Summer is coming and so is our opportunity to minister to “the core.” At least, that’s what I called the remnant of students who attended our youth services during the summer. I don’t know why numbers decreased so much, but in our town, they always do. Some youth ministries in town stop having weekly services because the attendance drops so much. It’s just the plight of the youth minister in our community.
I originally became very discouraged when the summer would come. I’d plan events and park outings and special sermon series to entice students to come. I once even set up a couple of nice comfy chairs and said students who brought a friend could sit in them. Nothing worked. Finally, discouraged and honestly annoyed, I decided to settle in to building relationships with this small group of students. I turned the summer into a time to ‘Strengthen the Core.” I made the sermon series deeper. I had our worship guy learn new songs. I even built in some new discussion times and discipleship. I decided we were going to take advantage of the quality students that came during the summer.
When summer ended and school kicked back up, those students moved into the new year with a greater understanding of the word and a stronger resolve to work together to live for Christ. It was a pretty awesome thing to see.
We did this for a couple of summers and were very excited about the results. I became more and more intentional with our summer events and worked to build camaraderie and unity in our group. It even went so far that at our last summer camp the teams banded together and decided there was no winner. As the chants of “brown team, brown team, brown team” went up, I stood amazed at what the last couple of summers had established in our group.
Then, the hammer fell. When we returned from that very camp, we found our youth room being gutted to move the sound equipment to a new location for services. I was quickly made aware that someone was buying our church building, and we had to be out. It was an answer to prayer. A momentum destroying answer to prayer. Over the next five months our church would become nomadic. We would move from building to building even using two locations for one service time for a while. Our attendance didn’t rebound in the fall like usual. In fact, we even lost a few of the fringe students that had started to come that summer. It was quite the blow.
Now we are settled in to a new location. We’ve been there for almost six months, and things are good. We’ve gained back a few of those we had lost but not the majority. Just for description sake I’ll share that a year ago we had around eighty teenagers coming to our services and took thirty to fifty to camps and retreats. We now run between twenty five and thirty and our spring retreat boasted an attendance of thirteen strong.
Here’s the deal though. Where a lot of people might see failure and despair. I’ve seen success. Who do you think those twenty five to thirty students are that we see every week? That’s right, it’s those we invested in through the last two summers. It’s the core, that remnant of students that feel like they belong here enough to stick around even when we didn’t know where tomorrow night’s service may be held.
I encourage you youth minister to strengthen your core. Use this summer to build relationships with the most committed students in your group. They may or may not be the popular ones but they’re the ones that’ll stick with you through whatever may happen. They are the core. Build your group around them and watch what God builds from there!
Author: Michael Prince
Michael Prince co-authored “What’s in Your Pocket? A parent’s guide to protecting your children online.” with his wife Melinda. They have four kids and live in an RV anywhere in the USA they see the need for an internet safety expert. Michael is leading the conversation in the American Church about family online security. He and Melinda founded BecauseFamily, a ministry that exists to inspire and equip parents to be the first influence in the lives of their children, in 2013. Michael is also a geek and loves Star Wars, Doctor Who, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and strategy board games.