In youth ministry one of the greatest battles I have faced (especially living in Washington) is. . .SPORTS! The reason I say especially living in Washington is because of the Seahawks. I have had moments in ministry where kids have decided not to show up because of a sporting event and that kind of hurts sometimes. So the question becomes, "Sports or youth group! Who wins?" Sports of course. Its a hard battle when you focus on kids who are constantly going to these things instead of youth group and it is no fault of ours as youth leaders. I try so hard to understand why and how I can win them back but I don't think I can until they decide they want to come back.
Here is the other issue: I believe it is a force of habit but one thing I tend to do is focus more on those kids who AREN'T there. But, that's not really our job. I was talking to a dad in my church (who is also a coach) whilst expressing my existing frustrations with sports versus youth group (both on the local and professional level) and one thing I was surprised to hear is he said, "I'm sorry." He also told me this story that made me feel a bit better about it. He said, "You know there was a time where I would open up the weight room at school and only two people would come. I would go home and my wife would ask, 'Why do you even open it up if two kids came?" I replied, "Because two kids came!"
This is where I think sometimes in youth ministry we may miss a greater point. There are students who bail on youth group for sports, yes, but the great thing is: There are kids who still come! And that's exciting! We will always still have kids to invest in. Pour into those who don't come, pray for them, keep up that relationship but remember the souls of those who are still there.
Always remember to focus inward.