Bottom Line: Your engagement will determine your retention.
A new school year has officially begun for us all. This means new opportunities to connect with the students in our youth groups as well as the many new faces that can walk in through our doors. Of course the school year is also met with many challenges as well, since many of our students can be involved in various extra-curricular activities. From band, cheer, football, volleyball, swim, and even the different clubs they are a part of, in which our students are being pulled in many different directions. This means that there will be times in which they may not be able to attend Youth due to the fact that they have a lot going on. At the same time we can’t bank on the idea that our only time to connect with students is on our youth nights. There are 168 hours in one week and most of us just get to spend about an hour and half max with most students. If we are to wait until our upcoming youth night to connect with students then we are missing a huge opportunity to engage with them outside of our weekly program.
We have to ask ourselves the question “what are we doing to stay engaged with our group outside of our youth night?” It’s one thing for a student to walk in through our doors and sit in a chair, but what are we doing to engage with them beyond that. If we as leaders aren’t engaging with students, then you better believe that they are seeking to engage elsewhere. The more engage a student feels the more they are going to want to become more consistent. I want to encourage you today and give you three ways on how we can stay engaged with students.
This many sound like something we already know, but sometimes intentionality isn’t always what is steering our approach. We can get so caught up in the tradition of doing ministry that we miss key moments that could be different if we are being intentional. Intentionally engaging with student’s means that you are going to have to do your homework and find out where, in your context, your students are spending most of their time. The beginning of the school year is also the beginning of the High School Football season. Showing up to the games where your students are on the football team, band, drill, cheer, and even if they aren’t on any of those teams, is a game changer. This is because you can make connections with students who may be on the fence about attending your youth night and now you’ve met them on their turf. You are essentially going from a “come and see” approach to a “go and tell.” If you can be on campus whether it’s for a Bible Club or just to volunteer for any events, then you have more opportunities to engage with students. Intentionality is all about maximizing every opportunity we have by choosing to do something about it. We all have opportunities to make a lasting impact on the lives of our students and it isn’t just going to come from us standing on a platform, it will come from us willfully wanting to do more. Attend a game, be at a Bible Club, or simply pack out your car and get some ice cream with students. The more intentional you are the more genuine your approach will be.
Not only is intentionality key but being intentionally interesting is vital to youth ministry as well. Being interesting means that you are interested in the people God has called you to. If we are only interested in filling our rooms and overlook becoming interested in students well being we have missed the mark. We as leaders should know the well being of our students. Knowing where they go to school, what jobs they are applying to, what are they wanting to major in and so on. Shepherding is more than spiritual guidance as it involves us being in tune with our students. How are we to speak into the lives of those we don’t even know? Yet, when we become interested in individuals we are able to assess where they are and how we can assist them in their life journey. The more we become interested in students the more authentic our love for them becomes. Engage with them in conversations that can become life changing. Check up on them and look for resources that can help them achieve their goals.
Don’t wait until next year to take initiative on becoming more engaged with your group of students. As youth ministers we don’t have much time. The minute a student walks in through the doors the time clock starts ticking and our time with them becomes shorter and shorter. We must have an eagerness to want to engage with students and I will even say this; our engagement with students is a gateway to Jesus. We have to continue to be bridges for students and not hurdles that they have jump through. Seizing every moment and every opportunity to build relationship and community is extremely important. Your youth nights will become more vibrant when you are engaged with your students. If you have been struggling with retention, well then engagement is the key to allow them to stay connected to your group. Your engagement will determine your retention. Take initiative and change your frustration into wins by becoming more engaged with your students. Whether it’s being at their game, sending a text, reacting to their IG post, or hanging out with them in between your youth nights. Allow your students to see that you value them outside of your program.
Challenge your leaders and student leaders to become more engaged with students as well. We can’t do all of this on our own; we need our teams to support the vision of engagement. I’m believing for a turn around in your group.
Praying for you and your ministry,