Replace Hype With Hope, & Attendance With Engagement
This is not meant to knock anyone, maybe because I’m 31 and it means I am officially getting old but when people over 25 use words like “let’s get hyped” “shook” or “it’s going to be 100” and things our culture says, my eye twitches a bit. Maybe it’s a context thing but I won’t lie I tried to say it and use it and I just felt a little ridiculous. I think we live in a culture today where everything is “hyped”. Should we be hyped about church? I hope so.
I think in our culture, we think church needs to be “cool”. We have to be the cool church in order to effectively reach students. If it’s not cool or hyped, they won’t be interested and I think that is just a gross lie. We use hype to drive attendance.
We need hope over hype. Engagement over attendance.
Let me explain. I want my ministry to grow. I’m sure you do to. No one would say, “You know what, I think we are good.” Right?
Attendance used to be THE THING to determine growth and healthiness but I think it should only be A THING and maybe your church still thinks like this. Whether you are the leader of your ministry, or you lead a small group of students, when students don’t show up it’s a downer on the mood. I won’t lie.
There are some Wednesdays where our attendance is booming and I get so pumped and then the next week 70 of the students who were there last week are not there. 70. That’s a true story. Talk about a roller coaster.
I’m still working on this one. In our culture today I think our minds need to shift to a new perspective. I don’t know if it’s just a Southern California thing but our students are so busy. They are busier than I am. I feel bad about my life because I don’t think I’m doing enough because all my students are everywhere doing everything (HA!). I do believe our ministry is twice as big as we see on Wednesdays just because our students don’t come all at the same time and they maybe come twice a month at best (and those are the ones who love our ministry and call it “home”).
Hype will drive attendance, but hype dies out. Students stick around when they are engaged.
So instead of just focusing on attendance focus on how we push our students to engage. Students are so mission minded now. They want to make a difference. They want to be a part of a cause. So how do we engage them?
I’m sure there are a bunch of different ways to do this. This is how we are working to engage our students in different ways:
Small groups – When people ask how many students we have I should say 43%. “What?” 43% of our students are in small groups right now. I know when students are in small groups they are engaged and they are cared for. They have an adult who cares for them and they are studying Scripture. I don’t think we are not doing great at this right now. We are in the middle of working on this way to engage students and I am so excited about the future.
Campus ministry – We try to be on campuses a few times a week. One of the best ways to engage students is to go into their world. We ask them to come to us weekly, so go to them. I think when we can shoot a few texts to students saying we are on campus and they come and say hi and stick around for a while, we are engaging them on their turf. It’s huge.
Serving – You are never more like Jesus than when you serve. When we can push students to serve, they get engaged in your church so much quicker. God grows us when we are stepping out of our comfort-zones. When we can get students involved somewhere, they realize they are a part of something bigger than themselves. In such a cause-driven generation, this is how you engage students. Let me brag on my students for a second (proud pastor moment). We have over 100 students serving in our children’s ministry. THE BEST! I love walking around on Sunday mornings and seeing students engaged and investing into others. They stick around when they are surrounded by people pouring into them and being stretched to serve.
Now I want to clarify, I love the hype. Get me up on stage and I’ll be the most hyped guy out there because I don’t think church should be boring. I think we offer something hype doesn’t…hope. Everything we do and want to engage our students in is to show our students the hope that only Jesus brings and when we engage them in these ways, we show them snippets of Jesus. When “butts in seats” is EVERYTHING and hype is ALL we offer, you will gain a crowd that will go away when the next thing comes. But when we engage our students and offer the hope they are looking for in Jesus, you will see a much healthier ministry.
What do you do to engage students?
**This post was originally on the Download Youth Ministry blog.
Justin Knowles has been a pastor for the last 10 years and is the Lead Student Ministries Pastor at Christ’s Church of the Valley in San Dimas, CA. He oversees 7th-12th grade and has an amazing team he does it all with. He hosts The Other Student Ministry Podcast, loves to write about his ministry journey and teach at all kinds of camps. Him and his wife Kristin has a baby boy named Graham and a cat named CATalie Portman. @justinknowles3
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.