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Competing with other local youth groups

Adam McLane and I were talking via Twitter about his post, 3 Lies of Church Growth Experts. It really is sad how many churches have become more focused on building a church rather than building the Kingdom of God. It’s not about growing mature believers and sending them out into the world — it’s about collecting as many pew-sitters as possible so you feel good about yourself and your “ministry.” It’s the same attitude people have when they do evangelism as recruitment rather than out of a burden for lost souls that could care less about which Bible-teaching church they join later.

Unfortunately, this mentality often trickles down to the youth ministry. I fequently hear about the competitive nature between local church youth ministries, about how one youth worker is upset because some of his kids went to a different youth group and how they have to compete with the big church to keep their kids. People, this is not how the body of Christ is supposed to function. It’s not about us versus them, it’s about seeing teenagers mature into sold-out passionate worshipers and dedicated students of the Word. Who cares if that happens best at your church or at someone else’s church?

Personally, I’m not offended when one of my youth group kids goes to another church’s youth group because I want that student to be wherever they’re going to grow the most. I’ll be honest enough to tell you that that’s not always in my youth group. Every youth group is different and so is every student. I have kids from other churches in my church’s ministry and other churches in the area have teens from my church. It’s not a big deal. In fact, there have been several occasions when I’ve actually sent my kids to another church’s youth group because they were doing something that I thought could really benefit them spiritually. I’m actually doing it again at the end of this month and purposefully not scheduling anything here that might conflict with it.

Remember, it’s not about being possessive and thinking of the teens as “my teens” because they’re not yours — they belong to the Lord. Your roll is to help nourish them spiritually, whether that takes place at your church’s ministry or someplace else. Don’t let your jealousy or disappointment stand in the way of that.

Besides, what’s the worst that could happen? If all of your kids leave your group and start going someplace else, would that be so bad? Take your efforts and join that other youth ministry’s efforts instead! It’s about building God’s Kingdom, not building your youth group. That’s exactly why I love partnering with many of the youth pastors in my community every Tuesday morning at our Allies meetings. We’re a team working together for the teenagers in our community. We are NOT competitors trying to collect as many teens in our group as we can.


Posted on July 16, 2008

  • we have a few churches in our area that share a lot of the same students in their programs. right now we have several of the same students as a church that is very competition-model based, one that is very laid-back and features students prominently as speakers (typically testimonies), and ours which spends a lot of time on in-depth Scripture study (not that these other two ministries don’t include Scripture, or are unBiblical in any way, just sharing the projected first priority of each one). There are times when one of the other ministries is offering something that we are not and I do encourage our teens to be involved. in fact, we work hand-in-hand with one of these other ministries on a weekly basis for our community outreach program.

    but i have noticed one problem. our teens have (mostly) become consumers, picking and choosing based upon the effort each ministry requires from its students, and not committing to any of them fully. this really shows up in our ministry scrambling to fill spots on an upcoming service project trip that were vacated by teens who have learned to be non-committal (this is not solely the ministries’ fault, as it spills over into all areas of their lives). as much as i would love to see teens gather a well-rounded faith development, so far in our area we are only seeing consumers being developed…

  • Ryan

    Well done! Speaking from somebody who recently went from Youth Pastor to Senior Pastor, this is across the board. It doesn’t change at the adult level, like you said. Fortunately there is a new breed of ministers raising up that don’t care about titles and if they are “his people” or “my people” or “their people” for the sake of numbers, as long as they are “HIS PEOPLE” than the Kingdom wins. I always say, you are never supposed to call yourselves anybody’s but His. Success is not measured by how many people show up, but by the power of God that moves through the ones that do. Success is when they look, act, walk, talk and do like Him as a part of their daily lives. I love your articles and usually forward them around the internet. Keep it up!

  • We need to always be looking for ways to connect people (kids, adults, whoever) with the place that is the best fit for them. I do think that there is something unhealthy about kids being a part of more than one youth ministry on a weekly basis though. Strikes me as the consumerist side of the person coming out. It’s kind of like the adult that finds a church thing to do every night of the week.
    I think that part of our job needs to be challenging people to commit to a group of people, no matter if that group is “yours” or over at another church.

  • @ Doctor Headly: I’ve found that the kids who commit are the ones who feel like they are needed and being used, the ones that have something to commit to other than just a group of friends in a building. They’re committed to their friends, but not to a building. The high school kids who are leading jr. high small groups, the ones who lead worship, the one who have something to commit to, those are the ones who I see stick around. Maybe if you have a commitment problem, figure out what it is you’re asking them to commit to because we all want them to be committed to Christ and serving Him more than anything else.

    @ Ryan: I am totally a kingdom-mindset kinda person. Honestly, the people who aren’t kinda irritate me.

    @ Chris S.: I disagree. In my opinion, the more spiritual input a teenager can have, the better. A kid who just wants to soak up the Word whenever he/she can get it is awesome! And if it’s a consumerism mentality, that will change with maturity, but in the meantime, if there’s anything I want them to be consumeristic about, it’s the Word and other believers. Personally, I’m not committed to a group of people as much as I’m committed to the Kingdom, both in my local church and in the churches around the world. That’s a huge part of why I have a youth ministry blog in the first place.

  • Thanks for the post Tim. It is awesome and one that so needed to be shared. Being in a parachurch ministry working to equip youth leaders in my community to become Kingdom mind-set I see this competitive nature all too often. It’s my prayer we all build towards the Kingdom not the best and biggest youth group.

  • i have indeed been looking at what we are asking our teens to commit to over the past few months. honestly right now, after the past few years of very “fun” oriented ministry, it is a challenge trying to re-introduce Christ as the focus. we’re going to be taking the next year to really discern areas our teens can plug in with their gifts and talents, exploring opportunities to serve others tangibly (an alien concept to most of the tens in this area), and what it means to be committed to the Kingdom.

  • @ Doctor Headly: I’ve been going through that same kind of a transition lately, too. You’ve probably already done this, but I found it was great to honestly share with the kids what the past was like and how we’re changing for the future. All of them were totally pumped about it, especially since I keep sharing about it over and over again. Everyone knows about the shift and is expecting to see the changes.

  • yup. been there, continually revisiting it. sometimes it is just a bit difficult to remember that it is indeed a process. i have to remind myself each day that it is a journey and it will be marked by steps backward, forward and even sideways.

  • Came over here via the discussion on adam’s site. Great conversation, we have been in the “kingdom” not our “church” mentality for awhile and it can be brutal to fight the battle.

    I have gone from a larger church to a smaller church and most of my students attend ministry elsewhere. To me, there is no problem. We had a couple that would attend ours and then drive to their next youth group. I always thought it was neat.

    The dream and wish that I had would be that we could (as a community – town) be always about the kingdom and not just our flock.

    However, at the present time, that is not fully possible. When churches are giving yp’s salary, raises and bonuses based on #’s; there will be a curch not a kingdom mentality.

    One of the interesting things that I would like to see (about numbers) though is when church x, y, and z are all counting the same kid for their ministry, if there could be a collaborative effort to “match” so we can see the true % of the students that the community is reaching.

    Sorry for ramble.

  • Wish more youthworkers would read this and have the “Kingdom Mentality”

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