Nothing is more deflating than when students who used to frequent our youth ministries stop showing up. Sometimes students leave for reasons that have nothing to do with your ministry: moving to a new city, graduating high school, wanting to attend church with their parents somewhere else.
Other times students just stop showing up for no reason at all (or at least it appears that way at first). A number of years ago I wrote a blog post entitled “8 Reasons Why Students Stop Showing Up”. The post gained more traction than any other post I’ve ever written. It went like this:
8 Reasons Why Students Stop Showing Up
- It’s a dictatorship. The pastor controls everything.
- It’s disorganized. No one knows what the heck is going on.
- It’s too serious. Church should be fun. Stop making Jesus seem lame.
- It’s not serious at all. Church shouldn’t just be fun. Students want to sort out the mess of their lives not just play dodgeball every week.
- It’s predictable. You always do the same thing. If they know what’s going to happen, why go?
- It’s expensive. Are you paintballin’ it up every week? Are your major events spaced too close together? That can get tiresome on the parents’ wallet.
- It’s not welcoming. If students don’t think they can make friends at youth group, they won’t come.
- It’s not communicated well. They don’t come because they actually don’t know what’s going on.
LOOKING BACK ON THIS LIST, I THINK I MISSED THE POINT.
Those 8 reasons are a cause for students to complain about youth group, but it’s not cause enough to leave.
So what’s the real reason students stop showing up? Disconnection.
When students stop showing up it almost always boils down to disconnection. They feel disconnected from other students in the group, disconnected from their small group leader, disconnected from their faith.
My favourite youth ministry book of all time is Lead Small from Reggie Joiner and Tom Shefchunas. In the book they say this:
“EVERY KID NEEDS TO BE KNOWN BY SOMEONE AND TO BELONG SOMEWHERE.”
Our job as youth pastors is to connect. To connect students to other students to follow Jesus together. To connect students with adult mentors to help nurture faith.
Connection goes much deeper than knowing someone at youth group. It’s being known. Connection goes much deeper than coming to youth group. It’s about belonging.