You can start changing their perspective by expanding into students’ lives outside of your one or two-hour program. Don’t let busy schedules be an excuse. Show up at their games or concerts, and bring the rest of the youth group along to cheer. Take students out for lunch, or invite them to a breakfast Bible study. Flip their expectations. Stop convincing them to fit youth group into their busy schedules, and start finding ways to bring youth group to them. Youth group isn’t one activity during the week. It’s a community that influences all parts of life.
3. From your perspective
As the youth worker, your job is to bow out of the food court competition. No matter how flashy and fun your youth group is, there are simply too many other options to compete with. Church community isn’t just another pretzel stand; it’s a grocery store, providing for essential needs. If you compete for students’ time as if your program is one extra activity out of many, that’s just how students will start to view church as they get older. Eventually something—college or a job or a family—will edge it out.
Where does youth group fit in amongst those other activities? Is it a fast food luxury of fun and entertainment, or is it a basic necessity students can’t do without, like family time or school or eating? As long as you program your youth group as a luxury, it will be expendable. Make the content necessary for a fulfilling life and supportive of the other extracurricular activities in students’ lives. If you change the way you see your ministry, you’ll stop focusing so much on the bells and whistles and start concentrating on making your youth group content essential to each student’s family life, school work, friendships and extracurricular activities.