Youth Ministry: Know your Audience

Though my job title and duties have changed over the years, I am still involved in youth ministry as a volunteer at our local church. But ministry to teenagers can be as much art form as anything else.  It sometimes takes listening and boldness to get a kid to connect through non-traditional means into a group.

“Ryan” is one of those kids.  A couple of months ago, I started noticing that though Ryan would attend the large group Sunday morning worship service for teens in our church, he never attending the smaller group meetings on Wednesday.  He is shy. He is very reserved.  He would politely say, “maybe someday” when invited, but never showed up.  We finally had a meeting a his house, but he didn’t come when we met elsewhere.

By ordained coincidence, Ryan’s father and I ran into each other several times over a couple of weeks, and finally decided to get coffee.  He shared with me about a messy divorce situation that Ryan had more than just a by-standing witness too in the last 2-3 years, and how Ryan stopped engaging in sports and other outside activities almost completely as a result.  This made a lot of sense to me, but I asked a couple of more questions about what he is currently interested in, and I learned some things.  Among the most important: He loves to shoot and edit video.

The youth ministry was recently doing a large retreat (400 middle schoolers), and Ryan had resisted signing up.  If he did, he would be with our small group and get to start feeling more comfortable.  His Dad let me know that he was planning to sit it out, so I went on the offensive.  Within a short time frame we got Ryan excited to attend and participate by inviting him to help with the photos and video.  I even called the guy who oversees that element and had him call and invite Ryan personally.  Success!  He attended, interacted, and appeared to be smiling a lot.  He even shared with me about some personal struggles during a small group break out time where the other 3 boys had also been touched by massive struggles from their parents marriages.

I praise God for the little team of adults that are all praying for and trying to encourage Ryan in his walk with Jesus Christ! Sometimes it takes a little bit of creativity and listening to love on a kid for the kingdom of God.




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