If you want youth to get more connected with church, don’t leave it up to them. That’s not how Jesus works, and that’s not how He expects His church to work either. He didn’t ask you if you wanted to be saved, He just did it. We shouldn’t wait for youth to decide that maybe they want to get a little more church in their lives either. We, as the church, pursue a relationship with them and continue to invite them into a closer relationship with the body of believers. Let me share two real practical ways we’re trying to do this where I’m at:
Invite Visitors Back
Pretty simple, huh? When a teen who hasn’t been here before comes to an event at our church, we call them up and invite them back. I like to use phone calls because it’s more personal than text or email, even if I have to leave a message. The human voice can communicate much more emotion than a text message–emoticons notwithstanding. Often, I like to make these calls myself because I know that visitors have seen me since I address our entire group every Wednesday night. Kids may or may not remember other adults who worked with specific small groups, but they remember the guy who was in front of everyone. When I call, I make sure to do three things: (1) thank them for coming; (2) invite them back; (3) ask them if they have any questions. It’s pretty simple, but kids are impressed when you take the time to do it. Some kids don’t get a lot of “thank-you’s” from adults, so that call can mean a lot.
Invite AWOLs Back
AWOL = Absent WithOut Leave. When youth who’ve been coming don’t show up, they’re AWOL, and you need to find out why. Satan wants Christians to disconnect from church. It’s nearly impossible to remain strong in faith when a person is disconnected from the church. When youth start not showing up for church or youth events they need someone to call them back. When I call these youth, these are the five things I fit into our conversation: (1) I missed you last night/week/whenever; (2) is everything OK?; (3) I want to make sure you’re being fed in your faith, and I get concerned when you miss out on church/youth group/etc; (4) How can I pray for you?; (5) I want to see you at church this Sunday/ youth group on Wed. If they have a specific prayer request I’ll often pray with them while we’re on the phone.
If you’re going to make these calls (and I hope you do), you’ll have to collect contact information from youth. Use a check-in process, but make sure that expectations are the same for your regulars and your guests. Differences which make guests stand out are counter-productive to outreach.
When you make your calls, be confident. Most youth will feel a little weird getting an unexpected call from an adult. Most of my phone conversations like these last less than two minutes. If we get into questions or topics which need more time, they usually warrant a face-to-face conversation. If that’s what’s needed I’ll talk longer on the phone, but we’ll also set a time to meet in person.
So who was at your last youth event? Did you see any new faces? Who was missing? Who have you only seen once or twice since the school year started? If you can answer those questions, you’ve got a place to start. Don’t leave it up to them. Call those kids and invite them back!
Published October 2012