Help! No One Is Showing Up To My Events

no one showed up-edit

Guest post today from my friend and blogger Ryan Latham. I hate when kids don’t show up for stuff. it makes me feel bad but it also makes me think “What could I have donee better?” That is where Ryan comes from today. We can all make our events a little better, if we thought like a parent, made our stuff more easy to find, and planned our stuff out better. Check it out and tell us what you think. 

Think like a parent:

  • How much will youth ministry cost for my student(s) to be involved?
  • When should our family plan vacation so we don’t miss YM events?
  • Parents are used to how the school districts communicate.  Schools are very much the same every year and the calendars are
  • published on the school and/or district websites (easily found) a year in advance.
  • As a parent of four kids, if they come home and say that they have a YM event that costs $50 each and it is this weekend, the answer is “no, we can’t afford that.”  If we know about it ahead of time we can plan and prepare and the answer is “yes.”
  • The youth ministry is not the only thing that kids are involved in.  Parents are trying to juggle school, church, sports, family, and other schedules all at once.
  • Most parents need to turn in vacation time 6-12 months ahead of time.

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”  Alan Lakein

12 months loose: At this point you should have all of your major events on the calendar.  You may not have all of the details but you can write down “missions trip” even if you don’t know where it is at this point. Note: It is vital that you have the school district(s) calendar(s) in front of you while you plan. Don’t unknowingly plan a big event on the night of the high school prom and wonder why people don’t show up. It is also helpful if you can try to think through estimated prices for your major events.  It may be that students want to be there but it is just too expensive for them.  You can also see if your calendar is too full.  Maybe you have too many events back to back, or maybe you don’t have enough events.  Legendary youth pastor Jeanne Mayo says that often we lose newly saved students because they don’t have anything to do in the church.  She says, “He who wins is the one who spends the most time.” Turn this calendar in to your supervisor for approval.  This will help the church know when youth ministry events are and hopefully avoid your event being canceled because you didn’t get it approved ahead of time.

  • Sermon ideas
  • Big group of leaders help with ideas
  • Let’s talk about dating in February for four weeks with a big event around Valentine’s Day.

For information about how to lead a planning retreat with your team please read my post, “leading a summer review retreat.”

Leading a Summer Review Retreat

6 months outlined: For all your major events you should now have planning meetings set up, due dates, fundraisers, and promotional material planned.  This is also a good time to start assigning roles to your key volunteers.

  • Sermon topics
  • A medium group of leaders help with topics
  • February 5,12,19,26 we will talk about “Dating Without Mating” and on Feb 12th we will do “the dating game” illustration.

6 weeks detailed: You will want to plan which nights need creative elements and what type at this point. I know that most of us are writing sermons the night before we speak, but the more detail we can give our team ahead of time the more they can help find resources and material for our late night planning.

  • Sermon outlines
  • A small group helps with sermons
  • Dating Without Mating
    • Feb. 5, “Are you dateable?”
    • Feb. 12, “When healthy + healthy = unhealthy”
    • Feb. 19, “What Lady Gaga didn’t tell you.”
    • Feb. 26, “What happens when IT happens.”

With this much information you and your team can find dramas and other creative elements.

Evernote/Google Drive: These are great tools to help get your team involved in the creative process.  Read my post to help maximize your team’s involvement. [] Make your calendar information easy to find: We live in a world where if people can’t find your calendar within five minutes and three clicks it doesn’t exist.  We must make sure that our online information is easy to find and UP TO DATE!  I have often tried to find information about a YM only to find that their calendar is six to twelve months outdated.

“Frustrated people don’t usually ask for help; they just stop trying.” – Aaron Helman of

What is your plan or strategy to get more kids to show up for your events this fall?

What is your greatest frustration about failed events or about yourself in the planning of those events?

Don’t miss our whole week of Summer School for Youth Workers as we discuss Fall Planning. Check out yesterdays “class” HERE




5 Intangibles Every Youth Pastor Should Bring To The Planning Table


If you’re a rookie leader and you’re looking up the word “intangibles”, that’s o.k..,  I‘ll wait. I don’t think I knew what intangibles were either during my first few years of being the lead planner. I knew what curriculum were. I knew what calendars were. I knew what forms and paper work were, but many times I was woe-fully unprepared to lead my team. I knew I was lacking something. something I couldn’t see Intangibles are immeasurable qualities that our team needs us to have at the planning table.  As I grew, as a leader, I discovered what I needed to bring to the planning table. .

