5 Reasons Why Teens Stop Showing Up

You might say the hardest part of ministry is just getting students to show up. I'd say it is more difficult to try and figure out WHY students aren't showing up.
I want to share with you 5 reasons why students stop showing up and what you can do about it:
1. Everything is predictable: We live in a world that is constantly changing. It's moving at such a fast pace. Old things are being replaced with new things and what worked 10 years ago doesn't work any longer. Church leaders don't seem to get this. We move at a slower pace, aren't apt to change, or still take stock in last year's offerings. The truth is, we've become boring and predictable... and teens lose interest quick. Action item: Take as much time each week to think through the environment you are creating as you do on the message or program itself.
2. No welcome mat: Teens typically want to know "who" is going to be present before they attend an event or program, right? Now think about the student who doesn't know anyone. Are you doing everything to make them feel welcome? If your leaders don't take time to learn someone's name and give attention to the attender they won't be an attender for long. Sometimes we spend to much time talking "at" teens (from the stage) and not enough time talking "with" teens. Let's face it, no one likes to be ignored. Action item: Learn 3 to 5 names this week (whether current students or guests).
3. Dislike! I visited a church one time and the pastor literally said to me "If I weren't the pastor I would leave this event." Sometimes we don't have to say anything because our face or body language communicate that we dislike our own programs. If we don't get excited about our own event we can't expect students to magically feel the same way. Action item: Focus a little extra time this week planning the one or two elements of your program you most enjoy. Chances are the additional investment in these elements will excite you.
4. No challenge: I'll never forget a student saying to me a long time ago "I don't need (or want) to be entertained at youth group. I want to be challenged." Even though you might argue that most teens don't feel this way I'd respectfully disagree. Students want to "enjoy" youth group but they want to be challenged. I think we are ministering to a generation of students who want to live out a radical faith... and if we don't challenge them to do so through our conversations or teaching they will be more likely to find it elsewhere. Action item: Don't challenge students to do something you aren't doing yourself. You must accept the challenge first!
5. The problem isn't you: Youth pastors get blamed for many things. Sometimes we put the blame on ourselves. Over the years I've probably been hardest on myself when I thought a student stopped showing up because of me. We must realize that in many cases the problem isn't us to begin with. Sometimes teenagers don't show up because of circumstances outside of our control. I'll offer 3 possibilities here: the student is involved in extra curricular activities and cannot come, they cannot get a ride to church, or my personal favorite, the kid is grounded from church! Action item: Continue to reach out to teenagers who aren't regularly attending. Students need to know you care about them regardless of whether or not they are present for your program.

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12 Responses to “5 Reasons Why Teens Stop Showing Up”

  1. # Anonymous Jeremy Smith

    Great insight for ministry! Something I will be investing into our ministry and passing along to volunteers.  

  2. # Anonymous Ryan Sharp

    Awesome insight!  

  3. # Blogger Erin Ashley

    While I'm not a youth pastor I appreciate these blog posts greatly as I gain lots of knowledge and ideas I can implement as a youth leader of high school girls. Thanks so much for the insight. Definitely challenges me to be a better mote efficient leader!  

  4. # Anonymous Jeremiah Vik

    Number 5- Action Item

    I've always been big on this and have found few YPs who have agreed with me. Been told a number of times I was wasting my time-- just spinning my wheels. I've always found it to be effective. When a student came back after a period of absence, I could say, "How'd you do on that test last week?" Rather than, "Dude, where you been?" Glad to see it included in your article!  

  5. # Anonymous Greg Steele

    Great article...i totally agree with you and I struggle with the first one more than any other. Enviroment is hard for us, because we don't have our own space...so decorations, etc are very limited...students are telling me all the time, :I wish we had our own space"...how do you make a shared space yours?  

  6. # Anonymous Phil Bell

    Like #4: Would definately agree with this one! I have been seeing this shift more and more with students in the last 5 years. It's very refreshing and a lot more rewarding to challenge than to entertain!

    Great post and great training material to pass along to my volunteers! Thanks for the free training! :-)  

  7. # Blogger Terrace Crawford

    Thanks for the kind words. Glad you leaders are finding this post useful.


  8. # Anonymous Bill Nance

    Hey Terrace,

    Don't know if this would go in #5 or be a #6 in its own right, but oftentimes students are dealing with other stuff in their lives like parents getting divorced, major sin issues, or whatever. When they're dealing with this stuff, they might know they need to go to youth group and even want to, but the feelings of fear, embarrassment, or shame are stronger and so they don't go. They'll often have secondary issues (too much homework, I just forget, I'll be there next week, etc) but the deeper issue is the real thing keeping them back.  

  9. # Blogger Pastor Josh

    Great article. Especially #5. It is so true that youth pastors beat themselves up way to much. As long as there heart is rt and they're doing what they need to do. Let God take care of the rest.  

  10. # Blogger branandlee

    Great post...I desperately needed this today. I have a leaders meeting on Saturday and much of what you wrote here is where my heart has been lately as well. Glad you articulated it, so now I have a good starting point to share this with my leaders on Saturday.
    And then we push on from there for the glory of God!!!
    Thanks again.  

  11. # Blogger Adam

    Excellent post! I especially agree with #4 and #5. Youth need to be challenged and held to a higher expectation. I like to remind the youth that we are going "beyond the feltboard" during our lessons. As far as #5, it is easy to fall into the trap take it personally. I think this is how the devil tries to chip away at our ministry and why many of us quit early in the "game." Consider checking out my youth ministry blog at http://www.toplayapart.com  

  12. # Blogger Kristen Lascola

    One of the saddest things to me is when a highly connected and involved student just seems to disappear from church. Over the years, I've had a few of these students. Sometimes it's due to sports, or rides like you mentioned, and then there's the weird situations where you reach out to the student and the family and get no response. Those are the ones that leave me wondering, "is it something we did or said?" The enemy would love nothing more than to snatch them away from church and convince them it's unimportant. This is why I love having small group leaders who contact (or are supposed to contact) their students each week via email, facebook, text, or a good old fashioned phone call. I think that personal weekly, outside of church contact really helps.  

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