OK, so the church isn’t a business, and we in church leadership don’t “charge” people for access. But the truth is that we’re offering something that puts the decision in the hands of the people as to whether or not they’re going to participate. Actually, in most cases, people are actively choosing NOT to participate in lots of faith communities.
That was my first thought but I had to learn a lesson here that impacted the drive and momentum of our student ministry.
First of all, congratulations are in order. People come to your church or ministry. This means people are making cognitive, active decisions to participate in what you’re leading.
Don’t get ahead of me; now it’s time for the bad news. There are way more people that are making cognitive, active decisions to NOT participate in what you’re leading.
To say that differently and in my native language, youth pastors across the country learn the quality vs. free junk lesson every year. They offer pizza, give-aways and free stuff all the time in hopes that students will come in droves and that they won’t have enough room in their area to hold them. But they don’t come.
Let me put it another way: If our local Wendy’s was giving away cheeseburgers, I’d still go pay for a meal at Chick-fil-A. Why is this true? Because I don’t like cheeseburgers? Nope (see author photo). It’s simply because free stuff isn’t as attractive as quality stuff.
This principle transfers to ministry. People want quality stuff, not free stuff. Not only do they want it but they need it. Providing a consumer product will only contribute to these unfortunate and incredible student ministry stats. Students are tired of having bright, flashy things waved in front of them. Entertainment is so short-term; short-term enough that they forget the reason the church even exists. They need truth and depth; thought-out ministries that lead them to be fully-devoted followers of Christ.
So, how do we quality-check our ministries?
If students aren’t committing their lives to Jesus, I need to re-evaluate the quality of our student ministry. A give-away is the last thing that should get the focus.