I saw a post on FB this morning and it was about issues I’ve heard about for years in church. We, youth pastors, care about these issues because our bosses really care about these issues. If Senior Pastors did not place such a high value on numbers and attendance youth workers would find other ways to minister to youth. That being said, I am self motivated and care about students attendance but it’s on me, not them, to get it together and engage, to show up but one does not necessarily equal the other. Let offer my two cents on each of the issues we are so uptight about and why we either need to relax, shut up about, or change.
Issue 1: Teens will come to youth group but they will not come to church on Sunday mornings or Sunday school.
I think adults have to get their houses in order. I’ve heard Senior Pastors complain about the youth ministry not leading the way, as if we had any control in the first place. In general, we are given very little power or recognition in church. We are the tail in the church, not the head. Kids influence parents but they do not lead them.
Could it be that another reasons kids don’t show up for Sunday morning church is maybe because the pastor is just not a good communicator (yeah, let’s see how that answer floats in a staff meeting). Kids will check out if the Pastor does not engage with them inside and outside of service, the music is lame, and hype rather than transformation is the order of the day. Kids don’t owe the church anything. The church is responsible to this generation to be faithful to the gospel in a way that is understandable and engaging.
Issue 2: Once the senior high students get a car/job we don’t see them again.
When we see adults value work over church, why are we surprised that kids do the same? Some adults have to work on Sunday’s and that is understandable. Many adults opt out of church on Sunday’s because they had a hard week or they just don’t value the service. Kids who get jobs are trying to have some spending money or get on track with a career. Kids will go where they are valued.
I have a student who drives 45 minutes to come to youth and I believe it is because we value her. If she cannot make it, I don’t berate her or diminish her commitment to Christ. I find that if I dig deep with working students and treat them with respect, whether they attend a meeting or not, I get a much better response when I share my concern that I do not see them that often.
Issue 3: Lack of commitment from the teens when coming to certain events – always competing with sports.
If you want to have committed youth, reach out to nerds. There is no better time to build a youth ministry of nerds than in our current culture. I am done fighting with sports. Sports are not the enemy.
- The enemy is average youth ministries that do not engage.
- The enemy is low expectations.
- The enemy is a lack of family ministry the engages the whole family and upping the values of the whole family and not just the value of the students.
Parents are the drivers, the motivators, and the dreamers. Many parents are shooting for elusive college scholarships because without them their kid is either not going to college or will have to go to a lesser college than desired. We could change the way we do youth ministry to where we embrace the sports community and figure out a way to minister to all sports teams but that would be just too much work wouldn’t it?
Issue 4: Communication to the parents/teens about events.
I have great parents. I (try to) send out messages every Monday on our Facebook page and have started doing Facebook Live videos to up my engagement. Maybe, its because I’m 48 and have two grown kids and a 17 year old and I am older than some of the parents in our group, but I get along very well with our parents. When I was just starting out I was afraid of parents and unsure what they needed and what my responsibility to them was. I have to let parents be parents. Each family is different and my hope is that I can minister to them as I have opportunity.
My fist responsibility to a family is to create a youth program that engages their kids and leads them into a deeper walk wth Christ. You notice I did not say entertaining, although, occasionally it is and is debatable depending on which kids you ask. My second responsibility is to minister to the whole family, if I can, and that depends on the level of permission they give me. Some families are open and some are closed. This is why long term youth ministry is so critical. [bctt tweet=”The longer we stay the more trust we build the more positive influence the youth worker can have. ” username=””]
Are these issues important? Sure they are, but for all the wrong reasons. Each church community is trying to build something; momentum, cultural influence, etc. but they miss the forrest for the trees.
Our young people deserve unconditional love, they deserve a seat at the table on how they’d like to be ministered to, and finally they deserve some respect. Teens are not pawns. Many are young disciples who are looking for life and faith in a world that treats them like second class citizens. If we want to change the “numbers”, let’s change the way we look at and treat young people.”
We need to relax, shut up, or change.