Families have long been the cornerstone of church congregations. Parents bring their children to church every Sunday. At a certain point, it becomes the children’s choice and responsibility to decide if they want to continue going to church every Sunday or not. That’s why it’s so important to show your children God’s grace and make Him a priority in their life from an early age.
As children in the church get older, make sure to pay them personal attention and dedicate time to help them grow so they choose to stay engaged long-term. Here are a few ways to increase youth retention:
- Keep them engaged through small groups. Learn about them, what they enjoy, what they are involved in at school and who their friends are. The more you know about them and show an interest in their life, the more they will trust you and communicate with you.
- Be there for the big moments in their lives and share yours with them. This is huge. Investing your time by sharing it with those in your youth group or small group shows students that you care. There are a lot of big decisions and events (college, engagement, marriage, children) in their lives. You being there to guide and support them through these decisions will stand out in their mind later down the road.
- Hold events that act as a right of passage. Examples would be middle school graduation recognition, summer camps, banquets, dances and other events that celebrate the students’ achievements and milestones.
Using volunteers to help plan these events. Volunteers are also able to give more personal attention to the students while the events are taking place. That means more opportunity for adult and student interaction and discipleship. The more volunteers the merrier. Also think about recruiting older high school students to be present at events for younger students to act as mentors.
Without discipleship at the core of what you do, you will fail to miss the mark. Your focus needs to be on two areas.
- Disciple existing students. Youth pastors have to make discipleship a priority. The more you are able to pour into the students you lead, the more engaged and interactive they will be come.
- Encourage students to disciple their friends. Encourage students to bring their friends to church and events. Educate them on how to disciple their friends after bringing them to church or to events. The follow-up is critical to proper disciple-making. If done properly, friends will come back to the small group, youth group or other events in the future, even if it’s only basketball or a game night. This is a great way to bring new students into your church and, ultimately, potentially reach their unchurched parents as well.
Lastly, you must pray. Pray that the events you hold, the small groups that you form and the disciple-making initiatives you put in place are fruitful. Pray that students you lead will make room and save time for church and the activities you put on each week. Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proper instruction, both from a parental standpoint and a ministerial standpoint, will go a long way in making sure students in your church remain engaged and focused on leading others to Christ.