Why Juniors & Seniors Leave Youth Ministry

I’ve recently been thinking about the attrition that happens among juniors and seniors in youth ministry. If you are a youth worker, then you may have noticed this trend. Classes or small groups that were once booming have dropped off and those smaller junior and senior classes have disappeared altogether. After processing this…I think I know why.

So why do junior and seniors disappear?

  1. Skewed Priorities – Let me just insult these students right out of the gate. Many of the juniors and seniors that drop out of youth ministries simply do not see their time at church as worth their while. While this sounds harsh, many of us need to realize that what we are offering simply doesn’t stand a chance compared to other options. Yup, that’s right. Not everyone is as crazy about gospel community as we are!

It’s not that our preaching is bad or our worship dated, but that our services and small groups have become routine. In other words, students know what to expect and believe friends or Netflix could better entertain them. All of the above points to the fact that many students have their priorities out of whack.

  1. Busyness – The reality is that along with all the extra-curricular activities that all students face, juniors and seniors are busy padding their college applications, working to prepare for college costs, and writing 2,000 word essays on why they deserve a scholarship from the “I Love Chicken Wings Club of America” (could you tell I made that one up?) But seriously…just talk with the juniors and seniors in your ministry. Their Wednesday schedules are brutal!

Wake up around 7, workout or tutorials, class from 9-4, tutoring and athletics until 6:30, squeeze in dinner, youth from 7-9, homework, chores, and bedtime hopefully before midnight. Students are exhausted. They have been thinking and social all day and they are ready to be lazy and disconnect.

  1. Freedom – By junior year, most students can drive and have been given increased independence by their parents. As underclassmen, they had to beg and plead their parents to hang out with friends. Where parents wouldn’t get out to drop off their student at a friends house, they don’t mind taking their student to church. Thus, for the student, youth serves a social purpose rather than a spiritual one.

Once students have the freedom to drive themselves, they no longer need youth group as an excuse to meet up. They can now get together anytime, anywhere. Why be social with adults who want to control our time at youth rather than go to Starbucks or the mall with no agenda? Where students with skewed priorities have become bored with the routine of church, these students may have never seen church as a priority. Rather, church was a means to an end, an avenue to socialize with friends.

So what is the answer to junior senior attrition? How do we engage juniors and seniors? Stay Tuned…unless you have the answer, then please comment below and share your wisdom!

David Headshot

David Hanson: Texas native, Texas Tech Red Raider, M.Div. at Truett Seminary, husband to Ashley, father to Ava & Ben, Student Pastor at LifePoint Church in Plano, Tx, table tennis (ping-pong) extraordinaire, addicted to coffee. For anything else…you’ll just have to ask.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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3 thoughts on “Why Juniors & Seniors Leave Youth Ministry

  1. Hey David, great stuff. Those are huge issues in why there’s so much attrition. I’m not sure I have answers but…

    What do you think about these 2 reasons…

    1. Students have no ownership
    2. They’ve already “been there done that”.

    Maybe those are more like solutions than problems?

    • David, absolutely! Was talking with a few juniors last night about ownership and mission. When group or church becomes something you attend rather than an active part of your mission…it becomes mundane.

  2. This was one of our main problems when I started in youth ministry about 10 years ago. We believe that the committment of upperclassmen are an important gauge as to the effectiveness of our ministry.

    Over the past 10 years in our church of 1500, we have seen our senior class grow from 2 active seniors to 3o…and those 30 are deeply connected. The solution? We gave them tons of responsibility.

    Our juniors and seniors lead middle school groups, lead worship, serve on planning committees, produce videos, write, help with curriculum, and much more.

    This may not be the solution for everyone, but it has worked for us.