I’ve noticed a recent flood of student ministry events happening around the area recently aimed at drawing a big crowd. That isn’t surprising. Usually toward the beginning of every school year student ministers are trying to pump up attendance. Start big that way the end of the semester dwindle is less painful.
This isn’t a post against programs that are aimed at bringing people in. I think those programs are needed and necessary. Some students wouldn’t think twice about darkening the door of your church unless you had a DJ or local celeb or messy games blowout. These things may even draw back those students who were active last year but you never saw from June through August.
When talking with people about these type of events they are well aware of their aim. Draw people in. Hope some of them stick. Say your event draws in 100 new faces (for the sake of simple math). What would you consider to be a successful return rate? 10? 20? 25? So, if 25% of those that come for the first time return that would be great. A chunk of those students could get plugged into small groups and begin to develop deep relationships aimed at Christ.
The question that kept nagging at me last night as I was trying to get some sleep was, “What about the other 75%?”. I know that drawing in the 25% is worth celebrating, but have we done anything for the 75% to change their mind about church? What does giving away iPads/money/etc say about the desire (envy) for more stuff? Does it do anything to offer an alternative to the insatiable beast that our consumer culture creates? Sure, you may have an easily digestible message about the fulfillment Christ can bring, but everything else we’ve done up to that point has pointed to the contrary.
So, what about the other 75%? Do we write them off? Focus on the 25%? I don’t have an easy answer. I still struggle with these things. What are your thoughts, whether student or adult ministry? How do you handle that tension?