Where is Everyone?
“Where is everyone?”
“There’s like…no one here.”
“Why are there only three people?”
Ever heard these phrases before? They are usually said when your programming is set to start in five minutes and not even half of your chairs are full. We say we don’t care about numbers, but let’s be honest: when the numbers are low, there’s a tiny twinge of disappointment followed by a series of questions that you begin to ask yourself:
“Did I do something to make everyone stay away?”
“Is there something wrong with our youth ministry?”
“Why isn’t anyone here, tonight?”
I can definitely say that I have been there before. And while I wish I could say that there was some magic formula to getting students to come to your youth group and events, I can’t. But what I can say is that even in those moments of low numbers and wondering what the problem is, there is so much that God can teach us if we look to Him.
This is something that I realized recently during our youth group’s Midweek service. Picture this: at the beginning of the school year, our youth ministry had just been relaunched. I was the brand new Youth Director, and our first official Wednesday Night service had two students—me and two middle school aged boys. While those first few weeks were a little awkward (because I found that I had almost nothing in common with those two boys) we studied the Bible and had a great time. Over time our group slowly began to grow. After a couple of months, we had three students. Then five. Then seven. Then nine. Compared to many youth ministries, nine students might not be a lot, but for us? It was a huge indication of God’s hand on our ministry.
At the end of the school year, I decided to throw a “Hello, Summer!” party. We would have free food, giveaways, and tons of fun just hanging out with each other. On the way to church that night I began to think about what I would post on Instagram after service ended. I imagined a picture of all my students smiling while eating hot dogs along with a caption that said something like, “Wow! Looking back to starting the school year with only two students to ending it with way more than that. God is good!” I was so excited for this event.
Until about five minutes before we were about to start and the only students that were there were the three that rode with me to church. (One of whom was in our children’s ministry and didn’t technically count as a student.) Five minutes passed. Ten. Fifteen. Twenty. At the thirty-minute mark one more student entered, but he would be the last.
“Where in the world are my students?” I wondered.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t discouraged. However, God gave me peace. Here’s why:
Maybe I wouldn’t get to post that picture to Instagram that I had already typed out in my mind, but I would get to give my full attention to those four kids sitting there that night. With it just being the few of us, we all got to talk, laugh, and get to know each other a little more. And you know what else? Never once did any of them ask, “Where is everyone?” They seemed to not even notice. All that appeared to matter to them was spending time together.
That night I learned that just because you don’t have a large group doesn’t mean that your programming or event is unsuccessful. Sometimes, God allows it to happen for a reason. Could it be that those two students that show up to your game night are two that you don’t know that well, yet? Is it possible that those six kids that show up for Bible Study are the very ones who desperately need to hear your message with limited distractions? Or maybe, just maybe, God only allowed you to have four students that night to show you that your ministry is way more important than an Instagram photo? ;)
Or could it be that sometimes our numbers are smaller to show us that numbers don’t always define our ministries?
Don’t get me wrong, here—numbers themselves are not terrible. Large numbers often show us that there is growth, while a steady decrease in numbers might reveal something that might need to be changed in our youth ministries. But on those days where we just don’t understand what’s going on with our numbers, we can look to God and know that whether we’ve got 5 or 500, He can still do an awesome work.
Friends, even if just one person shows up, be determined to move forward anyway. Teach the lesson. Play the game. Do what God has called you to do, regardless of who is there.