Ministry Identity

One of the largest frustrations I had early on in ministry was when people didn’t know what I did or who I was. I felt like the invisible man leading a nonexistent ministry. As a result, I built up a lot of negative feelings. I had resentment toward the teens who didn’t come. I had jealousy toward other churches that were receiving praise. And I grew angry at myself for not being good enough. My problem is that my ministry didn’t have an identity. It existed; however, why it existed and for what purpose was nowhere to be found.

You need to make sure you have a clear identity to your ministry. Identity gives people a reason to invest in your ministry. It gives you direction and focus on what God has called you to do. But, to have an identity is more than just to exist. A true youth ministry identity has purpose and value. To build on that identity, you need to:

Know Your Target Audience: Your target audience is the small group of individuals that if you reach, then you can reach the rest of your participants. That means knowing what they enjoy and what topics are on their minds. Craft your messages, activities and programs to them, and you’ll reach a larger audience.

Understand Your Limits: You cannot be everything to everyone. If you do that, you’ll not only water down your identity but wear yourself out. Look at your ministry’s strengths and build upon them. Are you a creative ministry? Do you connect students well through small groups? Discover what you do best and feed it.

Focus on the Vision: Why does your ministry exist? Make sure that you, your team, your teens and parents know why your ministry exists. By focusing on the vision, you’ll avoid temptations and distractions that will pull you toward disaster. Vision will stick and become apparent if your ministry is focusing on it consistently.

Invite Others Into the Journey: Build relationships with the other ministries and organizations that surround you. Invest in them and they’ll invest in you. They’ll advocate, share and spread what you are doing. By having partners and networks share your purpose, your identity will grow.

Your ministry needs identity because identity shows value. If people do not see value in what you do, they will not want a part of it. There is so much competing for their time and energy, let them know why you are important and what you can do for them.

What do you do to build your youth ministry’s identity?  

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Chris Wesley
Chris graduated from Xavier University in 2003 with a BA in Communications: Electronic Media. He moved to Baltimore in the fall of 2003 where he served as a Jesuit Volunteer for a year. During that time, he was a Case Manager at Chase Brexton, met my wife Kate and felt God's calling to Student Ministry. In the summer of 2004, heI was hired by the Roman Catholic Parish Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland as a Middle School Youth Minister. Today he oversees grades 5-12 as the Director of Student Ministry.

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