Why People Have No Interest In Your Ministry

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

What you say, When you say it and How you say it.  

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?

Join the discussion No Comments

  • Good insights! Thanks for sharing!

  • catechesisinthethirdmillennium, thanks for your feedback. I’m curious as to hear “outside the box” ideas on how to promote your ministry, does anyone do anything out of the ordinary?

  • Matt Cleaver says:

    People don’t have an interest in your ministry if your ministry doesn’t have an interest in them.

  • You know, this is a really good point Christopher. If we don’t communicate who we are and what we’re doing, how can we expect people to want to come and join. We sometimes are hesitant to trust a business we don’t know anything about.

    It really should be a no brainer that the parents send their kids to the youth group no matter what. But, the truth is, people are busy and overcommitted. If they don’t see the value added, they might not take the trouble and extra effort to go. We might have to start “selling” our ministries a bit more to get buy in from people who are on the fence.

    Thanks for the post!

  • Matt, great quote, Marc awesome comments. I agree it should be that parents send their teens to us no matter what, but we do have to take on more of a marketing approach to ministry. Are there people out there against taking a business marketing approach to student ministry? If so what’s your solution?
    If you do have a successful marketing strategy what is it? Share it here.

  • micksgrill says:

    I think more youth groups and youth leaders need to embrace Facebook. You can create groups and events as a way of building a community and letting them know what’s going on and inform kids of any last minute changes. I don’t know how I did without it.

  • Micksgrill,
    I think you are right about Facebook. It’s funny I remember it coming public when I first started in ministry and no one was real sure what to think about it…now it’s a necessity.
    I’m thinking as youth workers we need to be more confident and adventurous with social media.