Why They Stop Coming

We’ve all been there: the teen that’s been actively involved for the first two years of high school just stops coming. No real reason given, she just stops showing up. You’d love to pick her brain and find out what it is that made her stop coming.

Randy Raus wrote an article from that girl’s perspective: Why I Just Stopped Coming to Your Youth Group. He outlines 4 key reasons.

1. You are too predictable. Look I live in a fast paced, image driven world and it is painful to come to the Church and see the same drab youth room, the identical set up for Life Nights and basically hear the same talks each week. It still looks and feels like it did when my older brother came there 10 years ago. You need to spend as much time on setting up surprise amazing environments, preparing inspiring talks and setting up inviting gathering spaces as you do meeting as a core team to keep me interested.

Are you predictable?  Do you spice it up?  Change the environment?  Mix up the format?

We’re trying to.  When the teens planned out our new midweek program, they came up with 20+ segments they wanted to see part of it (worship, small groups, current events, prayer, game, video, etc.).  Each week will feature 6-8 segments, so it’s a little something different each week.

2. You don’t make me feel like I belong there. Let’s face it, I probably won’t even be missed. Only a few of the core team know my name and the rest of them call me names like “dude or guy”. Someone can come to youth group and never have a conversation with you week after week. You should spend more time talking to teens and helping them feel part of things rather than just talking at us at announcement time.

We’re building a welcome team: a group of outgoing teens in obnoxiously colored shirts, who will not only welcome and connect with every new person that walks in, but will follow up text/Facebook them, drop them a postcard, and make sure to connect with them again the next week they come (after being personally invited back of course).  And we do our best to call the teens by name (or even better, a unique inside-joke-nickname between you and them)–you’d be surprised how much calling a teen “Sparkle” instead of “Friend” does.

3. You never challenge me anymore. In an effort to get as many people there especially underclassmen, you don’t challenge the teens like me who are already there in their faith. I can’t remember the last time I left youth group thinking I learned something or was challenged to go do something. You should make sure there are times when you ask older teens to help lead things and to meet as a group separately to have more depth conversations and teachings.

This is where the whole concept of “Reach. Feed. Send.” really hits the mark.  Teens are at all different levels of their faith, so their needs to be programs/mentoring/discipleship geared specifically at them.  We’ve got a small group program that helps teens go deeper, and we’re about to launch an “intensive” series that is going to dive deep into the three topics we’ve been asked the most about: evangelism, apologetics, and prayer.

4. You don’t look like you are excited about your faith. I thought that this was a community and not one person takes on the world group. You always look so burdened that I was afraid to add to your burden. You need to smile more and bring the fun back into youth group rather than walking around like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders.

If you’re bored, they’re bored. Guaranteed. Teens need to know that you’re excited about your faith and what your teaching.  But more importantly, that you’re excited about them: about them being there, about hanging out with them (even when you have hours of work to get done), about their lives, about their questions, about their relationship with Christ. And be genuine, they can tell when you’re faking it.  (Side note: if you’re not genuinely excited about those things, then you’re following the wrong vocation.)

So what about you?  Are you guilty of those things?  What are you trying to do to keep from falling into one of those traps?  Are there other things teens cite as why they stop coming?

Michael Marchand

Michael is a Catholic evangelist, author and speaker.

After spending 11 years as a parish youth minister, Michael left parish ministry to work full-time with ProjectYM (a ministry he cofounded a few years earlier).

Michael's resume also includes preaching gigs at events and conferences around the world, a Catholic theology degree, authoring a book on Catholic evangelization, years of training and consulting with parish/diocesan leaders on technology and social media, countless online projects, and the founding of 2 ProjectYM mission bases: one in Uganda and one in Chattanooga, TN.

Michael is blessed to be part of an amazing missionary family. Michael, his beautiful wife (Crystal) and three kids recently settled in Chattanooga to serve the local Church there.

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