This year’s theme is “The Story/The Stories.” Each week our blog will focus on a story from a youth minister. We hope these stories help inspire you in the great work you are doing, as well as let you know you aren’t alone in the crazy, sweet, often hard to fathom world of youth ministry. This week we are hearing……

The Story of feeling content when no one shows up on Wednesday

Danny Steis

I’m a “Minister of Students” at Yates Baptist Church in Durham, NC. I enjoy hanging out with my family (Johanna, Ruby, and Marley), ska music, backpacking, homebrewing, and just hanging out. I’m a big fan of Mr. Rogers, Richard Foster, Mark Yaconelli, Eugene Peterson, and other go with the flow spiritual formation people.

“Submission is the ability to lay down the terrible burden of always needing to get your own way.”
– Richard Foster
It used to be at my church that the Fall was the peak of attendance and excitement for youth Wednesday nights; Both attributes slowly diminished over the course of the year and Spring sports schedules brought things to a halt. Summer brought fresh excitement and trips and then the cycle began again with the Fall “rush.” But now extracurricular schedules affect the whole year. There have been many times that a small gathered group and I sat and waited “5 more minutes to see if anyone else shows up.” A slight noise would cause me to quickly glance at the door in desperate hope to see if someone else was coming in. I tried my best to seem happy and ok with the situation. Youth voiced frustrations that I was thinking but could not say – “Where is everybody? This sucks!”
About a year ago I gave up in a spiritually appropriate way. The serenity prayer is not just for addicts, it’s a great tool for ministers. We decided to partner with a sister church, a small country church a few miles away, for Wednesday nights. They have 5 youth present if everyone shows up (which we know how rarely that happens). We did not partner out of pity but out of genuine fellowship. We thought it was the “anti-megachurch” thing to do. Rather than have a “satellite campus plant” (a parasite that siphons off of traditional churches) we decided combine two youth groups struggling with different attendance issues.
The stress and depression of low attendance Wednesdays are gone. It’s really easy to love the youth that are present when I’m not dwelling on the youth who aren’t there. I don’t find myself harboring un-communicated resentment towards “those kind of parents” anymore. I can have pastoral conversations again. I look forward to Wednesday nights rather than dreading them. Since the environment is so laid back I get to bring my 3 year old daughter and the youth love having her.  Not having to be apart from family is a great plus.
There were some proactive conversations about “giving up” on Wednesday nights that I had with my pastor, youth parents, and volunteers, but they aren’t anything unique and I won’t bore you with them here. You probably already know how to have those conversations. But try submitting to this attendance issue if you’re experiencing it. It’s great!