This Church Sucks…

One of the risks of having a large church or youth ministry is that people can go unnoticed.

We’ve taken steps to make sure that new and current students are greeted, included, and followed up with after they visit on a Sunday, but apparently our process isn’t perfect.

A student wrote this on the patio outside of our youth room a couple weeks ago:

Every single Sunday we have two small groups scheduled to do all of the greeting and new student check-in. They stand in our hallway, at the doors, and even inside the room. They’re there 15 minutes before service and 15 minutes into the service. It seems like a perfect setup… but we missed one.

For 3 years this kid has been coming, and for 3 years he has felt ignored.

Jesus leaves the 99 to go after the 1 who got disconnected. I love my 99, but this is a pretty clear cry for help.

This story does have a good note. One of my leaders saw this student right after he wrote this. He went up to him to talk to him but the student was angry and brushed him off. I looked for him the next week and saw him in the back of the room, in the farthest corner. He was sitting right next to another one of my students who had no idea about this little graffiti incident. He saw him sitting alone so he went over to talk to him and to sit with him.

I take a lot of pride in my students and our greeting format, so at first I got defensive and wanted to write this kid off. I want to blame him for not doing his part to get connected. I’m not going to do that though. I’m going to use this as inspiration to work even harder on making sure every kid feels like they’re noticed and known in our gatherings.

13 thoughts on “This Church Sucks…”

  1. Thanks for sharing this man, I really appreciate your heart for your ministry! It’s hard sometimes when it comes to situations like this. I had a friend who was pouring his life into a guy as his spiritual mentor, but he kept getting brushed off. Then when he finally eased up a bit, the guy he was mentoring told him it was his fault that his spiritual life was suffering, because he wasn’t pouring into him anymore. It’s hard to stay the course and move past frustration, but keep on doing what you’re doing man! Thanks again for sharing this, your response to the situation is definitely an encouragement.

  2. Great reality check for everyone man.
    I would probably automatically go into the “it’s their fault for not getting connected” mode as well.
    It’s really easy to talk about leaving the 99 and going for the 1 but rarely do we see it lived out. Really like your approach to this and the fact that your students pursued this person simply because he was alone.

  3. My kids have been going since July and have not met anyone their own age. We moved here from across the country and they are sad to not have any friends and find the schools here very worldly. they are not the kind of kids that will make themselves talk to someone they don’t know. I know this is kind of hard for all teenagers but maybe a group of really out going kids could get together and welcome the new ones. more than just hello on sunday morning. The idea of going to a small group is a little scary when you don’t know anyone that is there and it is in someones home. I wrote and had them placed in a group, but can’t talk them into attending without knowing someone. they have given up on service for their age group and have started attending the adult service. It is such a big church, it is hard to get the welcoming one needs when they are new. Easy to fall through the cracks. I want to commend you all for trying but also let you know that this young man is not alone. 😦
    Thank you for listening.

  4. Cheryl, I’m sorry to hear that your kids haven’t felt connected yet. I’d love to help. Did your kids every check in at the “New Student” desk? If not, that would be a great place to start, even though they’ve been coming to Mission for a while. Our students and staff have been trained to go well beyond just a “hello”, but we’re definitely still a work in progress.

    If you would like some help getting your kids plugged in I would love it if you’d email me at

  5. Cheryl I feel for your kids if they are feeling the way you described but I encourage you to take them right to the man, Ryan, and I assure you they won’t feel disconnected again. Imagine Ryan having to know what all 200-300 students are feeling on any given Sunday. That is the beauty of small groups, a more one on one setting where feelings can be shared more intimately. I have a 17 year old and a 13 year old who can’t go without small groups during the week and would cringe at missing their weekend service times. If I can be of any ambassador assistance I would love to have my boys hang with your kids and get to know them. They would love to help out and see if we can’t help get them more comfortable and involved. If interested I can be found every Sunday in a Guest Services shirt roaming the campus just ask for Gary Gilbert and I would be happy to help out.

  6. Thank you for sharing Ryan. So sorry this happens to new students but even to the “old ones.” I suppose this doesn’t surprise me because this often happens with adults. A general rule for me to follow is to talk to everyone. If you see a face, seen over a dozen times or for the first time, say hi… cause the fact is I don’t know them or have not invested time to get to know them….yet. Love where your heart is at.

  7. Thank you, Ryan for considering improvements in this area. My husband and I love Mission and what God is doing in our church. Having been in student leadership myself, I have a suggestion you may want to consider; maybe your leadership team could identify a couple “teams” of students who are outgoing and have a heart for new kids. This could be your core outreach team. They could take the lead each week to welcome and reach out to anyone new. I think to assume that kids will go to a small group when they dont feel welcomed or connected on Sunday morning is mis-guided. They need to feel connected at some level in order to take, what is viewed as, “the next step”. I fear that the responsibility of connecting is being left to Wednesday nights, which I think is dangerous, as with some kids Sunday is the only chance we get to make them feel connected and “wanted”. Maybe there should also be more thought given to the current “processes” in student ministry, ie: checking in . A couple of questions for consideration: Are any of our processes building barriers for new students? Are we expecting new students (who may have never even been in a church before) to conform to our process in order to fit in?
    My son went to Mission for several months and never felt connected or welcomed and he is a very outgoing kid. He no longer goes to Mission. Unfortunately, this is the same story I hear repeated with other families with students. I would love to help be a solution if needed.

  8. Cheryl, we recently implemented exactly what you described. I don’t think I was clear enough when I said that our small groups are in charge of greeting. I mean that they are in charge of the greeting on Sundays. They are scheduled weeks in advance. They’re doing a great job. I’m sorry to hear that your son didn’t feel connected.

  9. Hi Ryan,
    I believe the point this kid was trying to make is not about that first greeting, or the second, its about feeling welcome every week. I was once a youth leader at a local church and it was very hard for the kids to break from their circle of friends and accept someone new into the group. Sure they would greet all the newcomers, but once those new kids start showing up regularly, they go back to their little group of friends. If the kid is lucky, they accept him/her into the group, if not so lucky, he/she fades into the background. It’s important that the leaders (volunteer or staff) watch out for the kids who don’t fit in with the ‘click’…plus, it’s important that the adults don’t feed on those ‘clicks’. I see some of the leaders at our church try to fit in and behave like the students, and I know it’s hard not to, but the adults need to act like adults and show the kids that good leaders are those who accept everyone. Trust me, this happens with the adults in our church as well. My family has been attending this church for 3 years as well and we don’t feel connected either. We have attempted small groups, volunteered in several areas, and yet we feel disconnected. Like my adult Son stated to me, “that church is run like a corporation, not a church family.” Sad, but true.

  10. Hey Sharin,

    I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had a hard time, I really am. I’d love to help you guys get plugged in. It sounds like you guys took some steps but you just didn’t feel connected. I’d say it would honor God to keep trying. I’m surprised to hear that you still feel disconnected after serving and joining a group. Maybe you just had a string of bad luck with the groups you tried out. It sounds like you’d benefit from calling the church and connecting with one of our staff. We’d be happy to help you find some connections. After that, it really is up to you. Our students & adults can only do so much to make people feel connected. I know we’re not perfect, but I honestly feel like we do a good job of giving people every opportunity to connect. I’d also defend my kids and say that they don’t abandon new kids after a week or two. I have a multitude of positive stories to share that prove that, but I posted this to shed some light on the fact that we haven’t arrived.

  11. This breaks my heart on many levels… Ryan, keep this pic, let your student leaders wrestle with it. In it’s rawness, there is truth. Thanks for not writing this kid off, keep chasing em man. Love that you are where you are, and doing what you’re doing.

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