1. Patience

No matter how great our ideas are, we have to be patient and we must share our plan/vision with patience. Be patient with your team. They may have lot’s of questions like “Why are we changing?” and  “Where are we going to find the money for that?”. Try making a list of every questions you think you might get form your team and have an answer for it. Don’t be offended by the questions, use them to make the planning process even more useful. Patience, rather than harshness, will deliver the outcome you desire.

2. Humility

I participated in an in depth, year long, leadership program and, as many young men do, I thought I knew everything. I was the paid guy and everyone else was not. After both God and man humbled me and I got a clue that humility was the way forward to accomplishing our goals. I learned a few new phrases that helped in the planning process like, “What do you all think?” and “I have an idea, but I’m not sure…”. In other words, although I may have the best idea or the most experience at the table, I did not have to always show it.

3. Simplicity

I can complicate micro-waving popcorn. No kidding,  I can. That is why I need to bring simplicity to the planning table. I left my charts and graphs behind and started telling stories. Stories, unlike charts and grafts, are simple. Stories engage. Take your plan or vision and present it like a 30 second commercial. Ask your team to “Imagine this…”. Get your teams brains thinking in story mode and stay away from complicated mission statements, model charts, and paper work. Keep your plan/vision to one sheet of paper.

4. Confidence (not arrogance) 

Did God call you to where you are? Have you done your homework? Have you put in the time? Worked hard? Came early and stayed late? If you have, then bring that confidence to the planning table. Share what God has put on your heart. Confidence is more than bravado, it’s deeper than that. Confidence is not loud it’s quiet and sure. Need a confidence boost before your meeting?Pray and realize that God has placed you at the table “for such a time as this.”. Confidently share the plan you have and those around the table will put their confidence in you.

5. Be Flexible

You may have a good idea, maybe even a great idea, and your team may not buy into it, in fact, they may even hate it. I have fought and died on many hills not worth dying on for bad ideas. Telling the difference between these hills is critical to the success of your planning session. Decide ahead of time what your “flex points” are and what points you need to stay firmly planted on. Treat your planning meeting like Game Day, get your game face on, and walk in looking for a win-win situation and you will have a great fall planning meeting.

Would you like more training? Check out my Summer School For Youth Workers Series

3 Tip For Visiting Youth Group Guests



 I told my son the other day I was making a house visit to one of our guests. He gave me the impression that personal visits were passe’ in our digital age. His only response was “Why?”. Thus this post.

I have made two videos about visiting guests. Here is the first video where I am  preparing to visit a Jr. High boy..

Here are my 3 Tips for making hime visits

1. Take someone with you

In both of these visitation cases, I brought the students who brought the guests. i did this so the person we were visiting would be most comfortable when I, a sorta stranger, showed up. This alos gives you time to spend with some of your youth group kids. I usually schedule the visit around a meal time so I can take those who join me for lunch.

2. Make the gift you bring  of value 

The bag I brought had $5 worth of stuff in it. I did not include i-tumes cards etc. because that would be like asking your first date if they would like to get married. A pricey gift could embarrass a kid, so I keep it simple and personable.

3. Respect boundaries

I never expect a guest to invite me into their home. Most of what we are there to do can be don on the porch. I also respect a students time. I am there to do 3 things

1. Thank them for coming

2. Connect in personal conversation

3. Give them a reason to come back.

A normal visit for me is about 5-7 minutes and the bonus blessing is getting to meet the parents. That will be another post.

Here is my newest video, where I visit a Senior High girl. It was a great visit. Watch all the way to the end to find out why. Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE


How about you? Do you do home visits? Are they passe’ in this digital age?

Do you bring some goodies with you? If so? What do you give them?

I would love to hear your thoughts so leave a comment below.

Summer School For Youth Workers: How To Get Your Youth Group Energized And Growing

summer-school-lessonsToday’s lesson idea is brought to you by my fellow Alabamian Samuel Colesgrove, and the class he would take right now is How Do I Grow And Energize My Group.

Great question, Onward.

Class Notes

Whenever I have gotten in trouble with by base of students, kids who are already coming, is when I leave them out of the planning process. We all assume (and that in itself is an assumption) that the students we pastor want the youth group to grow and this is not always true. Many youth groups and churches are perfect fine with the :”us four, no more” policy. And that’s probably how many kids they’ll eventually wind up with every week, 4.

One of my biggest mistakes was doing a bus ministry without a broader base of buy in. Just because it is a good idea and it furthers the gospel does not mean we just barge in and do it at any cost even if no one supports it. That works, if you do no work in the church-world or any other business for that matter. The goal is to find what our kids do care about, see if it lines up with what God is doing, and then do that. Unpacking our ideas suitcase and then trying to sell them is equivalent to a snake oil salesman riding through a town looking for suckers. There’s a better way.

