Take a look around the churches in America and it’s easy to see that student ministries are struggling. Many have seen attendance steadily decrease over the past several years to the point that some churches no longer offer services specifically for students.
This trend both saddens and frustrates me. Like many of you reading this, student ministry played a huge role in my growth not only as a young Christian, but also as a leader and pastor.
Yet, something has shifted. Student ministry isn’t the same as it was just a few years ago. I’m sure there are many different reasons for this. Here are the six that come to my mind.
- It’s no longer the cool kid.
Student ministry used to be the place you could do all the things that you couldn’t do on Sunday mornings. It was the place for loud music, black lights, and fog machines. Over the last several years, many churches have introduced similar elements into their weekend adult services in order to reach a young audience.
- Students are more connected now than ever before.
Remember when you could only see your friends at school, church, and the occasional birthday party? If you wanted to talk to them, you had to call them on the phone. Those days are long gone. Through Facetime, Snapchat, and a plethora of other social media platforms students have found community online.
- Parents aren’t making it a priority.
As parents are attending church on a less frequent basis, we see their teenagers doing the same. Many parents run themselves ragged throughout the week to the extent that a night at home is more important than sending their kids to church.
- Youth sports.
Days and nights that used to be off limits for youth sports leagues are quickly disappearing. It’s not uncommon anymore for kids to have practices and games on Wednesdays and even Sundays.
- Shrinking budgets.
As church budgets shrink, one of the first places churches look to cut is the youth budget. While this may make sense short term, it can have devastating effects long term as we see fewer and fewer teenagers making their way back to church as adults.
- No mid-week service for adults.
In many churches we grew up in, Wednesday night wasn’t just designated for students. Adults still had their own services, Bible studies, or prayer meetings. As Wednesday night has changed to primarily student services, we’re asking parents to drop off their kids and pick them up an hour later, and many aren’t willing to do this.
Student ministry is changing, but that doesn’t mean we give up on it altogether. It just means we have to change with it. I don’t have all the answers, but hopefully we can get the discussion started.
What’s working for you in student ministry? Let us know about it in the comments below, and if you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more direct to your inbox each week.