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The Outsiders: Responding To Unchurched Students Who Show Up To Youth Group

My heart gravitates towards the finge-unchurched-postmodern kid.  I really do enjoy working with these “outsiders” and I am very thrilled when a unchurched kid comes to church.  At any given point in any youth ministry program, I am going to be thinking:

What are the unchurched students thinking about this youth program?


How are our leaders responding and interacting with these unchurched kids?

Below are 3 ideas that I have learned while working with and responding to unchurched kids who enter the teenage Christian sub-culture known as youth group:

1.  Be sensitive to each students spiritual development and process.  Every students’ spiritual process is unique.  The adolescent spiritual growth is not a sequential progress like the educational system.  Rather the spiritual process for new unchurched kids is very intermitted and disruptive.  Here are a few ways to support the uniqueness of each kid’s spiritual process:  a) Overestimate the power of the Gospel and Jesus b) Be commitment and consistent through the ups and downs c) Most growth happens when student does hands on ministry d) Become a conversationalist and a not lecturer e)  Discipleship starts with a student’s heart and not with their actions and behaviors f)  Pray the Holy Spirit spark an awe for God

2.  Put yourself in their shoes.  You start with where they are at, not with where you are at. To know where kids are at you have to become a participant observer of youth culture and student societes that populate your community. Learn what it is like being a kid today.  Kids are crazy busy, abandoned, stressed and coming from a broken family is the new norm.  Today kids are longing to belong, to be taken serious, feel like they matter and be supported in a warm and safe environment.  The aim is to see and experience life as a 21st century teen so you can comfortably connect with the unchurched kid so you are not surprised by what they know, say and do.

3. Think about your life before Christ.  Remember what life was like NOT trusting and following Jesus.  We cannot presume students automatically know what it is like following Jesus.  It is very easy to forget the Bible, church and Jesus means absolutely nothing to these unchurched students.  They don’t give a rip about anything.  These students haven’t spent years being “sanctified”.  So it is okay if they are a bit “unholy”.

AND don’t get too upset when these unchurched students:

–  break something in the youth room

–  talk about why they would have voted for Obama

–  ask too many inappropriate questions during the sex talk

–  make fun of and swear at the home school kids

–  brings no $ for the youth group outing

–  become disruptive during your polished youth group sermon

– share a very raw-honest-open (and rated R ) prayer request

–  dominate all the youth group games by being aggressive and violent

–  openly talk about how bad the “worship music” is

–  keep their eyes open during “prayer time”

Bottom line in any given youth group always be understanding, demonstrate compassion (always err on grace) and establish boundaries (Don’t disciple them for what they dont know)  for any unchurched kid that walks through the church doors.  Just be thrilled they are there and will be exposed to Jesus’ teachings and love.