3 Tips for Youth Pastors to Engage Youth

Clint Rogers


Clint Rogers


September 15, 2022

3 Tips for Youth Pastors to Engage Youth

In the church world, we often talk about how important it is to reach the next generation. This need is usually declared as being vital, but we don’t always know how to execute it. We know that it’s something we’re supposed to do but the methods seem to be lacking.

How do we reach the next generation and, frankly, why does it matter?

The Church at large is diverse in its nature. God has offered salvation to all who believe and all across the world, people from every tribe and tongue have accepted this invitation to follow Christ. Acts 2:17:18 beautifully illustrates this concept as Peter quotes the Prophet Joel.

“In the last days, God says,  will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.”

What we see in this passage is a demonstration of what the Kingdom is like. Being a part of God’s Kingdom is not just for a certain type of person — it is for all. Regardless of age, gender, and status, every person has an equal place in God’s family. 

When we approach reaching youth we must understand that in God’s eyes, this generation is vital to the wholeness of the Church. Not only are the older called in the Scripture to reach the younger, but there is so much the older can learn from the younger! This call to “have faith like a child” is something older, more rigid folk can learn from the younger, awestruck youth in our midst.

If we want true generational diversity in the church, we need to take good care of our ministry to youth. If we fail at reaching them, the Church will die with us. Judges 2:10 shows what happens when we fail to teach the younger.

“After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the LORD or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel.”

If we want to see the Kingdom of God expand for generations to come, we must teach our youth and teach them well. But how exactly can we do this? How can those who are specifically called to this generation — the youth pastors — engage youth impactfully? Well, let’s talk about it!

We want to give you 3 simple tips (with a lot of tips within them) to engage youth in your church and community. We believe that if we can effectively engage with this generation, the Church will only grow in its impact on the world. 

  1. Learn to interpret (and speak!) their language

It can sometimes feel like Gen Z speaks an entirely different language… and that’s because they do! We’re not just talking about French, Spanish, or Mandarin either, we’re talking about the unique way that this generation shares and receives information.

We must remember that the teenage generation has never known a time without technology at the tips of their fingers. Even most babies nowadays know how to scroll on a phone before they can use a toilet independently. 

This being said, we must understand that their input and output of communication are filtered mostly through digital technology, specifically social media and video content. 

If we want to engage this generation, we have to learn their language and practice using it. This means we must learn to utilize social media and video as primary ways to execute our communication.

Gen Z is all about videos, specifically short form formats such as those found on TikTok and Instagram Reels. Utilizing this type of video to communicate a message to teens is a wise decision to make as a youth pastor. You can leverage Reels especially to share sermon snippets, teaching moments, and encouraging spiritual tidbits. 

Among the more spiritually-based preaching videos it is helpful to include some other quirky, trendy, or humorous videos online too. Christian musician Jonathan Odgen went viral when he posted this hysterical worship leader spoof on his Instagram. These funny videos make you more relatable to your audience especially if they are unchurched or just think church is lame or outdated.

One key thing to remember here: don’t try to be someone you’re not! If you’re not funny, don’t try to be funny. Don’t try to use certain trendy lingo or video formats to try to look cool; Gen Z will see right through it. Be yourself online and the younger generation will relate to your sincerity.

  1. Communicate sincerely and honestly

Speaking of sincerity, yeah, it’s pretty important for engagement. Much has been said about Generation Z but one thing is for sure: they want the real thing. They are not easily marketed to or schmoozed; they make educated decisions on what products they buy, brands they are loyal to, and causes they get behind.

If you want to genuinely engage with teens you have to be genuine yourself. Practically, this looks like getting real both online and in-person with youth. This can play out in 4 main ways:

  • Answering hard questions. Youth want real answers to life’s hardest questions. Many of them deal with real struggles in their faith, families, and personal lives. They have a lot of questions and they are seeking answers from those around them. Youth pastors (and anyone engaging with youth) must be willing to hear these difficult questions and do their best to answer them.

    One thing is vital in this: if you don’t have the answer, say so. Nothing is worse than trying to conjure up an answer to a question just for the sake of it. They will appreciate your honesty and it could very well open up the door to more conversation.
  • Having a real dialogue. If you’re the one doing all of the talking in a conversation with a youth student, you’re doing it wrong. Communication is a 2-way street and you must allow room for back and forth between you and the younger person you’re engaging. Many young people struggle with not being heard by older people, so be intentional with allowing the conversation to be equally balanced.

  • Getting real (on your end). In leading ministry, those that you lead will only go as deep as you go. If you are unwilling to share your genuine struggles it is very unlikely that those learning from you will do it. While you always need to use discernment regarding the nature of the things you share, it is helpful to be transparent about your struggles and the ways that the Lord has helped you through them.

    Youth want to be able to relate to their leaders. They don’t want to feel like the messed up one while the pastor has it all together. Show them your humanness and it will pave the way for you to show them your relationship and growth with Jesus.

  • Forming a real relationship. Doing ministry is not just reserved for one night during the week; it is a daily activity. Developing genuine relationships with youth where you have a vested interest in their life is key to engaging them well.

    You can do this by attending their sporting events or band concerts and even doing a small group Bible study with them and some other students. Youth want to feel seen and you can make them feel seen by investing in their life more than just on a Sunday or Wednesday youth night.

  1. Invite them to participate

One issue we can have when engaging with youth is merely looking at them as a means to diversify the church or make it “cool” and “hip.” What the Acts passage above makes clear though is that the young are actively involved in the working of the ministry and growth in the Kingdom. 

We don’t want to engage with youth merely because we want more young people — we want to engage with youth because they are integral to the Church.

Youth aren’t meant to just be spectators or attendees but invested participants in the life of the church. So… invite them to participate! This can start small by simply inviting them to join a small group, Bible study, or even a discipleship group. 

This participation is an important stepping stone in their investment in their faith and will give them a solid foundation as they move forward in their pursuit of Jesus. This spring board will ultimately move them toward further participation through serving the church connected to the youth group. 

Figuring out the ways in which your youth students can use their giftings and passions to serve the church is so important. (P.S. This is very hard to do without doing the 4 things mentioned in point number 2). As you develop genuine relationships with your youth kids, you will begin to discover the ways in which they can best fit in the church body.

Inviting youth to serve doesn’t just benefit the church though. Their volunteering can help them discover their place in the kingdom, develop future career paths, and give them responsibility and ownership. 

Ultimately, the younger generation wants to feel like they belong and matter in the church. Extending the invitiation to be actively involved in the life of the church helps them glean a sense of importance and also pushes them deeper into their faith.

Engaging with youth doesn’t have to be rocket science; it is actually more simple than you might think. Learning to speak Gen Z’s language through media, pursuing sincerity and honesty, and inviting them to participate will make engagement genuine and long lasting. God-willing, your dedication to engaging with this generation will change the trajectory of the church years into the future. 

Are you struggling to engage with youth on social media? Our team at PMF Creative can help. Our social media experts and content creators can help ignite your social content and increase engagement through video and graphics. Contact us today to learn more about our plans!

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