In too many churches, the youth director focuses only on the youth who show up for youth group. That’s the youth ministry. The youth who show up.
In most churches, however, you’ll often find youth who never attend the youth group. They attend worship services. They may be involved in other aspects of the church, but since they’re not in the youth group, they fall through the youth-ministry crack.
A strong youth ministry cares for all youth—those involved in the church youth ministry and those who never show up.
To minister to all youth in your church, consider these ideas:
Identify all the youth in your church. Yes, start with your youth group. That’s easy. Then expand from there. Identify all the young people in your church who attend worship services, education offerings, service projects, and more. Also make a list of the young people who are sons and daughters of members and regular attendees who never show up for church at all. They’re also young people who fall through the cracks.
Make it a point to talk to youth, particularly those you’ve never talked to before. Don’t start out by inviting them to the youth group. Start out by getting to know them. Find out who they are and what they’re interested in.
Find creative ways to connect with youth. Some youth directors schedule breakfast with the overscheduled youth (which is why they’re not in the youth group, they’re in every other group) to get to know them better. They call it breakfast ministry, although they never use that term when they’re with teenagers.
Encourage other adults to connect with young people. Youth are more likely to come to church (and also to youth group) when they feel welcomed. Get other adults to reach out to young people, even if it’s just to talk. Encourage adults to connect with young people according to their interests. An adult pianist found that he greatly enjoyed the company of a young person who played the bassoon. Their love for music brought them together.
Invite youth to bring their friends. Occasionally create opportunities for young people to include their friends in activities. One church did this on a quarterly basis, and soon the church became known as “the place for youth to go.” These activities got the teenagers excited as the local high school and soon these activities became even bigger and better.
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