When the Personality of Your Youth Group Changes: Living Out the Fruit of the Spirit

Every group has a personality of its own. Your text group chats. Your slow-pitch softball team. Your game-night friends. Even your youth group has a personality. 

The ethos of your youth group may include inside jokes, rhythms of relationships and conversation with students, and a shared vulnerability. But due to the time-bound nature of our ministries, a youth group’s personality will periodically change—sometimes in a dramatic upheaval! 

Recently, I messaged our children’s director to ask how many students she expected to move from the children’s ministry to youth ministry at the end of the year. I had 17 names in front of me, just from the 6th grade alone. Our group was about to increase by more than 30%! 

Aside from the various practical concerns, this growth also raises important questions about how to best integrate these new students into a group with a definite culture. One of the most powerful ways youth ministers can ensure the gospel is made clear to students is to help students embody the gospel in the group’s personality. 

A Fruitful Community 

Perhaps the most thorough guiding text for navigating a changing group dynamic is Galatians 5. Here, Paul outlines what a community living by the Spirit should look like:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things are no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” 

Galatians 5:22-23

I want to offer a way for youth ministers to think through how our groups’ personalities might embody this fruit—even when they see upheaval in the wake of graduations, youth group growth, renovations, and other factors outside of our control. 

Welcome with Love, Joy, and Kindness

As Sam Alberry and Ray Ortlund have pointed out in their recent book Youre Not Crazy, the work of welcoming embodies the gospel in a powerful way. 

Indeed, Romans 15 instructs the church that we should welcome others just as Christ has welcomed us. As Alberry and Ortlund write, “The gospel, it turns out, is divine hospitality.” 

For our youth groups with their ever-changing personalities, this means that the way we welcome students each week is our group’s first opportunity to live out the gospel. The welcome of a greeting, an invitation to sit together, the youth pastor opening the worship time, and a small group, are examples of where the youth group’s personality will be most evident. Youth ministers should strive to embody spirit-filled fruit in these welcomes.


In Paul’s list, the fruit of love, joy, and kindness most clearly help us connect the gospel to this work. A group that welcomes with kindness will seek out the student who feels most alone and most out of place. This group will seek to demonstrate the kindness of our Savior who seeks and saves the lost. 


A group that welcomes with joy will stand as an alternative to the cynical, self-serving, and sarcastic groups that likely mark much of what students find in their schools, clubs, and teams. This joy might appear artificial to some, but if it is drawing from the well of the gospel, it will be the natural response of experiencing the overflow of God’s grace. Gospel joy will find its way into our tones of voice, our excitement for whatever we are doing that night, and celebration of others’ successes. 


Lastly, a group that welcomes in love will demonstrate a vulnerability and grace that counters students’ worst fears about being alone, embarrassed, or misunderstood. Rather than finding a group committed to maintaining their insider-culture or looking cool, students entering your ministry will find a group that is tight-knit yet ready to welcome others. 

Commission to Peace, Patience, and Gentleness 

When a group personality changes, one of the largest challenges a youth minister has to overcome is the idea that new students are “intruders.” The high school guys will be annoyed when the new middle school boys throw a football through their basketball game. The high school girls will be frustrated by how loud the new kids are.

The new students entering into an established group personality will be desperate to not embarrass themselves in front of others. In these moments, it will be important for youth leaders to be proactive in commissioning students in the work of ministry marked by the fruit of the Spirit.


Commissioning students to peace will mean encouraging them to actively seek peace when games don’t go their way or comments hurt someone’s feelings. For each of our students, these small and consistent examples of peacemaking will go a long way in establishing a personality that embodies gospel brotherhood and reconciliation.


Commissioning students to patience will perhaps be the most difficult. A large influx of new people, especially young ones, can radically upend a comfortable environment. Students’ patience will wear thin. When this happens, remind them that they once were the new kids who tested other’s patience. Ask them, “What would you have benefitted from when you were their age?” 

Most basically, this should almost always look like the older or more established students being the first to welcome new students in, taking an active interest in them, and being patient as they find their way in the group.


All that goes into adjusting to a new group dynamic requires gentleness. Our Lord Jesus Christ himself described his own heart as gentle. When the frustration or fear of a changing group personality arises, encourage students to be open to the change, welcoming to others, and dying to self to honor others. In doing so, they will embody the gospel and the very heart of Jesus. 

Model Goodness, Faithfulness, and Self-Control 

Goodness, faithfulness, and self-control are three different virtues that circle the same a common idea: our lives should be a living testament to the reality that we trust Jesus Christ as our Savior. Teaching our students to model these virtues helps them to to have others “Follow [them] as [they] follow Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1, NIV).  

If students model goodness, they will teach others to be forces of good in their spheres of influence, just as Jesus Christ healed and cared for those he came near. If students model faithfulness, they will teach others that trusting God in the face of difficulties and temptations is the path to abundant life, just as Jesus Christ faced down these same realities yet without sin. If they model self-control, students will teach others that offering ourselves over to God in obedience is where they will find true happiness, just as Jesus Christ always singularly focused on serving God. 

Against These Things There is No Law 

Lord willing, the personality of the Church is most fundamentally defined by the reality that we are a people who have been rescued by the grace of God alone. It is the duty of each local church and ministry to remove anything that stands in the way of its members clearly embodying the gospel in their life, words, and actions. 

Therefore, any Christian group’s personality should be defined by the fruit of the Spirit in its own unique way. It cannot be said that a youth group is defined by the grace of God in the power of the Holy Spirit while also filled with jealousy, malice, and pride.

Rather, to acknowledge that, “against these things [the fruit of the Spirit] there is no such law,” is to live into the reality that a group defined by the gospel will include every fruit of the Spirit. These groups will promote unbounded freedom to love and serve others with exuberant joyfulness, in-exhaustive patience, consistent gentleness, and an overwhelming goodness, such that students behold the wonderful realities of the peace the gospel brings and the abundant life of faithfulness that comes with it. 

If we teach our students to embody these fruits, we will teach them the gospel. The gospel will manifest itself in a wonderful diadem of glories that teach everyone who graces the doors of our ministries that we belong to Jesus. 

To learn more about gospel-centered youth ministry, consider joining us for our 2024 Rooted Conference in Dallas, TX.

Skyler is an associate pastor over family discipleship at Grace Bible Church in Oxford, Mississippi, as well as the associate program director at The Keller Center for Cultural Apologetics. Skyler earned an M.Div. from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL. He's now working toward his Ph.D. in theology at the University of Aberdeen. His wife, Brianna, is originally from Memphis, TN, and they have two children: Beatrice and Lewis. Skyler has served on the Rooted Steering Committee since 2021.

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