4 Programming Launch Tips

1. Don’t launch until you’ve listened to, not necessarily agreed with, all the ideas. Let your kids speak up and help create what ever your idea is. Play stupid and and say, “Guys, I think this might work, but…I don’t know, what do you think?” Have a pad and pen ready.

2. Don’t launch until you have a broad(er) base of support from parents students, and your pastor. If you can get 60% buy in go ahead. You’ll attract some of the other 40% and the rest will just complain, but they complain about everything. You can read an article I wrote about a Collaboration Class I took HERE

3. Don’t launch until God says go. That is not to over-spiritualize the process, but timing is everything and God knows the time you should launch.


1. Give your kids 3×5 cards and let them share what they would like to do for an outreach, small group, etc. Let them share anonymously if they want to.

2. Let the kids take the ideas and put them in three piles “Do-able”, “Do-able with some work” and “Not Do-able, at the moment, unless…”

3. Let the kids take the Ideas in the do-able pile and arrange them by categories (outreach, discipleship, etc) or in order of importance (this is what we need now)

4. Ask your students,

“Which of these ideas can we do next month?”

“Is this just for us or is this for others outside the church?”

“To do this I will need your help, what role do you want in making this happen?”

If the idea is an outreach, use the free Get The Word Out Form on the freebies page.

5. Have prayer and manage the commitments made.

6. Watch my You Tube video on how I am getting my kids engaged and it may give you some ideas.

How are you energizing your students to be part of the programming process?

What youth ministry class, if offered right now, would sign up for?

I would love to hear your comments, so please leave yours below.

That’s it. Class dismissed.

On to Lesson 4: Communicating With Parents Beyond What Time and Where


Summer School For Youth Workers: Equipping Parents To Lead


Class Notes

Good morning class. Yesterday  we covered the topic Teens in Crisis and I hope you did your homework, well, at least George Lynch did. Thanks George, you get a gold star. The rest of you: I’ll see you after class.

Today’s topic comes from Craig Fullerton, and we are looking at the issue of parents. Let me break down the situation, in a  humorous and slightly serious way, take notes

How Parents See Us : Youth Pastors “work’ at my church. They are pad to “run” my youth program. If I disagree with said program or preaching, I can say “boo” and you should stop  what you are doing.

How We See Ourselves: I am like Keanu Reeves in Constantine, I slay demons and parents. I work in God’s church. I defend the program from any and all enemies who threaten it.

Funny or not, this is too often the narrative and if we are going to make any real progress, everyone has to do their part, and it starts with us changing our attitude towards parents.

Parents Are Not The Enemy

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

We probably spend way to much time alone, in an office, wondering what our “enemies” are doing and plotting and not enough time bringing the life of Christ to hurting people. O.k… maybe that’s just the way I used to be. Now, I try to spend less time in the office and more time connecting by visiting parents in their homes, work, etc and involving them to the degree they can be involved. If we spend more time taking the fight to the “darkness”, we won’t be spending our time building bunkers around our youth program waiting for it to show up.

Home Work

1. Call, Google, research other youth ministries and how they are equipping parents to be parents rather than facilitators of our programs.

Here is one link and another

2. Redefine your parent meeting, 90% of the time our meetings are informational. How you we go from an informing to an equipping meeting? Better still, stop having meetings. How would you answer this question: If you were never allowed to have another parent “meeting” how would you equip/inform them?

3. Write down 10 things you are not happy with about your parents. Now, write down the opposite or the way you would like to see your parents. Now, look at your calendar and decide how you can start to turn  it around with out having a meeting. Make it a year long endeavor instead of a quick fix.

That’s it. Class dismissed. Leave your homework in the comments section.

On to Lesson 3 : How To Get Your Group Energized and Growing


3 Program Prep Ideas From A Recovering Procrastinator


To my YouTube Subscribers, here is your free cartoon to use as you please.  For those who are not subscribers, watch my show The Tuesday Panic below and then download the cartoon. 


As I say in the title, I was a pretty bad procrastinator. I would leave things to the last minute and then cry about the fact that I had no time. That wasn’t true. I had all the time in the world and I “wasted it”. We’re all given 24 hours in a day and we have to use them wisely. Here are a few preparation tips I live by:

1. Make a template of what your youth meeting will look like. 

Create a template or worksheet you fill out every week with the elements you most normally plug in (Games, Worship, Communion, etc.) to your mid-week meeting or bible study. If you know you are doing a series on friendship you can plan your four weeks of “get to know you games” already.  A template is only a guide and not a god. If you feel like the program needs to change mid-meeting, change it, but at least you had something to change.

