Q&A: What to do when less than 5 kids show up at youth group

Topic / Leadership

In the comments of my recent blog survey, David Thorne asks a great question:

“What should we do when less than 5 kids show up at youth group?”

Probably the #1 rookie youth worker mistake I see is when 3 kids are sitting in a Sunday school class or youth room and the leader asks with a tone of disappointment, “Where is everyone?” I completely understand what the leader is thinking: “I just spent hours of my weekend putting together a great Bible lesson that I want everyone to hear, but no one thinks our youth group is important enough for their time. Why should I spend my time on it then?” Completely understandable.

But think about it from the perspective of the kids instead. You come in and act disappointed in low attendance, how does that make the other teens who are there feel? Especially if you proceed to talk about the missing students and why they’re absent. The other teens are sitting there thinking, “I guess to get attention in this group I have to stay home. What about me? I’m here!” I know that’s how kids secretly feel because, as a boy growing up in church, I was one of them.

Here’s a better response: Look at the 3 teens who are there and be genuinely excited each one of them! With only three 3 kids, you can talk at length about their weeks, what’s been going on in their lives, and then use their stories as examples in your Bible study together. In fact, call the parents and tell them you’re taking their kids to to Dairy Queen. Teach your Bible study there over ice cream. Grab a board game or two to play there, also. Imagine Iff is a great relationship-building board game and is a lot of fun! (Available at any Wal-Mart or Target.)

As those 3 kids sense your genuine love for each of them and start growing in the Word through your teaching, I guarantee they’ll become excited about youth group and before long they’ll be inviting friends.

A couple tips:
1. Make sure you call the absent kids during the week, not to make them feel guilty for not being at youth group, but to let them know that you missed them and that you still want to hear about they’re week. Ask how you can pray for them.

2. If only 1 student shows up and you’re all alone, head to a public area to hang out and talk. If it’s someone of the opposite gender and there’s no adult to join you immediately, there is no meeting that night.

I actually wrote about this issue last year, too: “Focus on the kids who ARE there.” That post is from my personal experience with Sunday school teachers as a kid.


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 August 12, 2008

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