Occasional: done infrequently and irregularly. This term describes some of my students and I am sure that it also may very well describe some of yours. Often, I can get personally offended when students don’t regularly attend youth group functions. However, I want to challenge you for the next few moments to think of your occasional attenders as an opportunity for ministry. There are two responses to effectively minister to the occasional attender: grace and discipleship.
In this day, some students just do not have the option to attend our services every week. Some of my students come from broken homes and others may not be sure if the church is a place that they could fit in. Either way, occasional attenders are a part of every social group and should never be understood as a personal attack on your ministry. Even though it may be tough, the first thing that we as youth workers can offer these students is grace.
When students are constantly bombarded by rules and attendance goals, the church may be the once place where they are able to come as they are whenever they are searching for answers. Some of our students need to be offered grace before we can invite them further into discipleship, and shaming a student for their poor attendance will not feed a strong relationship. As youth workers, we can continue to encourage our students with grace, using positive reinforcement to encourage them that we not only care about their attendance but their daily lives as a Christ follower.
Encourage your occasional attenders that you care for them and meet them outside of your ministry space. Show up when your occasional attender has a sports or music event.
Use every opportunity to model for them the grace and love that Christ gives us before we know to give it in return.
You have the ability to model the principles in their lives that you only get to teach at youth group, use this as the basis for discipleship for your occasional attender.
Many times, the occasional attender may have other priorities that keep them from youth group. As much as grace is important, discipleship can also aid some students in understanding how to go deeper in their faith. Some of my students are passionate about sports, music, jobs, or even their school assignments and struggle to have time to do it all. We should celebrate these talents and passions with our students as they are God-given. Our students need to know that they can serve God both inside the walls of the church and outside the walls of the church. However, you should always challenge your students to be a part of some form of discipleship.
There are seasons where some students will have to take a step back from our ministries for one reason or another. However, this doesn’t mean that their development or discipleship should stop. Take time to meet with students and encourage them outside of the walls of the church. Offer rides from school or food for those who get out of sports practices late. Encourage your student to use their sports team as a way to start a Bible study at their school and show up to help facilitate.
Youth workers need to remember that discipleship happens apart from Sunday and Wednesday services.
Jesus did discipleship in real time through everyday life. Offer time to walk with your students through life and then invite them to walk with the church as it grows just the same.
Always stay connected to your occasional attenders, no matter what the reason they do not attend on a regular basis. Offer grace and discipleship opportunities to encourage them in their faith and always be willing to walk the most difficult journeys with them. Occasional attenders may become some of your best leaders and most passionate Christ followers if you are willing to devote time to bring them into the fold of your youth group. In all cases, make sure that you aren’t occasional in your prayer for these students. God can move mountains if we have the faith to constantly offer every one of our students up in prayer.