In the city where I live, there are four Christian Reformed congregations, several other more conservative Reformed congregations, plus a host of mainline and community churches. Over the last few years, our youth groups have seen a fluctuating attendance. We don't always know who are "members". This is happening in any number of those other churches too.
It happens like this: For a while youth whose parents are members here attend our youth activities—whether Cadets, Pioneer Girls (we have no GEMS), Junior Youth (“CDs” by us—short for “Covenant Disciples”) and Senior Youth. Then the “friends factor” enters in. Friends will go with friends to a youth group for a part of a year, a year or two. Or they will move from one congregation’s youth group to another almost from month to month, depending on the activity du jour.
Sometimes, some of us get a bit cynical. I suggested it might be possible to go go-karting three weeks in a row by heading to different churches and to do paintball the fourth week in a month. Why, no one would ever have to attend a meeting where there’s a Bible study, a group prayer or anything more structured than getting in the car at more or less the same time for the given activity! Ah, some say, but the pay-off is the catch-all “RELATIONSHIP-building."
Brother. How can you argue with that.
Well, there are serious issues involved here. Our youth leaders often do not know who’s coming to youth group any given night. Planning and budgeting for the groups are difficult. What materials should we order? What programs can we follow and afford if attendance fluctuates weekly? Recruiting, motivating and training for leaders become complete gambles. Who wants even to try building a lasting relationship with kids you might see only once a month, if that? And then what about consistency in habits, commitment? What responsibility do parents have in supporting a given program?
Anybody out there dealing with something similar? How about some thoughts, suggestions?