I did it! I am officially accepted into the ranks of professional youth workers! No, I haven’t graduated yet and yes, I am officially still an intern. What has changed then? Well, I have officially gone through one of the unwritten initiation rites into the ministry. A few weeks ago, I had my first no-show event! Some of you are probably applauding right now and giving me virtual high-fives, while others of you are wondering why this could possibly be an exciting thing. Let me explain: I think it’s going to
happen in any ministry at some point. But here’s why I’m not really upset with what happened: it’s not a rejection of me or of the church. The event in question was a Nerf event that was a long-standing tradition before I arrived last summer. So I decided to continue the tradition, because let’s be honest, what’s not to like about an all-out war with Nerf guns? We traditionally have done it over Christmas break at some point. Due to the Christmas/New Year’s schedule as well as a wedding that I had to attend on a weekend, I ended up having to schedule the event for Thursday afternoon. Some kids were out of town anyways, but it worked for many others. What I couldn’t foresee was the snow storm that came in the day before and messed up everyone’s practice and work schedules so that they no longer had the afternoon off, and the roads weren’t in the best driving conditions. Needless to say, instead of the 10-15 people I was planning, I got 0.
But that’s really not a big deal to me. So what if it didn’t work out to continue one of the traditional social events for the youth this year? They still are active in church, youth group and the spiritual events that actually matter. If those events are repeatedly no-shows, then I have some real reason for concern. But I learned something important through this experience. The kids are rarely rejecting you or the church if they don’t come to an event. It’s generally an issue of scheduling and other circumstances. If someone can’t make your programs, then find a different way to reach them. Ask what they would want to attend and be able to attend. The key is to evaluate why a program or event didn’t work like you planned and to actually talk to the youth about it, instead of just guessing what they think. It helps you design your programs better and also helps the youth feel like their input matters.
A couple weeks after that, I worked with the upperclassmen to plan an event just for juniors and seniors. We scheduled it a few days out and some conflicts came up the day of, so I ended up hanging out with just one of our seniors. But it was time well spent. I got to talk with him for about an hour while he was killing me at bowling. Some of the other upperclassmen had texted me or talked with me a few days later and said that they wanted to make it, but that time just didn’t work out on that day. By getting that feedback I know that the program idea is a good one, but the scheduling is the issue.
Overall, I’ve learned three main things about attendance that I want to share. First, time spent with any of the youth, even just a few, is time well spent if you use it as an opportunity to pour into them. Secondly, talk to the youth afterwards, especially those that couldn’t make it, and see why they couldn’t come. This will greatly help in making your programs better in the future. Finally, change your Bible study series topic to be on love, sex and dating for a few weeks. I did that to start off the year for our youth group on Wednesdays and we had almost 40 youth the first week back. Seriously, the take away from this last point is to find things that the youth are interested in, and see what God has to say about those topics. Don’t waste an opportunity when a lot of kids are there to share the Gospel with them. Your youth don’t need one more thing to add to their schedule, they need a God who will change their life. Focus your programming around that, and then watch God do what He promises He will do.