Sunday, August 13, 2006

It's not what but who

Perhaps I'm a bit slower than the average youth pastor. I'm just beginning to realize that fun is not what, it's who. Students don't come because of the fun, crazy activity I've planned. They come because so-and-so is coming.

Earlier this month I showed a late night, outdoor movie at the church. Halfway through the movie a girl arrived and stood at the edge of the lawn searching the small crowd. I went over to greet her.

Without giving her scanning eyes a break, she said, "I'm just looking to see if anyone is here."

I was momentarily speechless. I, too, began scanning the crowd just in case the students I thought I saw were in fact a hallucination. Finally I asked, "What do you mean?"

She jerked out of her trance and looked at me dumbfounded. "You know," she said, "I'm trying to see if I know anyone." She didn't and decided to leave.

It's not what, it's who.

I currently have in my e-mail in-box a number of e-mails from students asking who has signed up for an upcoming music festival. They are not convinced they want to sign up until they know who else is going.

It's not what, it's who. While I found this initially frustrating, I'm beginning to see the benefits. Instead of spending my time planning big events, I can focus in on relationships. Then again I suppose I could become lazy. It seems like all I have to do is to ensure that a certain three students show up at church at 8 pm on a Friday and simply provide an onion and a dirty sock for them to play with and they'll come out in droves.


Tony Myles said...

I've been waiting to respond to this but I wanted to see who would post first.

Rockey said...

Your teenage years are about beginning to discover who you are. Often times, they don't have enough confidence in themselves yet to go somewhere and have a good time (especially youth group) if their best friend isn't there already. My question is this..with these days of everyone owning a cell phone or text message device, how did she not know that her friends weren't going to be there? Anyways, hopefully your youth group will grow in confidence and engage in activities because they want to and not just because their friend is there. Activities that might help in that area would be local missions like helping serve meals at soup kitchens and such. Just some of my thoughts. Have a great day and God bless!

Christin said...

;-) So typical. And sometimes, the "who" is you! (Which is a bit frightening too.)

Nate said...


I agree from the past 5 years of youth ministry - I have done my best to put a great program together, games and make the best experience possible. The deal is = students don't come because of how cool the youth pastor is or how awesome of a ministry we may have - it's all about who is there.

When I invite a new student to my ministry now - I always invite them and ask them to bring a friend. Not because I want more kids at my ministry, but because I want them to enjoy their time at our ministry. If their friend comes they will have 100% better time. Good stuff and I agree!


Amanda said...

Christin: Yes! That is a scary thought. This afternoon my students are going water tubing without me (I'm on vacation). I was told to plan for an event that I was not going to attend to see how the students respond. I'm eager to hear how it goes!

Nate: I don't know if this is an east coast or a mainline thing, but I constantly have students and their parents asking me for permission to bring a friend. I keep telling them they don't need my permission and that not only CAN they bring a friend, they SHOULD bring a friend. I don't quite understand...


GL said...

I like your thoughts. One summer home from seminary I was working at a megachurch and my summer was spent dialing home phones of 9th graders, begging them to come to weekly entertainment events like broom ball, water parks, etc. What a waste of time! Of the hundreds and hundreds on the list, about 8 would show up, but I'd spent hours each week calling through the list. By mandate. If that time had been spent in the personal presence of the willing, much better relationships would have been forged.

Dave Ward said...

To me this points out the high priority of student leadership. When you select, inspire, and equip the right students...the sticky ones, the connected ones, or whatever the hip Tipping Point language get 5 or 6 or more students per leader!

That to me is the tough part of big group leadership...figuring out who the keys are. And they aren't ALL the in-style, popular, athletic ones. Some are...but eventually you tap each group with a few leaders. Then you need to tap the OTHER groups with OTHER leaders.

Then when THEY lead the event at some level, of course they are there, they invite their friends who know they will be there....etc.

Anway, since you can't fully figure out who they are, I have to pray/guess and see what happens.

At least that's my idea. "Does that make me craz-a"?

How's that match up with more current-day youth leader world. I am out of the loop.