Church Isn’t For Church Kids

January 1, 2013 — 14 Comments

Crazy right? Now let me explain.

In all of my ministry experience (4 years as a volunteer, 3 as full time minister), serving in four different churches, I have only have been under the leadership or have lead with the mindset of passion for reaching the non-believer. Of course there is discipleship, but the main purpose of the ministry to students is students bring their friend who don’t know Jesus to church so they get a chance to know Him. This is still a huge passion of mine. I understand there are a ton of different philosophies of ministry and strategies to reaching students who do not know Jesus, and I only can speak in which the context I have served and am currently serving. I have always had the mind-set that our main services for students is to reach the non-believer, not the already saved and converted.

Now, in the context of ministry our team works in, on the basis of our church DNA and pastor’s heart, our church was founded by the concept of: “This church is going to be a church for the people who don’t like church”. Everything we do on the weekend services is not for the Christian, but for the non-believer. Same with our student ministry. Our whole weekend experience is to EXPOSE students to the Gospel of Jesus, through many different outlets. The church is competing with the world for attention, and the world is good at it. I believe our ministry needs to be more creative, intentional, and good at executing the message of Jesus through great music, videos, sermon illustrations for new students who have never been to church before. Something that will get them thinking, “This is church? Not what I was expecting. I’ll come back to this to hear about this Jesus guy.”

It’s easy to think that when we loose our identity in way we do our weekend services that what we are doing is not helping students grow. It’s not for the church kids, it’s for the ones who are new and do not usually go to church. Now listen, we preach the message to students, every single service, and our team has had to deal with apathetic students who say, “Well I just don’t get anything out of it anymore.” Usually my first questions back are, “Are you in a small group? Are you in scripture everyday? Are you serving somewhere? No wonder. The services are not for you” (I say this in a loving way of course).

Small groups are the back bone to our ministry. Our goal is to get all students in a life group because that is where I believe life change happens. We have more students in small groups than who attend our weekends (glory be to God because that is Him working amazingly through our small group leaders who minister to our students). Services are the means in which we get them to a small group to grow deeper in Christ, and our small group team and volunteer leaders do an amazing job at getting kids in groups to minister to them in ways that they need.

I understand that there are so many different ways in which we do ministry. I understand that their are some groups that go verse by verse through the Bible, which the last church I was serving at did, and it’s great. But you have to look at the type of people coming into your ministry and make the decision from there. Context changes at every group you go to. Our services are not geared for the devoted believer, small groups are for this, our services are geared for the non-believer to create an understandable message for them to know Jesus and then surround that message with fun and creative ways to help them understand it better.

What is your ministry philosophy on that? Do you plan this as well? How does it look different? 


14 responses to Church Isn’t For Church Kids


    I’ve been doing ministry PT ministry @ the same church for 3 yrs & have always tried making a service for the non-church students,Wednesday nights. The issue is that most Wednesdays its just the same 4-8 that show up for our Sunday morning discipleship service. (The traditional Wednesday & Sunday routine of most churches)
    It’s like my students don’t feel the need or either don’t want to invite their friends. I even emphasize “invite your unchurched friends” til I’m blue in the face.
    So in this case, first, how do i get students to bring their friends? And second, how do I gear a service for the unchurched students?

    Serving with you


      Hi Kendal, thanks for reading. I know that model. The church I grew up in was that model, and one of the churched I serves out did this as well. Both though already had this culture of bringing friends to the mid-week services, I just helped maintain. I dont have a set answer, but I can offer suggestions that might help or spark something for you in your ministry.

      I would (and I sure you have been) pray that God moves in the heart of your students. He’s got to start it. For you, it takes a long time most times but need to start something to spark the culture of bringing friends. For example, I know a church that wanted something to encourage friends to come, so they budgeted money for this, they started going to the 3 fast food places right by their church before services, they called it “Junk Food Alley”, and any student who brought a friend, theirs and their friends food would be paid for. Then they went to service. It was that spark and change of culture within the ministry that exploded to get them to invite. It got so big that they had to stop paying for the food because it got too big to budget for but the students kept inviting anyways because the culture was set from that point on. This might be a good idea for you, but something that students can bring their friends to can be a help. I know for me, when I speak, and when I talk to my small group of guys, I try to help them understand that unless they are bringing friends, and telling them about Christ, they will not fully live out their calling as a Christian. It’s literally training them how to do so.It takes time and energy, but it is intentional.

      The second question, I only have suggestions because I dont know the context of your ministry and that I have worked in both settings of where the weekend services were the services and the midweek services were the small groups, and vice versa. the only way I know is that one of the two meetings is the “main service” where I would have worship music, a game, an understandable message and that is it. And then the other meeting would be for small groups, which is more discipleship, intimate and where you can dig down deep. Typically, the “main service” (which ever one you want it to be) would be the ones with the mind set of, “This is the service you bring your friends to.” The fun games, videos, message, that is geared for someone who has no idea about Jesus.

      I don’t know if that helps, but that is what I got. I’m sorry but there is no concrete, “this is how you do that” answer, only suggestions and examples of what I have seen work. I will be praying for you and your ministry and I hope that you and your students, with the help of the Holy Spirit, can have that culture of bringing non-believers in your ministry that you desire. Thank you for your questions!


      @Kendal, Here are a couple of ideas that have worked for me.

