"For Those Who Are Passionate About Reaching The Younger Generation"

Youth Ministry Topics Training Student Leaders

How To Grow Motivated Kids

Mark Simone


To make the youth group meeting something special, Sue invested more time than usual in her planning. Her lesson on discipleship was bible-based and relevant. The games she planned were typically big winners with her kids. She even convinced a guitar-playing friend to lead their worship time, replacing the recorded music she typically used.

Two hours before the meeting, Sue arrived at the church to decorate the youth room in a Hawaiian motif—just as a surprise for her kids.

So why was the meeting such a disaster?

The kids wouldn’t sing, and they grumbled their way through the game. Some whispered and laughed during the Bible study. And others said the decorations were stupid.
Through her tears, Sue struggled to understand why her kids were suddenly so unmotivated. Why did one "bait" work so well one week and not at all the next?

Some approaches to ministry motivate teenagers better than others...

1. Build group ownership. Kids are more likely to own what they help plan. And they’ll support what they own.

Every year we plan a youth group trip to a local play complex. Our adult advisors typically plan the event. Over the years we’ve had a great response to this excursion, but lately the whole thing has seemed rather stagnant. Rather than drop it, we asked our kids to plan it last year. Attendance shot up by 30 percent, and the event had a fresh feel to it.

2. Nurture the group’s self-esteem. If you’re like me, you’ve just about had it with self-esteem jargon. Yet it’s true that when we feel good about something, we’re motivated to make it a success. So it makes sense to develop our group’s self-esteem by actively listening to our kids, truthfully affirming them, supporting their interests, spending down time with them, and taking their ideas seriously.

3. Develop targeted objectives. If you have strong objectives for your group, then each teenager will clearly understand what the group is about and what you intend to accomplish. Can your kids explain to others why they participate in the group?

Objectives must be...
* realistic—can the goal be accomplished?
* meaningful—does it fulfill a need?
* easily understood—is each step clear and "digestible"?

4. Be open and accessible. Do your kids feel comfortable sharing their needs with you? Do they feel free to just hang out with you?

5. Admit when you’re wrong. If you have an inner drive to always be right, you send your kids the message that no effort is ever good enough. Perfectionism kills motivation.

6. Follow up on achievements. The best way to get kids’ support the next time is to congratulate their achievements this time.

7. Ask for help. Teenagers love knowing that their efforts have helped you out of a jam.

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Used my permission, Group Magazine, Copyright March/April, 2000, Group Publishing, Inc., Box 481, Loveland, CO 80539.

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According to David Skidmore, "Each issue is a feast for hungry youth workers." This quality magazine comes out six times per year, giving us input from others on the front lines of youth ministry. Includes lesson ideas, well-written articles, relevant news and new resources. Find them online at www.youthministry.com, where they offer lots of free online resources.