Attendance and Spiritual Growth

Time flies! It has been nearly a year since I was called to my current church as a full time youth minister. During my first few months I got to know all of my students. I met this awesome girl who I will call Kim. She was one of our older high school students and was a member of a family who is very involved in our church.

This girl is a natural leader, super nice, caring, and very outgoing. She has this personality that is goofy and she can relate to all of our students. Very quickly I learned, though, that she is never at youth group. For a bit I thought she did not like me and my wife but I learned that she actually likes us and is bummed that she can’t come to youth, she has a competitive sport that practices on Wednesday nights.

As youth ministers, we buy into the lie that youth group attendance equals spiritual growth.Kevin Patterson
For a bit I thought, ‘Oh she is just not spiritually mature.’ But I learned a lesson. The more I interacted with her the more I realized she is probably one of the MOST spiritually mature students I have ever met. She has a consistent quiet time and can intelligently tell you what she learned and how God spoke to her. She goes with our church on mission’s trips and has such a servant’s heart. She totally gets what Jesus teachings are and applies them daily. So why did I think she wasn’t?

As youth ministers, we buy into the lie that youth group attendance equals spiritual growth. We do this because we are human, we spend all this time preparing our lessons, we make sure the small group questions tie in, we make these fun games, and we spend a lot of time in study. We want students to attend and we think that when they don’t ‘Well they just must not be spiritual! They must not truly get Jesus or they would be here.” The fact of the matter is, though, that some students just don’t NEED youth ministry. They are mature enough to get it on their own, which is the end game of youth ministry anyway right? We want to raise students up who can grow on their own with out us. That way when they graduate high school they do not graduate from their faith.

Kim is one of those students. I can see Kim having a strong faith throughout her whole life. I’m sure she will go through seasons where she is closer to God and seasons where He seems far away; we all go through those seasons but I will make a bold prediction and say years from now, she will have a unshakeable faith in our Lord and Savior. While the human side of me wants her to attend because she is an awesome student and has a lot to contribute, I now realize that her attendance does not reflect her spiritual condition. Until next time!

Header image provided by Ryan McGuire through

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