But don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the Word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.James 1:22-25
There’s no question that the pandemic took a toll on church attendance. I’ve heard it a thousand times and in a thousand ways, and so have you:
Teenagers just aren’t coming back to youth group after Covid.
Since Covid, our attendance has plummeted and we haven’t recovered.
Teenagers got out of the habit of attending youth group during the pandemic.
And, yes, Covid has, in many cases, impacted youth group attendance. While many adults continued to watch church online throughout the pandemic, a lot of teenagers dropped off of “Zoom youth group” within a few weeks or months of the pandemic and haven’t returned since, either online or in person.
That said, it’s time to stop blaming Covid for teenagers not coming back to your youth group.
GET TO THE ROOTS
As Dr. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, used to say: When we face a challenge, we either look out the window and blame something else or we look in the mirror and take responsibility.
The pandemic has given us all an opportunity to look in the mirror. Before the pandemic, youth group numbers were diminishing. The pandemic merely accelerated and accentuated the problem.
The Western model of youth ministry is not working.
Typical, traditional youth ministry has failed. I wrote a blog and a book on it. Click here to check both out.
THE WAY FORWARD
But there is hope.
And that hope is that we can return to a radical paradigm of youth ministry that is 2,000 years old and pandemic-proof. The hope is that the book of Acts can be lived out today. The hope is that the greatest weapons in our youth ministry arsenal are not games, curriculum, and camp. They are prayer, the Gospel, and God’s Word.
Stop blaming the pandemic, a lack of budget, a church leadership that “just doesn’t get it,” or Gen Z and the up-and-coming Alpha generation. Look in the mirror, and ask yourself these questions:
- Does my youth group paradigm reflect the book of Acts?
- Does my leadership reflect how Jesus led His disciples?
The youth groups that are thriving today, both in attendance and spiritual growth, have some common denominators. One is that they don’t make excuses—they make disciples. They aren’t budget-dependent but rather Spirit-dependent. They don’t focus on games—they focus on the Gospel.
They weren’t neutralized by Covid—they became more Gospelized because of it.
Youth leaders, stop looking out the window and blaming Covid, budgets, or whatever. It’s time to look in the mirror, fix what needs to be fixed, and go for it in the power of Christ!