I’ve been there. You’ve probably been there as well.
A young person arrives to your youth group for the first time with one of their friends, a regular. Your eyes light up. A NEW KID! She is strangely familiar with what goings on, even paying attention to your inspirational talk, but you just read that as unbridled teen confidence.
Then, over the usual youth minister/teen small talk you discover a disturbing fact. This bubbly teen normally goes to another church. What do you do?
I wish there were an easy answer. I wish there was a chapter in the youth minister’s handbook which gave you a step-by-step guideline.
If we’re honest, this can be an issue we sidestep since, if a teen from another church comes “every so often” then it bumps up our attendance. If we’re underhanded then these types kids can be sort after and pursued by our flashy advertising and subtle “encouragement” to “check out what we do.” But as servants of Christ, we must be guided by openness and honesty; for the teen and both churches. Deception or lying will do no one any good.
The first thing to be determined are the intentions of the teen. Is she just checking out the youth group, but has no intention of “jumping ship?” Second, you need to work out the situation of the home church. Is she visiting because your church provides something which her church, for whatever reason, doesn’t or can’t? Are there underlying problems which have prompted her to consider moving? Third, you should try and discern the teens heart.
Over time, does it become clear that she is just wanting to feed her personal preferences? Will she attend whatever group is more exciting or stimulating and given week? Given some of these answers… Do you ever drive her away from your front door? I don’t think so, but we should be aware of some of the land mines which lay ahead. For, eventually, the hard questions will need to be asked.
- Where is she going to connect and serve, using the gifts and talents which God has given her?
- How does her indecision effect those around her? Does it decline their commitment and set a negative example for younger kids?
- By going to both group, but not grafting herself to either, is she getting adequate pastoral support?
- Is she weakening one or both faith communities by not committing to either?
For double dipping youth groups is not a positive long-term option for the teen or either church.
Has this ever happened to you? How do you handle this situation?
Importantly, do you contact the “other” church and how does the conversation begin?
Graham Baldock is a Youth Pastor from Sydney, Australia and has a youth ministry blog worth checking out atgrahambaldock.blogspot.com