A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a pastor once told me that every youth meeting and activity should have a purpose. Certainly, sometimes the purpose is simply fellowship. Other times, we are focused on inviting guests and assimilating new people into the youth group. But do we have activities that allow our students to reach beyond themselves and impact others for the sake of the gospel?

Truly, a youth group cannot thrive without service. Therefore, we as youth pastors and youth leaders must be purposeful about how we enable our students to serve. But where do we start?
Well, the biggest thing is to reach out! Start with what is close to you and your students and then broaden your horizons. Here are just a few ideas for how your youth group can reach out for outreach:

Your Local Church
• Ask Church Members – Are there any needs among your congregants? Does a single mom need her yard mowed? Does a widow need help laying down mulch? Consider placing a survey among your church members and coordinate teams of teens to accomplish each task. There are certainly needs within our church, so have the teens start there.
• Schedule a Church Clean Up Day – When was the last time you actually mopped or swept the youth room? Has the ministry bus ever been washed? What about that mysterious cobweb in the church bathroom? Or the prop closet that time forgot? Organize a day to have the teens come together and care for the property God has blessed them with.
• Get Students Involved in Weekly Church Ministries – Our teens must know they are not an offshoot of the church. No, they are a part of the church! Nothing solidifies this truth more than having teens serve on a Sunday morning and owning their ministry role. Our students can usher, volunteer in nursery/junior church, serve coffee, run the slides, assist in the sound booth, etc. Even though they are young, teens can be contributors to the church rather than just consumers.
Your Community
• Volunteer – Within your community are various organizations (Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity), homeless shelters, assisted living centers, etc. that are focused on helping the “least of these.” And many of these facilities are eager for help! Do a quick Google search, find an organization that best fits your group, and schedule your youth to serve! There is a unique ministry lesson that only occurs when teens come face to face with the needs of their community.
• Visitation – Our church has a scheduled visitation time twice a week to focus on following up on guests and ministering to church members. This is a perfect time for our teens to minister and experience the mission of our church firsthand. Gather all the teens up, split them into groups, and go visit! Certainly, use your discretion on who visits where. We like to send out teen groups to different shut-ins who just need extra encouragement, which the students awesomely provide!
• Public School Outreach – This definitely is a whole other blog post. But research organizations like Lifewise, Release Time, and First Priority. Imagine starting a teen-led Bible study in your local public school…it’s more than possible!

The Body of Christ
• Schedule a Missions Outreach – Certainly, I believe we should start our youth group outreach by addressing the needs close to home. But there is also something special about getting away, serving in a unique environment, and seeing a different angle on ministry. Since becoming a youth pastor, my goal has been to schedule an annual outreach where our teens leave home and go to serve and love on another church. Last year, we helped run a Family Fun Day at an older church that has been revitalized, and this summer we plan to serve at a new church plant in Kentucky. The goal is not merely a fun overnight trip, but an opportunity to get our students face to face with serving for the sake of the Gospel. Think big! Where could you and your students go to help and learn?

These ideas are not nearly as important as the principle…Teens need to serve! Students, much like us, can so easily get caught up in routine and become watchers from the stands rather than players in the game. Put your teens in the game and watch God work! When teens serve, you see them grab hold of the mission (THE GREAT COMMISSION), connect deeper with their peers, develop as leaders, and own their faith.

So, personal question time for us all – what opportunities are you creating for your teens to serve? Christ Himself saw service as so crucially important that He placed it as His reason for coming to this earth.

Matthew 20:28 – Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

May we follow the precedent our Savior set! Reach out for outreach!