Why aren’t there any HS Seniors in the Youth Group?


grad ballonsAre you asking yourself this question as graduation season is in full swing? Where are all the HS Seniors? Why don’t we have any upperclassmen in our youth ministry? It’s a legitimate question to ask if yours are absent.  It’s not just that they get girlfriends, jobs and driver’s licenses. There are other reasons our HS Seniors have left the building.

Here are a few diagnostic questions to ask yourself:

1. Have you involved Upperclassmen in the leadership of your Youth Ministry?

Is it realistic to think that kids are going to come into your youth ministry at 11 or 12 and sit and watch for 7 years? Upperclassmen must be involved in leadership to stay engaged or youth group gets old for them. Youth Ministries that unlock this key will find that students who take ownership of the youth group, will grow faster personally and help the group grow as well. High School’s trust upperclassmen with leadership. Are you secure enough in your leadership to do this? Or do you want to do everything yourself? You say its about quality control, but what if it’s just about control?  Do we want a student’s greatest leadership challenges to come only from their coach or their teacher?

2. Have you been in your church for less than 3-4 years?

Youth Pastors in transition are one of the most common reason that youth ministries don’t have upperclassmen in them. When a new youth pastor comes, it’s easy for the older students to disconnect. It’s nothing personal, you just aren’t their youth pastor. Their’s just left. Meanwhile, the middle schoolers who felt second class to the old youth pastor, often seize the opportunity to have a youth pastor of their own. These 7th and 8th graders will be the nucleus around which your youth ministry legacy will be built. If you stick around 4+ years, it’ likely they will as well.

3. Is it possible that they might not need your youth group to be spiritually healthy?

It almost seems sacrilegious to say it, but is it possible that all teenagers need to come to your youth group to be spiritually healthy?  Do you believe that? If so, you are mistaken. I remember when I came to grips with this thought years ago, that every kid may not need my youth ministry to grow mature in their faith. It was a hard pill to swallow. But strong families, private schools, para-church youth ministries, serving opportunities, even being involved in the main congregation can provide fantastic opportunities for teenagers to find community, accountability and spiritual growth. Do not try to guilt those teens into coming back to youth group, rather try to discover what they are missing, and fill in the gaps. Maybe they have enough big group stuff but are lacking accountability. Maybe they would like to be in a small group with you and a few of their friends, or simply meet with you for coffee occasionally. Yes, culture has changed the youth ministry game in our country. People are busier than ever, and there is nothing busier than a High School senior. My wife and I have one of our own graduating next week. He is one of the more mature spiritual kids I’ve known, and I’ve watched him slowly disconnect with his high school youth group, and the youth pastor he loves, as he moves to the next phase of his life. And it’s normal stage of adolescent development…

1 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV) When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.

 ~Mark

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Youth Dynamics – Scholarship Video


Take 3 min to watch this and help a teenager. Other than a missions trip, nothing in my 28 years of youth ministry has as much impact on a teenagers life as an extended adventure trip in the wilderness!

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My House Burned Down last week.


It was my fault.

Our house burned down in August 2006.

Originally published as an article in “Take 5” -September 2006

by Mark Moder

My house burned down last week.

I was in a meeting.  My wife was working.  The kids were home watching cartoons while a stain rag spontaneously combusted in the garage and proceeded to consume my house and send my life into a tailspin.  Thank God my kids got out.  My 9th grader kept my younger son from opening the door to the garage where the smoke was coming into the house from.  He said he learned it watching cartoons.  Thank God for TV.  Just this once anyway.

It’s been interesting to be in the middle of a crisis from this side of the coin for a change.  As a youth worker we are constantly coming along others in the midst of their turmoil to offer help and support, but I’ve not ever been the guy needing help.  In fact, I’ve never been the kind to ask for much help at all.  I’ve always been a “Git R Dun” kind of guy.  Or In the immortal words of one of my earliest mentors, “There is no try, only do or do not.”  (Yoda).

Yeah, that’s not really working too well for me these days.

People are like, “How are you?” “What do you need?” And since it was so absurd for me to give my usual response, I’ve had to be honest.  “Um, I mostly need everything.”

As pastors I think we’ve been conditioned to not have many needs.  We are the ones who help… not the ones who need help.

It’s been amazing to watch the family of God surround us and support us in our time of need.  All the guys from my old worship team showed up at the scene the day of the fire, and while the house was still collapsing around us, they helped me salvage what we could before the ceilings caved in.  I didn’t have to call them.  They just showed up.  Another friend handed me $500 cash and the keys to an empty house.  And although we ended up somewhere else, it was a huge relief knowing that we had someplace to go if we needed it.  Another friend showed up that afternoon and just stood by me the entire time. He didn’t say much, for sure nothing profound came from his lips.  He just stood there with me. I needed that.  And although Job’s friends get a bad rap for their lousy advice, to their credit they did tear their clothes and sat quietly with Job for the first week after his world came crashing down.

It’s been funny to watch people’s response to us.  We were on the front page of a couple local papers.  It seems like almost everyone in town knows.  We can’t go anywhere without people engaging us.  It’s cool that people care, but I’m honestly almost sick of talking about it.  It’s the same conversation, a thousand times over and over.

After you get done talking about the facts, a lot of people want to assign some cosmic blame or find some kind of purpose in our fire.  Either Satan caused it because he’s attacking us, or God caused it because He has some divine purpose for our pain. Maybe it’s just me but I’d rather not do either for now.

Isn’t it just possible I made a mistake and threw the rag away when I should have doused it in water instead?  It bothers me that people have to move so quickly to find purpose and understanding in our painful situation.  I know this, in the future I will feel less pressure to have answers for people in their crisis and instead simply try to walk with them through their pain; I don’t want answers, I just want support.  Let me know you care, that you’re praying for me, that if there’s anything you can do to let me know… that sort of thing.  Honestly I don’t even know what I need.  I can’t think that far ahead, I have too much to do right this moment.  In the future I will simply drop in on people in crisis and give a hug and a card with a gift certificate for a movie or dinner or something.

Last night was our first night in our new place.  It’s a rental, a nice place near the lake.  We have rental furniture that insurance is paying for and are getting settled. It’ll take a while for things to return to normal, whatever that means, but I know it’s around the corner somewhere close by.

I can say this… God is good.  No doubt about it.

Job says in chapter two to his buddies.  “We take the good days as from God, should we not take the bad ones too?”  That’s so true.  I can’t see His purposes in this yet but I trust God and I believe in Romans 8.28.  I also believe that if nothing else, God wants to glorify Himself through me, even through my pain; maybe especially in my pain.

To quote myself from front page of the paper the other day:  “It’s just stuff.  We have everything we need: our family, our friends, and our faith.”

Like Mary, I’m pondering all these things in my heart, to see if God is saying anything else; but for now I’m going to stop asking the “Why?” question… it’s the wrong question…. I may or may not ever get an answer to it.

The question I’m asking God these days is this:  “What now?”  “How do you want me to respond to this?”  “Where do I go from here?”  A wise coach once said, “never look at what you’ve lost, always look at what you’ve got left.” I like that.

The last thing I think God is saying through all this is this:

Skip your next meeting and spend it with your family or he’s going to burn down your house. Okay, so maybe the smoke did get to me a little bit,… But seriously; it’s all going to burn someday anyway.

~Mark Moder

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