Why Your Youth Ministry Numbers Are in Decline

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The reason people stop coming is because the newness of the ministry has worn off.

Kickoff weekend the place was filled, the next couple of weeks numbers leveled out, and now that you are approaching Thanksgiving you begin to wonder, “Where is everyone going?” 

It’s the taper that happens in every youth ministry. No matter how many times you have gone through it, there are periods where you feel like no one is coming. With low numbers you begin to worry if leaders don’t see members of their small group, then they’ll wonder, “Do I even need to be here?” It might even feel like failure, and that can lead to apathy.

Why do your numbers taper? It depends on what is happening in and around your ministry. For example, your ministry could be tapering because:

  • The Newness Wore Off – The reason people stop coming is because the newness of the ministry has worn off. While a kickoff screams, “YOU MUST BE A PART OF THIS!” the following weeks don’t have the same effect. You need to keep things new and fresh in your ministry without losing consistency and sanity. That’s why it’s important to make strategic tweaks and adjustments throughout the year. Make sure you are analyzing the whys and whats of your ministry.
  • Teens Need a Reminder – Teens have a lot on their mind, from loads of homework to what’s going on in their circle of friends. It’s easy to forget your ministry when Sunday rolls around. There isn’t any conspiracy to make you feel bad, they just genuinely forgot. Set up a system where reminders are sent out on Facebook, Twitter or create a sandwich board for right outside their school. Encourage small group leaders to contact each member of their group. Get creative and make a campaign. Just get the word out.
  • Life Is More Than Your Ministry – Add drama to the amounts of business in a teen’s life. When life is overwhelming, it’s hard to mobilize. Your teens need encouragement on a regular basis. If a teen doesn’t feel connected to and loved by your ministry, then why come back? They want to go where they feel the connection. Whether it’s you or your volunteer leaders, make sure the teens feel connected to the church outside the walls of your ministry. Send them a note of encouragement, show up at a game or take them out for a bite to eat. Let them know they belong at your church, they’ll embrace it.
  • The Ministry’s Vision Isn’t Clear – Do teens know why showing up to your ministry on a weekly basis is so important? When it comes to casting vision, it’s not just about letting your leaders know, it’s about letting everyone know. Vision needs to leak; therefore, it needs to be casted in your messages, activities, announcements and conversations. If a teen understands why your ministry exists and why they need to attend, it will create value in their lives.  
Tapering is going to happen naturally because your ministry is a part of life. What you want to make sure is that your low seasons don’t dip further along with your high seasons. It’s about recognizing the journey, consistently reaching out to your teens and opening the doors for teens seeking a place to connect. Be persistent, be faithful and let God guide you.  

 

Chris Wesley Chris graduated from Xavier University in 2003 with a BA in Communications: Electronic Media. He moved to Baltimore in the fall of 2003 where he served as a Jesuit Volunteer for a year. During that time, he was a Case Manager at Chase Brexton, met my wife Kate and felt God's calling to Student Ministry. In the summer of 2004, heI was hired by the Roman Catholic Parish Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland as a Middle School Youth Minister. Today he oversees grades 5-12 as the Director of Student Ministry.

More from Chris Wesley or visit Chris at http://www.christopherwesley.org

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  • http://www.pauljolicoeur.com/about/ Paul Jolicoeur

    Hey Christ, great to see you guest posting here! Expanding your influence. I agree with your list, a reminder that even though we put lots of thought and effort into our student ministries we can’t expect others to see it as we do. Although I am often frustrated when i don’t see youth (and their families) making church a higher priority in their lives. That is why I agree that we need to continually communicated with our teens.

    • http://christopherwesley.org/ Christopher Wesley

      Paul, thanks for the feedback. I agree it’s all about constant and consistent communication. I can share in your frustration, and when I feel it becoming overwhelming I give it over to God.

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