This post has been a long time coming. I’ve been praying about this issue since the beginning of the School year. But the gist is this: The Youth Ministry in my church is in trouble.
Let me explain. I’m in a small church that runs about 50-75 on Sunday Morning, our sanctuary could hold 250 by my estimation. I’m in a community of 5714. There are about 10 Christian Churches in town, and at 75 average attendance we are one of the bigger churches. So on a “good” Sunday there may be 500-600 people attending church. That’s right, all the churches in this community are reaching AT BEST 10% of the population.
The first year I was here we started at about 12 as our average attendance. By the end of the school year we were averaging around 20(+/-), we had seen a couple of baptisms and I could see some real growth in some of our teenagers. Then summer came; vacations, trips, camps, jobs, etc, but through this attendance remained fair, we averaged about 10 and got to do some good bonding. Toward the end of July early August, things slowed down and we entered our slump. I thought at first it was a good thing, a breather, as we were gearing up for the new school year. But things didn’t pick back up…
Sure I could draw in 60+ kids at a 5th quarter, we had 120+ at our denominational Saw You at The Pole event in September. But at our Wednesday night worship we were running about 6 (that’s less than half of the previous spring). In Sunday School, a staple in Baptist Churches, I go weeks without anyone. I’ve now got two coming semi-regular. Disciples aren’t being made.
Now I’ll share some facts about my group
- Our core group is made up of entirely Juniors and Seniors. That means without any changes our youth group will shrink by 1/3 by they end of the 2014 School year, and by graduation 2015 there will not be a youth group. There are some younger siblings that tag along from time to time but getting them plugged in has proved difficult.
- There is ZERO parental involvement. I am not arrogant like some youth ministers who don’t want parents involved. Parents are vital. Before I came here I helped the Youth Minister at the church we were members of. He had involved parents at every level. He left about the time I was called here. The youth ministry of that church thrived during the interim period, because the parents of youth took up the mantle of leadership. I’ve two families of youth that value church. One only comes to Sunday Morning Worship, the other family are members of a very small church.
- Parents don’t come. To church, to their kids games, school productions, or Baptisms. Yep, one young man was Baptized and asked his parents to come, and was answered with; “That’s your thing.” That still makes me want to cry. In fact a lot of my youth are the only members of their families involved in Church.
- What is the deal with High School students taking all of these night/online college courses? I substitute and I see some of my former regulars and they are just run ragged. I asked one how she was and what was new, this is her list; Four AP Classes, Band, Student Counsel, 2 College Courses, and her parents want her to get a job. She’s on the verge of a melt-down, but Church and Worship which restores one’s soul are cut to make time for “priorities.” She’s one of many in our group. The good thing about small schools is you can be involved in everything, the bad thing about small schools are sometimes you are involved in everything.
So as of now this Church’s youth ministry will be dead in a year and a half. So my question is how do I reach the youth and parents of this community? How do I get a mostly retired congregation to engage and help with this mission of making disciples? What’s missing? How do I plug in younger youth with a group of upperclassmen that are annoyed by them?
My vision for this Church is for it to reach 10% of the town’s population. There are about 600 Jr High and High School Students, even with 10 churches, if I had a youth group of 60, there are plenty of lost sheep for Jesus to save. Why aren’t we reaching them?