Getting “No-Shows” to Show Up – Part 2

By Andy Lawrenson October 27, 2016

In my previous post I wrote about the changing climate of youth ministry. Ten years ago it wasn’t difficult to get students to show up to an exciting youth ministry event, but now it isn’t so simple. Changes in students’ schedules, American culture, and family dynamics have made it more challenging to get students involved in our ministries.

I’m not interested in sacrificing truth or changing the priorities of my ministry, but I do want to make changes and adjustments to help me better connect with this generation of students. Here are five of my suggestions to reach a group of students that is busier and possibly less interested in the church than ever before.

Redefine Outreach
Rather than expecting students to come to us, we need to discover new ways to meet students where they are; our goal should be to get connected to a student’s community. As youth leaders and mentors, let’s devote our energy and attention towards taking a sandwich to a student’s sports practice, meeting with a student to study over a cup of coffee, or planning a small group Bible study to accommodate a sports or extracurricular activity’s schedules.

Don’t Avoid Parents
Part of our outreach also needs to be geared towards parents. We should pursue individual conversations with parents to communicate our desire to partner with them for their son or daughter’s growth and discipleship. A one-on-one conversation with a parent at a baseball game will set us up for more success than a one-time, large group parent meeting.

Remember Less is More
We’re better off taking advantage of our already scheduled times for ministry than trying to add new or extra large group weekly activities. Instead of adding events, we can use the time that we have for a variety of different purposes. Each night of youth group could take on a different focus from games to service to mission trip prep.

Invest in the Faithful
It’s important that we invest in the students who do faithfully attend youth group and measure success through discipleship rather than numbers. True disciples will multiply and reach others, and if we let discipleship take its course, we will see more and more students reached for the Kingdom.

Prioritize Student Leadership
We also need to change our thinking from a youth group for the students to a youth group by the students. Student leadership increases a students’ investment in the ministry, and when students are more invested, they are more likely to show up. We can help students get their skin in the game by letting them plan and lead outreach events, mission trips, small groups.

Times have changed. We can’t do student ministry like we did in the 80s, 90s, or even ten years ago, but by embracing some changes of our own, we can better reach this “No-Show” generation. My encouragement to you is don’t be afraid to try something new or different. If it flops, call it an experiment; if it’s successful be sure to share your idea with others.

About the Author

Andy Lawrenson

Andy Lawrenson has been in student ministry for 26 years both as a volunteer and paid staff member.  Andy and his wife, Misha, have been married for 28 years and have three children: a son in middle school and twin eight-year-olds, a boy and girl. Andy loves getting together with other youth pastors to talk about…  Read More