click to chat
FREE SHIPPING! All Orders $99+ Details.

the blog

10 Steps To Reaching The (un-churched) Youth Of Your Community


Have you ever really thought about how to make a difference in the lives of the teenagers of your community? I'm talking about the students outside of your church walls. The students who will never, on their own, ever show up for one of your events or outreaches. Reaching these students can be done, but you might need to think bigger than you have in the past. You might need to consider what it takes not just to reach individual teenagers, but to become a true resource for your community. What if your church were known in your community as a place where teenagers could go to find hope, purpose, and community? It's a big task.However, if becoming a true resource to your community is something that you and your church are passionate about, here are 10 steps to get you started.

  1. Put your own ideas and plans aside

  2. You may have an awesome, amazing, brilliantly innovative idea. But if it isn't the right idea for the community it makes little difference. Shelve any ideas until you do your homework.
  3. Survey your community

  4. What does your community really need? Or at least what do people in your community feel they need? To answer this, consider surveying three groups outside your congregation: Young people, parents/guardians of young people, & community leaders.
  5. Meet with anyone who will make time for you

  6. It's essential to get the information from those who have it. Find out who else works on youth issues, what is being done, what has been done in the past, and what they would like to see in the future.
  7. Interact with the students on the streets

  8. What you want is raw info from the demographic of people you're hoping to reach (not your own youth group kids). Try bus stops, skateparks, and malls. Trade them a can of soda for a completed survey.
  9. Research the community stats and history

  10. Spend time researching the community. You may be pretty familiar with the demographics of your community. But, consider filling in any gaps in your knowledge. Check out census statistics, political structures, economic status, social-cultural background, and any stats on the religious climate.
  11. Prepare a Community and Gap analysis

  12. It seems that many youth workers are not usually administratively minded. It's OK. But what you need to do after collecting all this data is to sit down and compile all the research you have accumulated into one document. This way, you have a way to filter your ideas, and to present your research to others.
  13. Collect and print your findings

  14. Once you have a collection of your thoughts and research, take time to revisit the people you met with before and show them the information you have collected about the community. In doing this you will demonstrate that you are interested in being a youth culture expert in their community. Doing so expands the possibilities of getting buy-in from those in the community. They also may be able to point out errors in your findings.
  15. Pray over the felt and perceived needs

  16. By the end of this process you will have a good idea of what is happening in your community and what is probably missing, as well. Where is the right place for you to devote your time and resources? Where is God directing you?
  17. Plan on what your involvement will look like.

  18. Only now is it time to begin planning on how exactly you are going to address the specific needs you now know exist in your community. Look for obstacles, budget concerns, and timetables. Have several plans.
  19. Put your plan to action

  20. You can't plan forever. Get out there and make it happen.

Sound complicated? It's not easy, that's for sure. But if you are truly seeking to effectively meet the needs of the teenagers in your community, you owe it to them (and to yourself) to be armed with the right information. Wasting your time and energy meeting a need that may not even really exist is the last thing anyone wants. By approaching the needs of the teenagers in your community using these 10 steps, you will be in an excellent position to mobilize resources to meet the needs of those teenagers outside of the influence of the church.

Share your thoughts with the youthministry360 community:

  • How does your youth ministry reach the unchurched youth in your community?

About the Author

Danny Ferguson

Danny Ferguson works for Youth For Christ/Youth Unlimited in the Greater Vancouver area of British Columbia, Canada. He has over 15 years of youth ministry experience and has spent the last 7 years involved in urban community youth work. He keeps a blog of youth culture and stories from his ministry at and he loves being married to April.

join the conversation

Please Note: we moderate all of our comments before they are published to ensure readers the best possible experience.


If you want to implement a plan like this, contact me. I'd love the chance to interact with you through the process.
by: Danny Ferguson September 17, 2010 11:57 am
I just recently acted on the calling for the youth ministry at my church. i have no experience or formal training in this but am just trying to do what God has called me to do. As of now we really dont have much of a youth outreach or attendance. I could really use some input and guidance in this endeavor. please contact me with any help or input reguarding this. thank you
by: Stephen Scott October 12, 2010 1:32 pm
Stephen, First off, congrats on taking a huge step of obedience. God always equips those He calls; you've answered the call so now it's time to trust that He will equip :). One of the best things I can tell you is to reach out to other youth workers in your area, or surrounding communities. It has been my experience that most youth workers will gladly take time to shepherd someone in your shoes. I would also take some time to browse through the ym360 Blog; many of our posts are written by youth ministry veterans and contain a ton of great and practical insight. I always recommend a few books to new youth workers that I believe are helpful in getting started. I would read "Purpose Driven Youth Ministry" and "First Two Years In Youth Ministry" by Doug Fields. I would also highly recommend "Simple Student Ministry" by Eric Geiger and Jeff Borton. There are a lot of great resources on line, including the articles at,, and the resources at And always make sure the Bible is the foundation for all you do. Youth ministry is hard work, but it is immensely rewarding. Stay in touch and let us know how it's going.--Andy@ym360
by: andy@ym360 October 12, 2010 1:55 pm
Stephen, Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries is the best book on youth ministry I have ever read. Dare2Share has also been a valuable website. Jeff
by: Jeff December 23, 2010 11:33 pm
This is AWESOME!!! I run a couple of weekly outreach programs in my community and I've quickly learned that KNOWING your community before you start planning things is key. There are a lot of great outreach ideas floating around but they won't all work in your community. Get to know your peeps. That's the first step. Love the survey idea too! Youth want to be heard. Offer them a listening ear and they'll give you the info you're looking for. I plan on sharing this with the pastors in my community. Great stuff!!
by: Sara September 18, 2010 11:00 am
Glad I can help Sara. Let me know how it goes when you present it to the pastors in your community.
by: Danny Ferguson September 19, 2010 12:24 am
I appreciate your recommendation. I really have a passion for interacting with those that wouldn't even dream of going to church. Let me know if I can be of further help to you on this.
by: Danny Ferguson September 19, 2010 12:25 am
I enjoyed the article. I really thought the "soda for a survey" was interesting. Overall, I think serving is the key. When you show up a a local public school with cold Gatorades and fresh fruit for the football team, often this opens the door for dialogue with students. I do, however, wish the youth ministry world would stop using the word, "un-churched". It implies the need for students to get connected and "be like our churched kids". I know several students that attend church whom I would not want "lost" kids to emulate. I think we need to come up with a new word, such as...DISCONNECTED. I am encouraged by your passion to reach students! I think I will try some of these. Good Blog!
by: David Kennedy September 20, 2010 1:17 pm
Danny, I appreciate your work in reaching teenagers in the community. How did you decide the specific needs of youth in your community that you would address? What new partnership opportunities have you found through assessing your community and implementing an action plan?
by: Kevin Boer November 4, 2010 12:04 pm