How To Create Intimacy In A Large Youth Ministry

 Courtesy of James Cridland/Creative Commons License

The other day I had the opportunity to just sit and listen to one of my students share her life.  It was authentic and honest.  I felt honored to sit down and listen to how God was working through the ups and downs of her life.  It’s moments like these where I’m so glad God called me into youth ministry.
And then there are the moments where it’s all about the energy and enthusiasm that comes from a large group.  Maybe it’s your worship service, a trip or a work camp.  You see your ministry growing and the energy is buzzing; however, you begin to wonder about the life change.  You begin to feel the tension between entertainment and engagement of a teenager’s faith.
There is a part of us that wants the big ministry feel but to build a strong crowd, you need to think small.  You need to focus on small groups, mentoring, one on one time, so that when everyone gathers in one place the relationships are strong.  But, to create intimacy in a large church setting is difficult.  In order to achieve a personal, authentic and real setting you need to make sure that you and your team are:

  • Investing In A Small Group Format:  Small groups equal big life change.  It gives the teenagers attention that will help them feel wanted and love.  While your teens might enjoy the hype and energy of a large group setting, the reason they will come back is because of the relationships they form.  And there is no better way than in small groups.
  • Planning One On One Moments: In a large group setting it’s difficult to get to know all the teens and while you might never get to know all of them you need to set up a system where teens can receive one on one attention from someone.  It gives them an outlet to share their stories, and knowledge that God cares about them specifically.
  • Engaging In Your Own Intimate Relationships: If you have small groups for teenagers in your church, then you need to make sure you are in a small group for adults yourself.  If you have mentoring in your youth ministry, then you need to make sure you are being mentored by someone.  To truly build authentic and personal relationships amongst the teens you need to be going through it yourself; otherwise, you are just guessing at what relational ministry looks like.

It is possible to have intimacy in a large youth ministry.  It starts with the opportunities you create, followed by the environments in which they happen.  There is nothing wrong with corporate worship, it’s just that a lot of big life change will happen in small group and one on one settings.  It’s a difficult balance; however, when you focus on the relationships first, you’ll find your ministry is brought to the next level.

How do you facilitate intimate and authentic relationships in a large youth ministry setting?