I asked this teen after church one day if he wanted to come to our high school worship on Thursdays, he hesitantly replied, “I guess.” That’s when his dad stepped in and said, “Son, tell him the truth, you aren’t going to go, right?” and that’s when the son said, “Yeah, I don’t think so.”
I said, “Oh really? If you come I’ll give you a free Chick-fil-a sandwich.” The teen seemed more intrigued, but it looked like the dad was calling his son’s bluff with a look. I gave him an out and said that I would see them around.
I guess it was nice that the dad encouraged his son to tell the truth, after all he was being authentic but is that what I wanted?
Honestly, I don’t know what I wanted because if the teen had said, “Sure.” and never shown up, I don’t think I would have thought twice. That happens a lot. But the fact that the teen was called out by his old man, it made me wonder, “How do people really see the student ministry?” I can think of three images:
- The Youth Group: This is probably how you refer to your student programs, but the image that comes to mind, is lock-ins, ski trips, games and no Jesus (except on the Jesus is my home boy t-shirt you are wearing). This image attracts teens looking for a social group and chases away parents looking for something deep for their kids and teens who are overcommitted.
- Sunday School: Again maybe you call it this, but then again do people want more school? This image attracts the parents who’s teens don’t go to a Christian school and they want their teen to get “more religion” (not sure what that means either). This image chases away teens looking for meaning and purpose and parents who have teens in a Christian school.
- The ?: This is when parents and teens have no clue that you have any kind of program, system or ministry in your church. Why is that? Lack of communication, lack of clarity, insider focus, the list goes on. If people have no clue about your ministry it could be the fact that they don’t pay attention to anything, but it could also be the case that you haven’t said enough.
What bothered me about the situation with the father and son is the fact that the dad didn’t ask me questions like, “So what is this youth thingy you do?” or “Why should my son come on Thursday?” I wouldn’t have minded the question because it would have sparked a conversation. In the end I can’t fully blame the parent because I could have been more persistent and persuasive. But the whole situation should make you think about the image you portray in your ministry. To make sure you do send out the right image you need to work on:
When you can do that you’ll find these peculiar situations as opportunities to cast vision and invite a teen (and parent) into a conversation about what the local church can do for them.
How do you invite teens to your programs?
How do you inform parents about what it is you do?