Q&A: Handling students who don’t want to participate in youth activities

Topic / Leadership

Dewaine Cooper emailed me and asked, “How do you handle students who don’t want to participate in youth activities?”

The short answer: generally speaking, I don’t do much. Instead, I focus my energy on those who are excited about where the group is going. However, I always reach out to those who don’t participate just to catch up with them and make sure they know they’re always welcomed and invited. I think it’s important to build a relationship with them, or ask one of the adult volunteers to be intentional about contacting them — comments on their Facebook pictures, txt messages saying you’re praying for them today, etc. But if you’re asking if I have a program in place to do anything more than that, I don’t.

There’s often a variety of reasons why teens might not want to be involved in youth group: relational conflict, they don’t see the value in it, and other things are demanding their time, just to name a few. It’s important to talk through some of those reasons with those teens, not so you can convince them that their reasons are wrong, but just so they feel that their voice is heard and valued. Remember, the point isn’t necessarily to get them to attend your group as much as it is to encourage them spiritually. If they don’t get that encouragement at youth group, do it outside of the normal meeting times.

Two things NOT to do:
1. Don’t guilt them into coming. “So-and-so thinks you’re stuck-up because you won’t come to youth group.” Guilt will never work to your advantage — it’s manipulation. Instead, try, “We miss seeing you on Wednesday nights! I really enjoyed that one time you came.”

2. Don’t pressure them. Just listen, hear them out, and don’t take it personally if they think you and your ministry are lame. If they have some valid points that you could change in the ministry, do it. Better yet, use them to implement the change. But regardless, don’t beg them to come every week. Just listen to them, pray for them, and give them some spiritual attention outside of youth group. Give them open-ended invitations when appropriate.

What input do you have for Dewaine? How do you handle students who don’t want to participate in youth group?


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 September 9, 2008

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