getting visitors to stick
We can draw a crowd but helping them become committed students is a whole different topic.
Have you created a program with the expectation that it will attract students? I mean a program that week after week students invite their friends and they come? Then their friends come for two weeks and you never see them again? That was and still is a problem in our ministry. I know I'm not alone with this problem and I won't tell you that I have found the answer but I have stumbled on to an answer.
After that HUGE, messy, games night where you smeared peanut butter all over your bare chest wait, wrong story. After your large, crazy, bridge-event where you have five new students, you are praying for them to come back so you can communicate God's love to them. And to your amazement, they ALL return! You have rockin' musical worship and, as a communicator, you are on that night. I mean you are funny, even the stud 12th grade captain of the local football team is laughing uncontrollably at everything you say. You give an opportunity for students to fill out a communication card indicating a spiritual decision they want to make. After the service you are STOKED because all five new students want to develop a relationship with Jesus. You are floating on cloud nine (wherever that is)! The next week rolls around and you are praying and putting the finishing touches on your sweet message that is going to hit a grand slam with everyone. You get your student room all ready, the tunes are pumping and your committed students are rolling in expecting a great evening of relationships and God. It is 6:59 (one minute prior to go time) and not one of the new students from the previous week has arrived.
Can you relate? I'm guessing you have if you've been in ministry for more than two weeks. So, how do you move the crowd students to become more committed? I have a one word answer. Relationships!
Relationships are the key to moving the crowd deeper. When a student walks into one of our events and is greeted, this is the critical beginning to starting a relationship. It drops the guard of the new student. But, I believe if we are going to keep the new student, the make or break action is Guiding them toward a small group (where they will be known).
Forgive me God for I have sinned! I have spent too much time preparing for the BIG event where I get to speak that I forget about the meaningful relationships that are made in small groups with a concerned, committed, compassionate, loving (oops I ran out of "c" words) adult who wants to connect students to each other, themselves, and ultimately to Jesus.
I can't tell you the number of students we have only seen twice because there was no relationship developed and we didn't help them transition into a healthy small group. I wish this was a 30 minute Full House episode where I could give you a simple process on how to have new students build relationships with your staff and student leaders. Sorry. Instead, I can give you a few pointers that have worked for our youth ministry:
1) Know that there is a problem with moving visitors to a small group. Communicate the problem to your adult leaders who work with you and with your committed students.
2) Develop a program where students can build healthy relationships with one another and adults. (A great resource that helped me was Small Groups from Start to Finish.)
3) Invite, Invite, Invite. Have everyone invite that new student to attend a small group. Communicate to your students and staff to be sure that every new, warm body that walks through your doors is invited over and over to attend a small group. Make that small group an important and priority announcement.
I have not found the answer; I have just found a answer to the problem. But, I do know that it's relationships that will bring a new student from being a visitor who attends your program into a committed follower of God who is growing and blessing others.
I would love to dialog with you about this topic. I am a learner and I would love to hear what you are doing in your ministry to move your crowd to deeper places of involvement and faith. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for loving God and serving students!