The Value of Student Activities in Youth Ministry

kids too busy for youth group

This article originally appeared here: http://youthmin.org/youth-group-vs-school-activities/

One of the frustrations that I hear many youth ministers talk about is the fact that their students seem more concerned with extracurriculars than they are youth group or church.

I hear things like:

  • They don’t value God or the church because they miss youth group.
  • They think football is more important on a Friday night than a youth event.
  • They can’t give Jesus just 90 minutes of their time a week.

And I hear you, friends.  I’ve felt like you, and I mean, I still get frustrated.  But I’m a little more empathetic to the students, and here’s why.

Going to youth group doesn’t produce a college scholarship.

That’s blunt, I know.  Yet, with the costs of college, teenagers are trying to do whatever it takes to help pay for it.

Now, there are things that you can do as a youth pastor to help this out:

  • Provide missions opportunities to help them gain community service/volunteer work to put on their resumes. Bonus: make it open to the community of high schoolers and not just your church teens (can you say outreach?).
  • Find a way to have more student leadership positions, so that your students can put that on their resume.
  • Find people within the church who can invest scholarships into some of your teenagers.

I know first-hand that you can be a part of clubs and still be active in church; I participated and was an officer in 8 clubs in high school (I’m crazy, I know); however, I didn’t do sports while in high school, which are mega-time-consuming.  I also know that very few (if any) of your high school students will actually make it to the big leagues… Yet I also know the benefits of being on a team and the skills you can learn from that.  They are valuable skills that I think should be encouraged.

Teenagers need to be able to spread the gospel.

We emphasize to our teenagers about going into their “mission field” to spread the Gospel.  Where else can they spread it?  They can’t exactly spread the Gospel in math class.  There’s lunch period, but other than that there aren’t any real opportunities.

I think we should encourage our teens to get involved in clubs and sports so that they can have opportunities to spread the Gospel in real-life situations.  Otherwise, when they become an adult, their only experiences of sharing the Gospel will be from Missions Projects with their Youth Group.

Jesus isn’t exclusively at youth group.

One of the biggest annoyances to me is when youth pastors say that when a student doesn’t come to youth group, they’re putting their extracurriculars over Jesus. Really?  Are Sunday and Wednesday the only times that Jesus shows up?  And are you really that audacious to say that what you are providing is equivalent to Jesus?

Youth ministry isn’t exclusively at youth group.

Just like Jesus just isn’t on Sundays, neither should you.  We need to learn to reach teenagers on their turf.  

You need to consider the culture.  Honestly, if you live in a football town, why would you put a youth event on a Friday Night?  You should be at the game living life with them and rooting on your student players.  Maybe your students get swamped in the school year and Wednesdays aren’t the right days for you.

Ministry happens at the lunch table, at a baseball game, in a small group, in dodgeball, and in youth group.  It happens in a text conversation, and also in a warm hug.  They may not come to that 90 minute meeting, but is that all you’re offering them?  Small groups and mentors are great alternatives to youth group–just make sure you’re plugging them in and giving them options.

Consider that what you’re offering isn’t more appealing than chess club.

This goes back to culture–what reaches your students?  Maybe that senior girl doesn’t come to Wednesdays because she hates messy games and has no alternative.  Maybe that middle school boy doesn’t come because there are too many girls and he needs a small group of other guys.  You may have to consider that what you have going on isn’t pulling students in, and you may have to be courageous enough to do things differently.

I’m not saying to be “seeker friendly.”  I’m saying be “culturally appropriate.”  Jesus used parables in order to relate the Gospel in a way for people to understand it…and even that went over their heads.  So while you’re not always going to get it right, at least you tried to consider your students and reach them where they’re at.

Now, I get it:  There will be teens to do put up some pretty lame excuses as to why they can’t come. Love on them anyway.

What are some ways that you’ve encouraged your teens to do extracurriculars, but still maintained a healthy youth group presence?

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