Several months ago, I noticed many of our middle school volunteers standing at the back of the room during Sunday services instead of sitting with students. This had been an issue about a year prior, but we were able to communicate the value of sitting with students at a leader meeting, and that solved the issue. At least for a while. After almost a year had passed, several volunteers began drifting back to their comfort zone at the back of the room.
It was a great reminder for me that a leader needs to restate values and vision as often as possible. Ideally, I would meet with each leader in person to explain the value of sitting with students, but that wasn’t a possibility before the following Sunday service.
So I decided to send out the following email to explain why it’s important for leaders to sit with students during our middle school services. Although an email can feel impersonal for something like this, it’s often the only way to communicate with multiple people in a timely manner.
I just wanted to take a minute to reinforce the value of sitting with students during Sunday services. I know it can be an awkward, crazy, and generally uncomfortable experience… but it’s something we HAVE to do if we want our presence on Sundays to be meaningful for our students! In addition, as most of us have discovered at some point or another, it can be a very rewarding experience.
We have plenty of students who are still sitting alone, and there’s no reason we can’t fill those empty seats next to them with ourselves!
The messages we send students when we stand at the back of the room:
- I’m a babysitter, supervisor, chaperone, etc.— not your youth leader.
- I’m not really into the service.
- I don’t want to hang out with middle schoolers.
The messages we send students when we sit with them during the service:
- I’m your youth leader— not a babysitter, supervisor, chaperone, etc.
- I love this service. Let’s engage in it together!
- I think you’re cool and I want to hang out with you for the next hour.
That’s a WORLD of difference we make with one simple gesture!
From now on, I want us to hold each other accountable for this very important value. Let’s start encouraging one another to find a seat in the crowd. If you see me standing on the side or in the back of the room instead of sitting with students, I give you permission to call me out!
We’re all in this together. I love and appreciate each of you, and I’m so lucky I get to serve alongside you!
Taylor Bird is the Middle School Pastor at Southwest Church in Indian Wells, CA. He has been serving in youth ministry for five years.