*In his book Crossing Over, author and pastor Paul Scanlon challenges his readers to identify what they don’t want before considering what they do want. After observing our youth ministry and other youth ministries around us I came up with a list of seven things I didn’t want our youth ministry to be. I follow each observation with a statement of what I do want to see.
I recently ran into (crossed paths with, not smashed into) a mother whose student attended our youth ministry six months ago, but then, abruptly stopped coming.
According to his mom, the student stopped attending because our youth ministry didn’t play enough games. She continued and said that our focus on worship and the Word were good, but he needed fun and friends.
I listened and thanked her for the input. After our conversation, I remember thinking to myself, “that’s the first time I’ve ever been told we weren’t fun enough for a student.” I usually pride myself and Live on being a fun place where students can meet with God and each other. I shook it off and moved forward.
Fast-forward to last week when I saw the mom of this student at the ice cream shop. The old me, would have been frustrated and immediately started thinking, “how can we get this kid back.” “What can I say to the mom, that will convince her we have made progress and that her son should give us a second shot?”
The answer: Nothing.
I realized as I was standing in line waiting for my two scoops of “Baseball Nut” (you should try it) that I didn’t need to do that. We’ve made tremendous strides over the last few years in defining exactly who we are at Live.
There was no need for me to try to bend or twist our identity to suit the needs of one more student. The simple fact was our ministry style didn’t fit where this student was currently. He and his mom were looking for something that we weren’t offering.
This revelation came as a pleasant surprise for me. I wasn’t angry or feeling inadequate that we lost a potential new student. I was happy for her and her son. Chances are they ended up in another church and youth ministry that fit them better. I’m genuinely happy for them and happy for us. We stayed true to who we are and they were able to decide to go elsewhere where they found a better fit.
Don’t get me wrong; we want to reach as many students as possible. We want them to receive and grow in Grace. We also want them to have a passion to reach others. We are targeting young people who want to make a difference with their lives. Games have their place; they just aren’t our number one focus.
For our students and me, fun is partnering with God to change our schools, city, and world.
Youth Churches in which students and leaders are content with the youth ministries current state. Youth Churches that have the attitude we have done enough to reach outsiders.
…the Youth Church I see is full of “includers,” young people who have experienced Grace and can’t wait to share it with others by introducing friends and family to the person of Grace, Jesus Christ.