2. Prepare your message first. 

Some argue about which comes first the chicken or the egg. Others ask what comes first, the scripture or the idea. Some have an idea and then look for scripture to back that up. I believe, that if we are well read in the scriptures, an idea will line up with what we already know, we only need to re-read the text and make sure we are literally “on the same page” with God. If you get your message down, the rest of the meeting can all fall apart if need be. Games can flunk, the worship can sound awful, and the tech can stop working but if the message is bad, in my opinion, the rest of the night  was a waste.

3. Take care of the details

My details may not be your details, but the small details matter. My details inlcude

a) Print off attendance sheets

b) Make sure I the offering baskets are near by

c) Make sure I have e-mailed my notes to my IPad

If I forget any of these, it seems to get me started on the wrong foot because instead of greeting guest and making small talk I am at the copy machine making copies or consumed with my computer instead of making eye contact and engaging with our teens. Preparation isn’t just a want to it’t have to if you desire to be effective and not distracted.

If you get past procrastinating, you won’t have to watch videos like the one make every week for those who do procrastinate, it will be a luxury.

care of to be confident in your program?

Are you a procrastinator? Vote below or leave a comment.

How Do I Develop Authentic Relationships With New Kids?

The Social Part of Social Media: A Love Story


The title is a bit long but that is the question your were wondering about wasn’t it? When a new kids comes to our group for a visit there are several wrong first moves, such as
  • Asking them if they would like to be baptized that night in the kiddie pool you used for game
  • Saying things like “I hope you stay because this group is dying.”
  • Sending them stalking messages on Facebook after their visit like “Thanks for coming, Please don’t ever leave us. Thanks.

Feel free to leave your creepy first impressions with new kids below.

In light of this terrible engagement I think this Fantastic article about what a real social media relationship should look like and I found some great parallels between social media relationships and youth ministry relationships.
The infograph breaks it down this way
Your Twitter Feed (and most social media) Is Like A Party
Your Youth Group FB page. Twitter feed, or Blog or where ever you aggregate kids comments is your party. Maybe you’ve posted a picture that needs a caption and a bunch of kids respond. instant party. Maybe a kid who doesn’t go to your group (or any group) comments. Ah, a newbie! What now? This, of course, applies to you your weekly meetings as well as your social media meetings.
Make Your First Impression A Lasting One
In the article I mention above, they show an example of a guy tweeting out about a steak house meeting him at the airport with a stack. To his surprise, they did. He was already a fan, they did not have to sell him on their steaks, they just wanted to, in my churchy vernacular, wanted to bless him. Do you look for ways to bless your new  or current kids based on their comments on social media? If a kid posts they feel like they could eat a pizza, would you ring up a pizza joint and place an order and send it them? Yep, I just thought that up. It’s going to happen. Find ways to “bless” a comment, even if it’s just a “like”.
Keep The Conversation Going
I have seen many guest strategies for keeping, retaining, (choose a word) new guests to our youth group or church. Part of this is keeping the conversation going. If a new kid comes t our group, I make friends with them on the Social Media of their choice and send them a message thanking them for coming. That’s it. Unless they comment back. Then  I feel I have permission to engage and invite them to an upcoming event, etc. It’s good rule of thumb to wait for permission other wise we are become spammy youth pastors pushing events rather than youth pastors who really want to help, serve, and build relationships.
Seal The Deal With A Personal Gesture
A personal gesture is if welcomed after a few contacts or visits with a new kid. Offer a gesture too soon and it looks like you are “too interested”. It would be like offering a dozen roses on the first date. Or saying, “I wrote this book for you.” Too soon. So, what can you do? Based on the permission factor, and getting to know them a little, you could send them a link to a funny video saying, “I thought you would like this” or maybe a funny meme based on something they said or one of their favorite movies. The gesture does not need to be big it just needs to be personal.
You’re Both Only Human 
Mistakes will happen. You may make an awkward comment or you may chime in on something that is none of your business. You’ve built up to this moment through permission contact, building relationship, and offering gestures. We do all this, first of all, because we want to show the love of God. But the love of God is not spammy. It’s natural and so is making mistakes. Take care of the former and you will get a pass for the latter.
Don’t Let The Love Fade After The Honeymoon
If your guest comes back a few more times, make sure to include them somehow in the fabric of your youth ministry. We have a wall of fame filled with pictures of past and present members. I was tempted to take down a few pictures because some kids do not attend any more, but just because they do not attend any more does not mean their time here was useless or worth forgetting. Every kids who comes in our group leaves a footprint for good or bad. If that kid made a contribution in word or deed, include them in the ethos of your group. Maybe they only came to camp with your group or a missions trip. Remind them of that time and let them know it was a good time. Maybe post a picture of the event on their wall and say “Remember this?”.
Building relationships does not come easy to everyone but if you’ll if you give it your best shot, it will pay off.
Your Turn :
What does your strategy for welcoming and integrating new kids?
Have you mad mistakes? What were they?
Have you made some cool personal gestures? What were they?
Share away!
Off Topic: I started a new training series on my You Tube channel called Nights Of The Round Table. Come by and give it a watch and don’t forget to like and subscribe to keep up with it. Thanks.

