Absent But Not Forgotten

August 27th, 2013

The refrain is a familiar one: "I'm just too busy." And often that is indeed true. Youth in many communities have a wide range of activity choices, from traveling sports teams to private lessons of some sort. Add to their personal interests such realities as work (which may be an additional income source for financially-stretched families), caring for siblings, and the pressures of advanced placement courses, and it's easy to understand that your youth's time may truly be stretched in several directions.

Many youth teachers find that their class attendance varies from week to week, month to month. Some youth will be present regardless of inclement weather, major weekend school events, or heavier-than-normal homework loads. But often the norm for youth is irregular attendance, and this presents several challenges.

First, your students may not have had the benefit of earlier discussions related to what's being discussed and studied in your class like themes and units.

Second, connecting on a personal level with those students who come only occasionally is likely more difficult for you as a leader.

Third, faith development is often a lower priority for these students, which itself is a deterrent to even occasional participation.

Finally, irregular attendance by youth often correponds to irregular attendance by children and adults, so other church ministries can be affected.

Develop a plan to stay in touch regularly with your irregular attenders. Ideally, you should not allow more than two absences to pass before you initiate a contact. You may quickly discover this can't be a one-size-fits-all process.

Consider the following quick, yet meaningful, actions:

  • Send text or Facebook messages telling youth that you missed them, are always available, and are praying for them (remember to respect your Safe Sanctuaries guidelines and boundaries for direct communication with youth). 
  • Post class discussion summaries on your church website, along with a preview of the next week's topic.
  • Touch base occasionally with parents of the absentee youth. Tell them about your class and inquire about how things are going with their children.
  • Be sure to promote your class periodically in the church publications, during announcements, and the church website.
  • Attend a sports, music, or other activity that may be taking a lot of your missing youth's time. That way you can connect with him or her on neutral "turf."
  • Suggest that youth attend other youth events that better fit their schedules or to try to attend every week during their less-busy months.
  • By phone or email, engage in conversation with missing youth about the next week's topic to see how it connects with their lives. Use their stories as examples within your lesson when appropriate and possible.

Whatever their reason for being absent, most youth will appreciate knowing that someone has noticed their absence and cares about their lives. Your efforts to connect with irregular or infrequent attenders is a powerful way of making the love of Jesus Christ real in their lives.

Adapted from Bible Lessons for YouthIf you'd like more information or have additional questions about study materials for youth, contact Curric-U-Phone.

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