Breaking Down The "Why?" Question In Our Youth Ministries



I have been reading the book Start With Why By Simone Sinek. The focus of his book is in the title; that people are more about why you do something than what you do or how you do it, so why don’t we start with asking why before we create another ineffective program? I used to think that if I told kids what we did (events, fun, concerts, etc.) and how we did it ( with energy, lots of give aways, food, big crowds) they would be sold, come to the event, and then stick around for a while. Had I stuck to that premise only, I would have left youth ministry a long time ago. The what and the how no longer excite me, but the why is still what has kept me going.

I think most of the kids have stuck with me in the ministry for a while because they know I do not do it for the money, fame, and glory because their isn’t any. They stuck around because I cared about them enough to hang our with them, share the truth with them, and from time to time, discipline them. They figured out that the Why? under current of my life was to see them become fuller followers of Christ while they were under my watch. They knew I was with them for as long as I could be, and I never gave up on them so long as it was within my power.

This does not mean my WHY was not without a few faults. I would slip from time to time back into what we do and how we do it and make that the focus. I would sometimes not do relationships very well, but the kids hung around anyway, God bless’em.

So, how do we take the translate the meaninglessness out of our what and how of youth ministry to give us a compelling story instead of an invitation tag line or bumper for the next video of a  program we’re pushing? I recently re-thought out our worship band and this is my why, what, and how of our youth band. I recently sent this to our band leader.

WHY do we have a band? – This is purely philosophical, but if we cannot answer the why then the what and the how do not matter.

Why do we have a band?

  • Because it allows young people to use heir gifts and talents to glorify God rather than be spectators.
  • Because young people need peers to model what worship is. 
  • Because, if we do not create an atmosphere of worship, with the best that we have, that lifts God high, we will never see students step out in faith and worship God in the fulness of the Spirit. 

Simple right? This is WHAT the band is going to do

1. Practice become worship leaders to their peers to the throne room of God, in band practice.
2. Grow deeper in their individual walk with God because of their commitment to worship
3. Become the best they can be at their instrument and vocals.

More simple, right?  This is HOW we are going to do it: We will

1. Expect them to be at practice and on time. Let’s have a few weeks of grace but the rule in the past is: If you do not practice with the band, you do not play with the band that following week. Let’s stick to that.
2. Create an environment of innovation. No idea is too crazy, no song to stupid, no combination of instruments too ludicrous. In other words, if they have an idea, let them share it, weigh it against the feedback of the rest of the band and what you think; and if it is doable, run with it. This means:

a. If someone has a solo, either instrumentally or vocally let’s figure out how to fit that in (special, offering, communion, closing, etc.)
b. Mentor and challenge kids to step up. Don’t let talented kids hide. Encourage them to step out. Really focus on certain kids to be lead worshippers. Here is a four step process I use when mentoring

I do it you watch (this might mean you show them how to pray out loud, move in the Spirit, etc.)
I do it you help (give them opportunities to do what you just did)
You do it and I watch (take the training wheels off and let them ride, even if they crash, they learn something)
You do it I train someone else ( Once that person has to confidence to do it, let them do it and move on to someone else all the while being available for feedback, etc.)

3. We’re going to bang the drum in all these areas. We will  say it, write it, practice it, show it, paint it, sing it, or any other method that will keep our WHY at the forefront.

4. We will start each practice with a short devotion about worship, more story driven than principle driven but not leaving out either. The devotion will be short with interactive (open ended) questions and we will let kids struggle with the answers to  ”what does this mean for me personally?” and “what does this mean for us as a band and a youth ministry?”

5. Recruit fantastic musicians and singers, from inside and outside the church, to mentor our kids in their instruments and vocals.

That took me about 15 minutes to think through and write out. Feel free to steal it, rework it to make it your own, or come up with your own.

Part II Coming Soon: Steps To Coming Up With Your Why Statement

Living The Dream - Paul Turner

Paul Turner, youth pastor and youth ministry coach/trainer/speakerI’ve written and re-written so may of these, I have decided to try and sum up my ministry in 6 words:

Loves To See Youth Pastors Succeed.

That’s what I’m about. It’s because of my 29 year love affair with God and my 20 year infatuation with youth ministry that I want help you and your youth ministry succeed. Sometimes it takes one good idea, sometimes a few. If I can help you through resources, speaking, or training please do not hesitate to call and ask questions 205-260-7229, tweet me at PaulTurnerToo, or catch me on Facebook.

I've always wanted to be a youth pastor and minster to teens at all levels. Youth pastors, along with camp counselors, have been my heroes. I have been ministering to students now for 20 years and started a free resource sight called The Disciple Project at Come by and say hello.

I live in Birmingham, AL. with my wife and thee great kids, two of which are teenagers.


Great article! I think why is

Great article! I think why is the most important question we can ask. I presented this idea at a youth track a few years ago and no one in the room had a good answer. What and how are easy to answer, but as youth workers we need to be about more than just running programs. Bang that drum loud my friend!

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