Youth Camp Tip #5 : Three Ways To Follow Up With New Commitments

Youth Camp AdivceDay $

How come we spend so much time getting ready for camp but very little time on the follow up after camp? This is a question I’ve asked youth workers for years. We love to talk about camp and the camp experience and all God does in the lives of our kids, but I am thinking we count way too much on the “mountain top experiences” to carry our kids to Christian maturity; this is why I offer a few tip to get us all ready to disciple our kids after camp.

1. Create accountability partners 

For those kids who do make a commitment or recommitment to Christ, why not set up an adult to check in with them once a week to see how their commitment is going. You could also pair up more mature Christian teens to walk with new believers. This helps both teens in their walk with Christ.

2. Offer Them Resources

You may want to offer a small booklet or pamphlet a kid could read or work through themselves. I offer a resource called Get Healthy that give to my students. The journal offers them ways to get healthy in multiple area of their lives. You could also use material such as this and this 

3. Partner with Parents

Try working out a plan with parents to do the follow up with their own kids if possible. This is the best strategy and most fruitful way a teen can grow i their faith and grow closer to their parents as well.  I posted a few tips to help parents with the post camp experience called What To Expect When Your Teen Comes Home From Camp.


Also, check out: God, What’s Your Status: 21 Days Through John


For more camp posts check out

Youth Camp Game Ideas

Discipline At Camp 

Getting Your Campers To Bed

Sharing Devotions At Camp 


How do you follow up with your students post camp?  Share your strategy below.



Youth Camp Tip # 4: Four Youth Camp Game Ideas



Since I did not get any feedback on games you all use, that must mean you have no idea what games you are going to play this year. So, I thought I;d help you out with 10 Youth Camp Game Videos you could “borrow” from. Enjoy.


I like the game in this next video. Go to 2:43 and watch the chaos.

I would make a full track using this ideas and then it is game on for all kinds of stuff.

There are about 5-6 really good games on this video.

This is a channel with 10 youth camp videos and more.


Youth Camp Tip #5: Three Ways To Follow Up With New Commitments

Youth Camp Tip #3: Discipline At Camp



Photo Credit

Discipline is no fun, but especially no fun at camp; but sometimes it has to be done. I had a student one time who had signed up for our camp. I did not know the camper very well, but he seemed a bit young to go. I was write. He was too young for this trip. He would wander way from the group and was basically on his own schedule. Here is how I handled it.

First offense: A warning to call his mom.

Second: A call to his mom and let her talk to him.

Third: A second call to his mom with the warning that if I had to call again he would have to go home.

Fourth: Called the mom and asked her to come pick up her son, six hours away.

It worked out fine. All the kids gathered around this kid and sent him off with prayer and well wishes. I don’t think he ever came back to youth group (for a different reason)  but that moment of discipline, with love, was worth it.

Here is what I think this process communicated to the parent

1. I communicated that I loved her son and wanted him to stay

2. I wanted her to be a part of the solution. She knows her son better than I.

3. I wanted to build a track record with the parent about behavior. If I would have told her to come pick up her son on the first call I would have shown that I did not  care.

Here is  a thought from veteran youth worker Greg Schmidt:  The first thing to remember is, you and the kids are representing Christ first, church second, and the rest after that don’t really count lol. JK. I always like to set the bar high and see if they can exceed my expectations. In my 25+ years of student ministry I have seen a lot of teens at camp that have gone home and a whole lot that should’ve went home. The one thing I always did was at the parent mtg. show the parents the guidelines and expectations and let them know if their perfect son or daughter happened to not follow them, THEY (the parents) would be either coming to get them or sending money for bus ticket home. With this I made sure I had the pastor and everyone else on the same page that way when something happens, and it usually did, they won’t be blindsided by an angry parent of a perfect teen.

Discipline is part of discipleship. Don’t shy away from it, even if they don’t thank you for it later.


Youth Camp Tip #4 : Four Youth Camp Games



Don’t forget to read Day 1: Tips For Sharing Devotions At Camp  or Day 2: 3 Ideas To Get Your Campers To Bed