“My students don’t have time for youth group.” I hear this everywhere I go. Students are so busy these days with athletics or music or student office or some other extracurricular, they feel like they don’t have time to go to church and connect with other students who love Christ.
A high school student’s calendar isn’t like a menu at a fine restaurant, with a limited selection of appetizers, entrées and desserts: “OK, I have three blocks of time during my week. How will I fill each slot of time?” It’s more like a food court, with venders fighting for exclusive ownership of each student’s commitment. When students enter high school as freshmen, they choose a single extracurricular that will drain the bulk of their free time. At that point, all other activities are thrown out the window. A few overachievers will pick multiple extracurriculars, but as they get older and each commitment demands more, they will drop their secondary activities one by one.
Where does youth group fit in? For many, youth group just can’t keep up with the competition. It doesn’t offer the camaraderie or popularity of sports. It doesn’t look as good on a resume as student government. And it doesn’t lead to college scholarships like theater, band, orchestra or choir. So youth group ends up on the cutting room floor. How can youth group compete in this food court battleground? How can you convince students to cram youth group into overstuffed schedules? At the most basic level, this is an issue of prioritization—for parents, for students and for you. Here are a few practical ways to make youth group a priority.
1. From the parent perspective
Create a one-hour parent-training workshop on prioritizing for their students. Remember, parents have their students overinvolved because they think it’s good for them. Help them understand that it isn’t. Explain the foundational importance of being in a community of believers. Demonstrate how it’s not just a time drain; it can actually fuel other extracurriculars by training students to see God working in all aspects of their lives, to see each activity as an opportunity for worship. Invite older students to share how youth group gives them energy and motivates them to excel in other areas of their lives.
But note that one workshop won’t make a difference. You will have to follow it up with articles and resources. Don’t give up. You probably know that students need to hear something seven times before they remember something. It’s no different for parents.
2. From the student perspective
Parents may have the last say on what students do with their time, but many parents listen to the passions of their kids to determine where to invest. So if a student watches football at night, practices throwing during their free time and talks about football with their friends, parents will support that passion and schedule accordingly. You can’t stop by educating parents. How do your students see youth ministry? Is it a time sink—just one more busy night during an already crowded week? Or is it a more foundational part of their lives?