A Thousand Ways Your Youth Ministry Can Die (And How To Avoid It)

I saw a post on Facebook from a youth worker, and the opening line was

Honestly, we’re not looking to grow our group; we love our kids and are much more interested in quality of program than number of kids.

I sat stunned in silence for a few minutes. Look at the clock and said, “Time of death 2:35 p.m.” But, the time only marked the beginning of a slow death, like being told you have only months to live except this will take years.

The post continued to share about ask why kids were choosing other activities over youth and how to get parents on board with saying yes to you and no to other stuff.

If a youth ministry is not interesting in growing, by default, it is interested in dying. The call to reach out to others is loud and clear and the call to be mediocre does not live in the the mouth of God.

A youth ministry can die a thousand ways, here’s there of them.

Death by disinterest

How long does it take a kid to be become disinterested in a youth program? Almost immediately if there’s no call to something greater than themselves. A kid will stick around until the fun dries up, if fun is the only thing you’re using to get them there and keep them there.

Over the years I have sped up the time line for getting kids involved in leadership much sooner. Leadership, to me, means allowing a kid to serve and develop their gifts as they go rather than to wait until they “ready”. This process has worked good and has kept kids around much longer.

The old adage I live by is, “If you want someone to show up give them a job”

Death by disruption

The forces of attention are alway pulling at us. The magnetic force of sports, plays, video games, homework, etc. have been at work for a long time and have only increased. Youth programs that are not engaging and fulfilling lack the magnetism to draw kids to it.

Our youth group peaked about a year ago. I can’t get any more from them. The disruption came through home schooled kids getting older and they smiley lacked the influence to bring anyone else in. Our church has gone through a similar phase and faces the same issue.

Death by demographics

Maybe you’re like me. You work in a church where 80% of the people are 50 and above are with little chance of younger families or couples coming through your doors. This could be reversed but when people are slow to change atrophy wins.

I have to say, it’s not anyone’s fault that your neighborhood is changing, it is someone’s fault when change is not embraced to meet the needs of a changing community. If the church is not growing and changing neither is the youth ministry or the children’s ministry.

You have to care about the numbers. If the call to evangelism and outreach dies, so does the youth ministry.

I would never ask a kid to come to church simply so “we” could “survive”. To be really honest, in some cases, a youth ministry should die until the right leadership is over the ministry; be it paid or volunteer.

Over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing some ideas on how to revive a dying youth ministry. I’ve used these ideas in a few of my youth ministries and had great success but there is no secret sauce, it’s just prayer and hard work.

My hope is that if your youth ministry is on the precipice of decline, my words will inspire you to take hold, hang on, and work hard until you see the breath of life return to your ministry.

Watch  for The Nine Dynamic Ways You Can Revive Your Youth Ministry in coming days.