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.


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