I got this in an email yesterday, but I can’t find the link from “Group” where it came from. This is a great reminder to everyone in ministry, but especially to those in ministry to teens, that the best ministry takes place through relationships and not simply smooth-programs and events.
It’s What You Didn’t Do
We had worked intensely to create an incredible youth night–trust me; it was destined to be a success. We built the entire evening around a relevant theme. We used various creative communication techniques and we’d packed the place with hundreds of excited, screaming teenagers. Most importantly, we had prayed our guts out that the evening would make Jesus smile. It was no Billy Graham service, but enough to be remembered as an unforgettable night in my mind.
Then it happened–without warning, the picture-perfect youth night came to a screeching halt. As I slipped to the back of our meeting room to give high fives to a couple of our key leaders who had worked especially hard, I overheard a conversation that served as a painful wake-up call. Apparently a parent was picking up her teenager at the conclusion of the service. I heard the mom casually ask her son, “What’d you think?” The teenager took less than a second to formulate his direct reply: “I’m not coming back!”
I picked my heart up off the floor, and I took off after the teenage boy before he could walk out the door. I introduced myself and in a direct voice he spouted off his first name and then turned to walk away.
“Look, Ben, I overheard your comments to your mom.” His eyes flashed defensively as if he were gearing up for a debate. “Would you help us out by telling me where we bombed tonight? What’d we do wrong?”
Ben’s eyes softened a little, and he paused for a second before saying, “It wasn’t what people did that was the turnoff. It was what they didn’t do. My mom conned me into coming, and nobody acted like they gave a rip if I was here. Nobody talked to me, like I was invisible or something. I’d rather spend my time with people who at least pretend they’re glad I showed up.”
Group Magazine did a “Cool Church” survey, asking teenagers to rate factors that influence their commitment to church. The things most frequently rated “very important” were:
- A welcoming atmosphere where you can be yourself (73%)
- Quality relationships with other teenagers (70%)
What did teenagers rate as least important?
- A fast-paced, high-tech, entertaining ministry approach
Talk about a wake-up call…