Q&A: Following-up with absent youth group students

Sorry guys, still playing catch-up on Q&A topics you’ve submitted, but I love the questions, so keep ’em coming!

Shelby Craig asked me this question on Twitter.

How do you follow up with students that haven’t been to youth group in a while?

First of all, how we know when a student has been missing for a while is very important. The typical strategy is to take attendance or have everyone sign in when they show up at youth group. After a couple weeks, if Quiet Jonny’s name hasn’t been checked off for a while, then we know to give him a call.

The problem with that approach is that it’s very impersonal. The only way we know if Quiet Jonny is missing or not is because of boxes that are not checked on a sheet of paper, not because we were looking for him specifically and missed his presence at youth group. Maybe we notice when the outgoing kids are gone, but rarely the quiet kids.

In my ministry, we don’t take attendance. When I get the question, “How many kids are in your youth ministry?” the honest answer is, “I don’t know.” Frankly, it doesn’t matter much to me if we have 1 kid show up or 100. We’re excited about whoever is there and will invest into them personally.

And I think that’s the key — investing into every student personally. If every student has a personal connection to an adult leader who is looking for them and can’t wait to talk with them once they show up at youth group, not only does that kid want to be there, but that adult leader notices when he or she is missing. It is then that leader’s responsibility to contact the student during the week.

So here’s the plan, especially for large-group meetings:

1. Have enough adult leaders to meet a 1 to 5 ratio of leaders to kids. As the youth group grows, add more leaders to maintain that balance.

2. Every leader is responsible for 5 specific kids. These leaders are intentionally looking for those students so they can catch up with them about their week.

3. If an adult is responsible for a kid who brings a friend, that friend becomes one more person that the adult leader will get to know and look for in following weeks. If one leader’s group of kids grows too large, then another adult joins and slowly they divide into two groups.

4. When one student is missing, the leader who was looking for them at youth group contacts them during the week just to say HI, hear about their week, and let them know they were missed. (NO guilt trips!!!)

5. Be sure to have designated greeters who look for visitors that come by themselves. Usually they’re pretty easy to spot because they’re sitting alone, looking uncomfortable.

This isn’t a branded process in our ministry. Most of the kids have no idea this is even intentionally happening. They just know that one adult in particular enjoys them, loves their presence, and notices when they’re absent. That feels a lot nicer than being known by a checkmark on an attendance sheet.


Have a youth ministry question you’d like me and other readers to answer? E-mail it to me! Please keep your question brief and to-the-point. Thanks!

Posted on October 1, 2008

New eBookGo
Focused Youth Ministry ebook

85% off!

Focused Youth Ministry

This practical "how to" ebook will walk you through a 30-step process to discovering God's vision for your unique ministry context. The process also shows you how to implement that vision and put metrics in place to evaluate what is moving the vision forward and what isn't.

Price: $12.95 Limited time: $1.99