      First, with any group or class in over 30 years of ministry that I have worked with the initial growth has come from sitting down and making a list of every person that would be in that class that ever came to the church that I knew about. Then, I added names to the list of family members of those who attended the church. Think abt church members who have grandchildren, etc. ask them for their names and telephone numbers. I always get with someone in the church that knows everyone and ask them to look over my list and tell me if there is anyone they can think of that is not on my list. They always have more names to add. Then, I personally called every single person to invite them. Every group or class has ALWAYS grown immediately just from this. I would continue to contact them every week and say “I am looking forward to seeing you again this week.” or “I hope you can make it again this week” etc.

      I was working with the teens at one church we pastored abt. 15 yrs. ago. The teens were not regular to church. Many very seldom came, only 1 or two ever came to Sunday School. I knew I had to do something to get them in the habit of coming, to invite their friends, etc. and it had to be good when they came so that they would want to come again. The way I got them to bring their friends, attend Sunday School, all services, youth events, etc. was a month long contest to win $50.00. I gave them a list of things that they could earn points….earning more points for some things than others. Bringing a friend earned a lot of points and attending Sunday School. Sunday School attendance boomed over night! The person with the most points at the end of the month won the money. Almost ALL started coming to everything and all services, and all tried to get friends to come. It took off fast just from that contest. The youth group grew in number as well as spiritually.

      Some of the things they got points for were…coming to youth service on Wednesday night, attending Sunday School, attending Sunday morning church service, Sunday night service, bringing their Bible to church, points for every youth event we had that they attended, sitting with me in church services (we all sat in a designated area), etc. Give more points for the things that are at the top of your list to be accomplished. I kept a notebook with a point sheet for each student that I brought with me to every service, event, etc. to keep up with their points.


        @ Debra
        Thank you Debra for the advice. The church where I spent my youth years, when I became a sponsor, I’d personally call students to invite them to our services. Even back then I wondered about the effectiveness of it. I think some students i called were kind of like “okay, why are you calling me”! But maybe deep inside they saw it as a very thoughtful act.
        So maybe in our texting, Facebook & twitter world they’ll be extremely blow away to get a call from me.
        Just curious Debra , did you call both the girls & the guys? It seems kind of awkward when I call a students house & the parent answers & I ask for the student & the parent says “I’m there parent, how can I help you.

        Do you suggest my wife calling the girls & me calling the guys?

        Sincerely Kendal


        @Kendal…Yes, I did call both the girls and guys. When I called and their parents answered the phone I would say, “Hi! This is Debra. I am the pastor’s wife at …..and I am calling to invite….to come to ….. Is it okay if I speak with……” They always said “Sure” and called them to the phone. If you don’t feel comforatable calling the girls then it would be perfectly fine for your wife to call them.

        When I called them I would say something like, “Hi Josh. This is Mrs. Debra. I was just calling because we have started a new class for the teens and I hope you can come. It would mean a lot to see you there.” or “Hi Josh. This is Mrs. Debra. I haven’t seen you at ……. lately and I was calling just to say that everyone has been missing you and I hope that you can make it this week.” or “Hi Josh! This is Mrs. Debra. I was just checking to see if you were coming to….” or “I am calling to remind you about….”


    I love the idea, but it also has to be so much more than that. Evangelism has to be more than a student inviting their friend to a fun thing “so my youth pastor can make you a Christian.” Students need to be active evangelists throughout the whole process.


      You make a great point Aaron. They need to remember the church isn’t a place we go, it’s who we should be as followers of Christ.


      You’re right on with that. Which I will discus in another post next week! I’m with you 100%. But it’s the general concept I’m speaking of. Ultimately, it’s the life style we want to see, but it starts with focusing on a student with no belief in Jesus, who do not come to church, and walking through the process of discipleship and heart for evangelism with them as they grow. It’s the starting point. Nothing to do with “youth pastor make you a Christian” and that’s not the mentality at all and never did I say that. So please do not get that from this.

      Weekend services are where students are EXPOSED to Jesus and small groups is where we want students to EXPERIENCE Jesus which will then lead to EXPRESSING Jesus through actions in service. That’s our model. Expressing is the goal. That’s what we hope and pray for. But it starts with this post.

      Thanks so much for your input!Appreciated and well said.


    Something important for us to remember as ministers. Jesus went to meet the disciples where they were at. He invited them to ministry. He called them by name. Our youth are looking for that same personal invitation. While email or facebook is much easier to accomplish is this what the young people that we serve will respond to. Sometimes when rebuilding you have to think outside of the box in order to accomplish the end goal which is hopefully bringing more youth to Christ. Are you at their ballgames, their plays, their concerts? All of this takes time but it also lets you know that you care. The important thing is that you do not have to do it all on your own. A team of young people and adults can be in that leadership role at the various events.


    Hello my friends, brothers and sisters,
    Maybe this will help you too, in Amsterdam-Holland the Lord give favor with the night-live/ disco people. By a miracle of God we have a Gospel-Jam in an discobar in the center of the city, every season of the year the owner open his bar for us to do Gospel music and preaching of the Word/testimony, he let us free in what we organise, cause he likes our concept. Also we putting in the rules for that sunday night-no alcohol, no drugs, no sigarettes and only Gospel Music and guess what: the non christians, the back- sliders, those that don’t like to go to church and our christian young and middle-age people welcome them with the love of Jesus Christ and give them flyers and magazines from our church. It is by the atmosphere of THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE LOVE OF CHRIST things workout Powerful; prepaired through prayer and holy live surender to Him and having a hart of compasion for the lost! By promotion on face-book and sending the event-news by email to all your family-members and friends.
    May God bless you all abundantly.
    Greetings from your friends: evangelist Ferry, Emiliano and Joshua Kotadiny.

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