Getting kids to commit to youth group events

Youth group commitmentHere’s a question I was recently asked by a youth worker:

“Will I have a better attendance if I have kids commit to an event months ahead of time or is it better to have them just show up the day of the event?”

Somehow I think the issue of getting kids to commit to youth events is the surface issue, a symptom of something else because most kids really don’t have a problem committing to something. You know exactly what those things are because often it’s what they’re doing instead of the youth group event.

Getting kids to commit to youth group events isn’t based on the timing of when you get them to commit, bribes, or price break incentives (although that may motivate the parents). It’s based on something else: what they believe about you and the ministry.

What you believe determines how you act. It is a basic principle of life that applies to every single one of us. For example:

  • If you believe flying is unsafe, you will not fly.
  • If you believe eating poop is bad for you, you will hopefully not eat poop!
  • If you believe God’s command to Adam to “go forth an multiply” is for all mankind, you will try to have children.

As most of us know, a lot of people say they believe something, but often their actions indicate that they truly believe something else.

So when kids commit to their athletics, their music lessons, their friends, or their ideas, the question to ask is, “Why? What do they believe about those things that makes it easy for them to commit?”

The follow-up questions relating to their commitment to youth events are, “What do they believe about you?” and, “What do they believe about the youth ministry?”

The first question is important to because what they believe about the leader permeates everything else they believe about the ministry, including the ministry’s events. The second question is just as important because sometimes teens can believe one thing about the leader, but believe something else about the ministry due to influences the leader may not be able to fully control (i.e. a previous bad experience, misinformation from someone else, etc.).

But here’s some good news: on some level you get to choose what they believe about you and the ministry. It’s just that most of us have never really thought about what we’re unintentionally teaching them about those two things.

The main elements that influence what people believe about both you and the ministry are:

  • A strong vision that has forward momentum
  • The execution of that vision
  • Their active involvement in that vision
  • The life-change they witness taking place in themselves and/or others as a result

So instead of addressing whatever is competing for teenagers’ commitment, instead ask the question, “What is it that they believe about this competing thing in their life? And what is it they believe about me and this event?” Until you address those questions, you’ll be left addressing superficial issues that won’t be fully resolved with price breaks, bribes, and begging.

P.S. If you’d like to explore a 30-step process I wrote that helps you ask good questions that will enable you and your team to discover God’s vision for your ministry, Focused Youth Ministry is currently 80% off for only $1.99!

Posted on June 11, 2012

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