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Equipping to reach the other 90%

It’s late April. 

It’s a dangerous time for vocational youth workers. Interest & attendance is typically waning a little as the school year winds down. Youth workers, especially younger ones, start feeling as though things aren’t going well because fewer teenagers are coming. Things that worked in October just aren’t working.

Frustration builds.

Evaluations loom large.

And lots are looking for things things to blame the blah on.

  • Sports
  • School activities
  • Parents
  • Culture
  • Ourselves

Stop Pinning the Blame

A little advice for you, my fellow frustrated friend: Chill.

It’s seasonal. It doesn’t mean anything. It happens every year.

And freaking out, playing the blame game or turning up the guilt about priorities and growth and whatnot doesn’t do anything more than build a wall between you and them. It makes you look really small and the stuff you’ve been teaching all year seem less real.

Equip Adults to Minister to Teenagers

I had a bit of an “aha” this morning as I engaged with yet another frustrated youth worker concerned that his high school students were pursuing sports and not youth group. His church has two very successful baseball coaches and this time of year many of the guys in his youth group stop coming because they are committed to baseball. The frustrated youth worker wondered aloud, “How do I talk to these coaches about this?

See, he saw these two coaches as a problem– competition– for his ministry, dividing his ministry effectiveness.

But I see this as an opportunity to equip these two coaches to minister to the teenagers in their lives, an opportunity to multiply the church’s ministry to teenagers beyond those who will come to youth group.

Embrace the Pastoral Role

I think there’s a lot of role confusion out there in youth ministry. Sometimes we get lost in the trees of running a youth program and forget the forest of equipping our church to minister to teenagers wherever God has them. Can high school guys encounter Jesus on a baseball field? You bet. Can they live out their faith while they decorate for prom? Absolutely. Can they worship Jesus on a Sunday morning on their soccer team? They don’t call it “The Beautiful Game” for nothing, right?

My encouragement is to stop looking at things as distractions and instead see them as opportunities to equip Christian students and adults to do youth ministry wherever they go. (Yeah, I’m saying every adult interested in ministering to teenagers shouldn’t be a part of your youth program. Think bigger!)

Why? Because no matter how cool you are, no matter how great your youth ministry program is, no matter how hard you pray… 90% of the teenagers in your community will never come. That’s not depressing. That’s an incredible opportunity to do what you probably do best: Think outside of the box and equip the saints to be the church.

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