By Neil Christians
I’m sure you may find these text messages familiar.
“Hey Neil, is there still room for me to go on the ski retreat? I know it’s past the deadline but I still want to go.“
“I think I can find a place for you. Let me check the rooming list and space in the vans.”
“Looks like we can get you in but you’ll have to room with some underclassmen. You still want to go?
“Yes! Thank you SO much. I’m excited!!!”
“So when can you get me the check? Can you bring it tonight or this Sunday?”
“Ummm…. Wait. Who’s going?”
Really?!? After all of that NOW you want to know who’s going?
I’m sure you’ve noticed this. It’s not about the program, the curriculum or even the destination. It’s all about who’s going. Relationships matter! But let’s be honest. It’s not just our students. We all do it!
“Are you going to the Superbowl party?"
“I don’t know. Who’s going?”
But it’s not just the events; it’s church to church. There is no youth group loyalty. Students move from church to church simply based on the fact that it’s where their friends are. Well, that’s not entirely true. They do have youth group loyalty. They are always guilty when they tell me that they go to other churches or to Young Life. However, they don’t mind moving from youth group to youth group. It’s not about the theology, beliefs or style of worship. It’s all about who’s going. Relationships matter!
Many of you agree with me. We’re not about building numbers in our youth ministries. We’re happy just as long as students are connected to a community of faith and that they are growing closer to God. If we’re worried about good theological education, then there are plenty of parents out there that need more of our attention in this matter.
But what do you say to their parents when they come to you and complain that their child isn’t coming to your church but going to someone else’s youth group? I got some great insight via facebook.
Many of your would encourage the parents to have some intentional conversations with their child to ensure that they understand the differences between believes and experiences between themselves and the group their child is attending. There will always be another church that does it bigger and better, or as one person put it, we don’t need to create a “big-ups-with-Jesus” Mountain Top experience every week. We can’t compete, nor should we be competing for OUR students’ attention.
What we can do is focus on what matters; relationships! We can all be excellent on creating meaningful relationships between students, between students and adults and between students and Christ.
What this trend of students moving between youth groups teaches us is that relationships matter. So let’s focus on this: Meaningful Purposeful Relationships. It’s here that ministry happens.
Join the conversation on Facebook.com/FirstThird!
Neil Christians is the Director of the Family Ministry Team at Christ Lutheran Church in Charlotte, NC. He has been in paid children,youth and family ministry for 20 years and is passionate about mentoring others in a life of faith. Other passions include Harry Potter, movie clips and his favorite band Switchfoot. So, watch for references to these in his blog posts.