Many youth ministries are in decline and dying. Yes, there are cycles, ups and downs, and seasons, but there are some that are just plain dying. Some due to the reasons in my last post.
If you’re one of the youth pastors whose youth group is in decline, I feel for you. I’ve been there and it’s not your fault. Well, it’s mostly not your fault, your church probably carries most of the blame, but I can’t let you off the hook. I don’t know how hard you have tried, how much you complained versus how much action you’ve taken. That being said, let’s believe you’ve done your best and not put any extra burden upon you.
You could be one of those youth groups whose experiencing decline but your church is not. It’s hard to reverse church culture but you can make some changes that would impact your youth group culture.
The first of the nine ways to revive your dying youth ministry is to change the way you and they think about youth group.
Stop begging kids to bring their friends
…and speak to their responsibilities as believers.
Begging (telling them too much) kids to bring their friends lowers the standard of the youth ministry. You’re better than that. Your program is probably better than that. Can you imagine a restaurant begging people to eat at it? The food should speak for itself and make people want to come.
You have to start believing you have a youth program worth coming to that embraces the title of Church. Ask your kids not to invite kids to a program or an event, but into a community called the Body of Christ.
If these kids say they’re Christians, treat them as such and remind them they are not under any obligation to bring friends to Christ because you ask them to, but because they are under God’s mandate to share what Christ is doing in them with others.
Stop calling your youth group a youth group
…and start calling them the church, the Body of Christ, the hands and feet of Jesus.
The previous article I wrote had a quote from a larger post bemoaning all the other activities kids had rather than church. There have always been other choices for kids, even if it was just staying home. Kids will always have choices,
The only way to combat the attitude that your meeting is just one of many meetings is to establish the identity of your meeting. You may even have to change the way your meeting is done to reflect this new identity placing value on meeting needs, praying for one another, etc. rather than the entertainment value of your meeting.
Stop trying to keep kids who would’t show up if Jesus Himself was preaching
… and invest in the kids who want to be there and develop their gifts, talents, and abilities a well as deepen their walk with Christ. If you are not willing to lose some kids, you’ll never gain any.
Who are the biggest fans of what what you have going on? Get their opinion and input on what the program should look like and where it should be heading. You can’t carry the load of leadership by yourself. The kids you involve in leadership and servanthood, will be the greatest benefactors of the changes they make.
I am not saying you should ignore kids who are not their as much, but we shouldn’t be wringing our hands either. Too much time spent on kids who don’t care about what’s going on their involvement in it, is time away from kids who do. Look who Jesus spent most of his time with, it worked out pretty well.
Stop babying them
…and start leading them
Jesus lost them, gained them, and lost them again (short term) because his teaching was “too hard for them” What Jesus was teaching wasn’t too hard, it was too hard for them. They left Jesus because they did not want to put the work in to understand.
Yes, there is a time for milk and meat, and you have to balance that. There is a time to be loud and a time to whisper. Your teaching style might have to change in order to accommodate a new mindset.
I’m not say we should put kids down or berate them, I am saying we need to focus on things that will help them mature. For our youth ministry it’s missions trips both local and abroad that have been the kick start to maturity. The kids who have attended our missions trips have a much better perspective about the world around them and can handle weekly responsibilities. Yes, they still do immature things, but they are trending upward.
Find what it is for your group that develops that maturity and what is the vision they need to internalize it. What makes “growing up” in these moments so important? To them? To the ministry you lead?
Stop complaining about what your youth group is not
… and start praising it for what it is. Too many youth workers have loser limp. The minute you have to start justifying things by saying “Well at least…” the march toward losing has begun.
Star being optimistic. Talk about what you see happening, the progress that is being made and the bright spots. Tell stories about students who are making progress and growing in their faith not about the people who are not there.
A positive attitude will not change your group, but it will change your attitude and that is a big step towards changing other things.
Successful people maintain a positive focus in life no matter what is going on around them. They stay focused on their past successes rather than their past failures, and on the next action steps they need to take to get them closer to the fulfillment of their goals rather than all the other distractions that life presents to them. – Jack Canfield
Don’t forget to grab my 7 Secrets of a Successful Youth Ministry because I know you want to lead well.