Is it just me or are more and more students who are coming into church, or even those who has been at church all their lives, are becoming more and more apathetic towards church? Apathetic meaning: indifferent, uninterested, unconcerned, and bored. When I am walking around meeting students on the weekend services it has been amazing me on how many students literally don’t care about being there and participating in services. They just don’t care; they are forced to be there. Although some students are the ones to go through a rebellious stage, others appear to be getting showing apathy and boredom. Psychoanalyst Peter Blos writes that both of these are signs of the same struggle: “giving up childhood in emerging in the young adult identity”. That this apathy is just the morning of the simplicity of child-hood is gone and it looking at the transition into young adult-hood without a real plan, and this is the reaction we are getting.
When we look at this issue through this lens, we realize that warmth, patience and humor can go a long way towards helping a teenager emerge from apathy towards the church. Here are some helpful things to keep in mind when dealing with students who are apathetic in your ministry:
Be patient. Don’t try to hurry it along. Prodding and urging almost always creates additional resistance. Patiently getting along with an apathetic student produces more results than confrontation. This is resistance is necessary for the student as they are processing their transition and this should be met with tolerant, patient adults. Attempt to force change in a student will result in more apathy. We simply need to be patient with them and love on them when they enter the room and let them know you are there for them.
Accept it. This doesn’t mean you give up on them. Looking at it as a transitional stage to adulthood, this stage is necessary for it to move on past apathy. We as their pastors, need to understand that this is something that they need to go through as they are wrestling with life, school, home, and God circumstances going on simultaneously in their lives.
Continue as planned. Continue to do services as planned, greet students as you always have, play the games you always have every service. If this is something they need to go through, there is no need to cater and to try to force something that is not going to happen. An apathetic student might withhold themselves from such activities, but will always observe them and from time to time want to engage in them. Don’t comment on them doing so, just accept it graciously. A fun filled environment will help an apathetic student with this transitional stage than an over bearing, forced atmosphere.
Be okay with rejection. It’s okay. Most of the time it will pass. A pastor’s love MUST survive adolescent rejection because usually it ends up in appreciation and gratitude on behalf of the student.
Know that God is working. Be optimistic that God is working in their lives and that if we as their pastors are there for them, loving them, including them, inviting them, going on with our services and fun and games and continue to preach Jesus, more times than not they will come around and be closer to God and thankful that you kept up with them in the group.
We need to keep love and humor alive in the face of apathy and the stirrings of interest in God and the motivation to know Him more will begin to grow.