Excuse my grotesqueness for a second…
The other day I had a “blemish” (okay, zit) on the side of my nose. Fortunately it wasn’t one of the Rudolph-type pimples, rather it was a bit hidden on the side. Really, if I must have one, I much prefer it playing hide-n-seek on the side instead of camping out on the peak.
No matter where it was, I was very aware; every conversation I had with others I was mindful of their eyes. I watched to see where they were looking. It was obvious to me, but probably not so much to others.
For Youth Leaders I think attendance at youth group is often their zit. They feel like it is an obvious blemish that others are noticing. When asked how youth group is going, most will answer with some sort of numeration involved:
- “Its’ going well, a few less people than we’d like, but going well…”
- “Awesome, we had 18 new kids last night, it’s going so great bro!”
- “We had 43 yesterday!” (I don’t know if 43 is up or down, but that was the answer as to ‘how youth group is going?’)
- Affirm Those Who Are In Attendance. “Where is everyone?” is about the worst thing a Youth Pastor, Small Group Leader or Pastor can say to those in attendance… Am I not anyone? Those who are at your meeting, event or ministry need to be celebrated and affirmed for being there. Count it a blessing that you have the opportunity to be in relationship with the flock who is there rather than concentrating on and being consumed in thought by those who are not. It is obvious to those there.
- Quick Communication To The Absent. A timely text message (not mass text) to an individual may be exactly what is needed. “Hey Jordan, sorry we missed you tonight, hope all is well, look forward to seeing you Friday at the game.” 10-15 texts, emails or FB messages immediately after an event may go a long way to a student feeling missed. Remember, many students are internally asking the question “will people notice if I’m not there?” Make sure you do notice. In addition, use the name; students can sniff out a mass text!
- Maintain A Safe Distance. We have all had students who simply don’t want to be chased. Be careful that in your pursuit of relationship you don’t look like a freak, “that guy” or “that gal” who won’t lay off. However, consistency in the life of a teen is key. If you maintain consistent communication with teens and your relationship with them isn’t dependent upon their attendance at youth group then they won’t feel chased, they’ll feel pursued. I believe these similar words have a very different feel.
Knowing that the world is telling students mixed messages, one minute a teen feels valued and the next they feel like the person who wasn’t asked to prom, we have the opportunity to consistently be in relationship with these wonderful students. Remember, you’re not alone, it is not up to you to make a student feel valued, your team is vital to this. Each person on your youth ministry team can/should be pursuing his or her flock. Beside that, you don’t have all the time in the world. Taking five to 15 minutes a week just to communicate consistently with that missing volunteer, absent teen or seldom seen parent could go a long way toward growth in your community (regardless of event population). Don’t be consumed and add to your busyness, be freed up for relationship (speaking of busyness; next week I’ll conclude the “Margins” series, check those two posts out here: part 1 and part 2).
May the attendance blemish no longer define our week!