It is the that time of year again where we kick off our youth ministry year a few weeks behind all the end of summer sports practices and right around the same time as the all the regular fall sport season games. We pour energy, time, and money into our new exciting youth ministry year, only to become quickly frustrated by that missing group of students that have chosen sports over our ministry.
How could they do that? Where is their priorities? Why has sports become such a big deal to so many, while church and our youth ministry has slipped into 2nd or even 3rd place? Here just 10 quick thoughts alongs with some questions for your own reflection.
The Applause- For better or worse students choose sports because of the applause.
But are we applauding our students. Not in prideful or wrong ways, but do kids come to our youth ministry and feel like they are recognized for accomplishments and when they do something good for God?
The Team- Kids choose sport because they belong to a group of people that has unity, connection, an identity and a common goal.
Does our youth ministry? We should be but do we? Do our kids know it or feel with when they come?
The Coach- An adult wanting them to be there, caring for them, and is willing to push them to their limits and beyond. Is willing to yell occasionally if needed both in encouragement and in instruction. Someone that is respected because of their knowledge and skills.
The Future- Kids play sports because there is a dream of a future doing this professionally or at least doing well enough to help them to pay for college.
What is the dream or promise of the future that we offer in youth ministry? Are we working hard to talk about an adulthood living for Christ, or are we just talking about the student years? Are we working to help student find scholarships to go to ministry schools? Are we talking about colleges and careers connected to faith?
The Health- Kids choose sports because it something that keeps them physically healthy. There is a sense of knowing that they are in shape physically, but also mentally & emotionally because of playing sports.
Do students walk away from a year or “season” of youth group feeling spiritually healthy? How about physically healthy? With “Pizza-Festival 2019” and “Mt. Dew Chug-A-Lug Night” are we missing out on a more health conscious generation?
The Friendships/Relationships- Deep meaningful friendship and relationships are formed through sports. Through the rough 2-a-day practices, long bus rides, wins and loses, and more kids bond with others through a mutual interest.
The reason why camps, retreats and especially mission trip experiences are so important, because they are longer opportunities and more intense times that build deeper connections. Are we providing meaningful opportunities to build deeper relationships with other students or just superficial spiritual cliques?
The Parents– Kids choose sports over church, because parents choose sports over church. Parents choose sports because they have something they can cheer for, be proud of, connect with other parents through, and even find a way to connect with their kids through.
Are our ministries a place where parents are invited, welcomed, and encouraged? Are they involved in bringing a snack? Are they allowed to come to see their child doing ministry? Are we communicating with them as much as a coach or sports league communicates with them? Are we providing a ministry that parents can be proud of their kids being involved in and even “brag” a bit about?
The Win- Everyone likes to be a winner. Every one likes to win. Even in a changing world of everyone gets a trophy in the younger grades, late elementary through high school a win and a lose is defined. Everyone know clearly what is a win and a lose.
Do our youth ministries provide a clear idea what is a “win”? Does anyone know what our “goal” is? The biggest question I get asked, all the time by others in youth ministry is- “How do you define success?” If we as leaders have a hard time defining a “win” or “success”, our kids definitely don’t know either?
The Memories- Kids choose sports over youth group because of the memories of the past seasons, teams, coaches, and excitement.
Are we creating memories that make kids want to come back for another “season” with us?
The Commitment– I hear students say it all the time, “I can’t come because I made a commitment to…”. I hear parents say things like, “well we are trying to teach our kids if they commit to something, then they need to stick with it”.
We get frustrated by those statements and bemoan the lack of commitment to church, but have we ever really taught about or explained “committing your life to Christ” is more than a one time, at the altar moment, but rather a “seek first His kingdom” lifestyle. Commitment is connected to priorities and what comes in first. Sports after all is about a commitments to coming in first place. Is our ministries, churches, and even our own personal philosophy about seeking God first or are we just another organization seeking to come in first as we compete against the “other organization” down the road.
Just some passing thoughts from a youth pastor leading a youth ministry while also balancing being a “sports dad” to an athlete of my own!