When teens and parents won’t commit to youth programs

When no one commits to youth programs1. People don’t commit to programs. They commit to relationships. One of the first questions a kid asks before signing up for a youth trip: “Who else is going?” Most people don’t care about the program, the trip, or the event as much as they care about the people they’ll be with. How is your ministry leveraging relationships with teens, both peer relationships and adult relationships? Does the program serve the spiritually encouraging relationships or do the people serve the program?

2. People don’t commit to programs. They commit to vision. People rally behind a vision, rarely behind a program. Passionately communicate the vision for your ministry and get people on board with that. When the vision is contagious and people understand how they fit into the big overall picture, then they become excited about the program that may guide them there. People want to be part of a movement, something that is significant and is bigger than they are. Where is your youth ministry going? How compelling is the direction? Are you passionate about it or is it just a statement typed on a piece of paper?

Programs are here to serve the relationships, the vision of your ministry, and ultimately to bring glory to God as a body of Christ, not the other way around. If you’re spending a lot of energy trying to get people to commit to your programs, you have it all backwards.

It should never be about the program in the first place.

Posted on March 23, 2009

  • great post Tim! May we all be more committed to relationships and vision in order to help connect others in a relationship with Jesus.

  • Alan

    First, a question: why do those who choose to work with youth wear a gotee-like facial hair? I notice your picture and there are a handful of youth workers I have known who look like that.
    Second: I know that the idea is to capture the minds of young people through recreation and study, so you will take them why ever they choose to come. But I wonder what church youth groups purpose is numbers, “wholesome” recreation, converts, counseling opportunities, or all of the above? Just wondering.

  • @Alan: I have no idea about the facial hair thing. It’s definitely a trend, though (at least among the youth workers who are men!).

    I think most churches will give you a certain answer about what their purpose is, but I often wonder what their unstated, undefined purpose is that actually drives the way they do ministry. Often they’ve never identified it or know that it’s there in the first place, but the unstated values and purposes are always much more of a driving force than the written ones.

  • PJ

    great post tim!
    Love the fact that when youth workers are frustrated with no one buying into the program that maybe things need to be re-visioned.
    Interested to know what to do when parents buy into vision philisophically but don’t neccessarily commit by volunteering or commit to sending their kids to youth group instead of soccer, basketball or polar bear hunting….

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