Here is a compilation of helpful youth ministry hacks. They are been curated from my own experiences as well as other youth pastor friends. If you have something to add, mention it in the comments.
Students attract students. Let them promote, teach, lead ministries, and host.
Students know what they like better than youth pastors know. Give students input into your youth group’s physical environment.
When making a decision don’t ask “Will my students like this?” ask “Will my students’ parents like this?”.
Find and cling to a network of other youth pastors in your area. Youth Ministry is too hard to do alone.
Always remember, students are a work in progress. When they mess up, it’s ok. You did too.
Use DYM University to train your leader. It’s hard to have an above average youth ministry with only average volunteers.
When with other youth pastors ask more questions about their ministry than you make statements about yours.
Give your custodians a gift card and thank you after a messy night.
Partner with other youth ministry para-church organizations. They are reaching students you can’t/aren’t.
Get a good travel rewards credit card. Pay for your ministry supplies and trips on it. Then, take a vacation with all the points.
Read something every day. If you’re not learning, you’re not leading.
Buy a cheap drone for camp/retreat. Use it as a way to provide surveillance to cover the campground quickly.
Do background checks for all your volunteers every year. It protects you, your students, and gives confidence to parents. Back Check is an online provider that works with most churches insurance providers.
Realize you’re doing the most important and urgent job in the world. Act like it. Don’t waste time on things that don’t matter.
Fully screen all the videos you ever play at youth group. Watch them through an over-protective parents lens.
Use an app like Schedule Once, Doodle, or Calendy to make appts with leaders and parents. You set the times you’re available throughout the week, they choose the times.
Schedule one day every month for yourself. No meetings, no prep work. Use it to pray, read, reflect.
Email parents every week. Tell them what happened last week and what is happening in the coming weeks.
Use plastic cups, not styrofoam cups, when working w/ youth - they aren't as fun to pick apart & leave the pieces all over the room.
Align your youth ministry vision with the church's vision. You are on the same team.
Pray for your senior pastor every day.
Just because you don’t like lock-ins doesn’t mean students don’t. You’re a youth pastor, don’t be a grinch.
Post on social media while you’re going to the bathroom. It's a sure fire way to make sure you are constantly posting on social media. No one will know.
Buy a deep fryer. You can cook mozza sticks and chicken fingers in 2 minutes!
Get a membership to Download Youth Ministry. You have more important things to do than reinventing the wheel each week.
Rig games. There are certain students who really need a win.
Convince your church to adopt certain tech (Wufoo, Dropbox, Mailchimp, Planning Centre, Buffer, EZ texting...etc) and then use it for youth ministry. That way you get the tech but it doesn’t come off your budget.
Sometimes your church can’t give you a raise, but they can give you more holidays. Ask for that.
Put your phone on “do not disturb” for a couple hours every day. You’ll get more done in those two hours than you will the rest of the day.
Don’t run expensive events very often. Keep events over $20 to 5-6 times/year.
Use Planning Centre Registrations for big events/retreats/camps. It so simple and cheap.
Don’t be afraid to take up tithes/offerings at youth group. You might be a lead pastor one day and those teens will be the giving adults in your congregation.
It’s ok to cancel youth group sometimes, especially if it benefits parents.
Realize your youth ministry isn’t as fragile as you’re making it out to be.
Use a program cheat sheet (like this) to make sure you never drop the ball.
Don’t spend much time on merchandise...it almost never works the way you hope it would.
Give your lead pastor the benefit of the doubt.
Use “Do Not Disturb” on your phone from 9:00pm-8:00am every night/morning.