I am not sure how we didn’t figure this out sooner, but after a few years of following up with new students to our ministry we never really had any sort of overwhelming response to what seemed like pretty intentional follow-up. We would call students, asked if they enjoyed coming to our group, asked if they had come with someone and always very cordially ended those conversations with something to the effect of “we hope to see you Thursday.” Nothing exciting, a simple phrase, which was true, that we did hope to see them out at youth.

What we didn’t realize until this year, that the wording of that was fairly non-committal for us, and for them. In response to this we have removed several commonly used statements that we often used when speaking to students on the phone, or in person. They include:

  • Hope to see you at youth group!
  • We would love to see you at youth!
  • You should come out this week!
  • It would be great if you could make it out this week!

The Facebook generation has pushed us into non-committal “maybe” type people and all those phrases can potentially elicit a maybe and since we didn’t expect an answer they could forget it all together. So we have changed how we speak to students and have replaced those statements with one simple question that we use before hanging up the phone or saying goodbye:

“Will you be at youth this week?”

It’s a question and not a statement and it opens doors for us to be better leaders. Firstly it requires and answer and thus commitment. If the answer is yes, of course we are delighted and look forward to seeing them. But if the answer is no, or a maybe, it allows for us to dig in and find out why? It is through these follow up questions where we can find out what is really going on. It could be school work, tests, family challenges or any number of things, and knowing the reasons allows us to be able to offer prayer to our students and support them even when they can’t attend.

Statements don’t often elicit honest answers, but questions can. I am not sure if the students have even noticed the change, but as leaders the change had had significant implications in our attendance and retention of new students. We follow up weekly with all guests to the program and simply ask if they are going to come this week. That invitation says a lot to a student and being asked to come back is a powerful statement.

This shift is minor, but the results have been significant. Try making “The Ask” when communicating with students; you might be surprised by the results.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.