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3 Ways to Close the Backdoor in Youth Ministry

A while back I read “Sticky Church” by Larry Osborne; there are several great points and keys in this book.  In the book Larry explains “closing the backdoor” as something that all ministries need to do in order to help their people grow.  He explains that many times in church the backdoor is as wide open as the front door, so while we may have several new people coming in the front door we also have a very large number going out the backdoor, so the growth of the people and the growth of the church is not what it could be if we closed that door.  So the question is do we have a backdoor in youth ministry? and if so, is it closed or open?

 I truly believe that we do have a backdoor in youth ministry, because there are students whom we see one Sunday or at one event and then we never see them again and then there are those that we only see during special events or programs.  So how do we close the backdoor not only so that the ministry grows but so that the students grow and receive from God what is intended?

  • Track – We need to have a system in youth ministry where we track students so we know who is there and who isn’t.  Tracking is not just  for their involvement in the service, but their interests and needs should be tracked so that we can get them involved  in the areas that speak to or work for them, such as music ministry, media ministry, video ministry, etc.  If we don’t know what we have it will be hard for us to know when it’s missing.
  • Train – We need to train our adult leaders to be concerned about each student and their lives.  As  youth ministry leaders,  realistically we can only connect with a few students on a “real” level.  However, if we get other youth leaders involved in connecting with students in a real way so that relationships are built, the likelihood of students staying and growing increases.  Just think about it, if you can connect with 5 or 6 students but you have 3 or 4 leaders that can do the same, the number of student connections increases dramatically.
  • Teach – We also need to teach the students about the importance of not just going to church or  youth ministry but that they are supposed to grow as they go.  Many times when I talk with students and even parents who I think may be headed for the backdoor, I explain to them the importance of not just being here but getting involved in ministry.  Often they get it and turn from the backdoor to get involved in a ministry.  Now this is also assuming that you have spent the needed time in prayer and planning to have other ministry events or “plug-ins” that the students can get involved in so that they can grow.  Many students don’t stay just because of the youth service or youth night, but they want to be engaged in and by the ministry, so maybe it’s the steppers, choir, dance, drama, media, small groups, or something else but we need to give them options.

Questions: Do you think closing the backdoor is important? How do you close the backdoor in your ministry? What would you add to the list?


Russell Bernard is formerly the Pastor of Students and Young Professionals at The Fountain Ministries.  There he was able to create a new name, focus, and vision for the ministry.  The H2 (HYDRO) ministry is focused on “being a relevant light” for students.  While at the Fountain Ministries, Russell started “The Saturday Night Remix,” where students learned to praise God in a new way. During the first year of this student service, over 80 students came to receive Christ and join the ministry. Read more from him at http://www.afterthemusicstops.net

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