If you're lucky, your church has a core of active, committed teens in the youth group. But what if your group is dwindling or your own teen appears totally disinterested in teen church activities? There are lots of ways that you can encourage teens to join the group and actively participate. Keep in mind that you should be welcoming and gently persistent. Ask the teens in the group for their input concerning meetings and events, letting them know that they can have a say in keeping things fresh and interesting.
Recruit strong leaders from among your church teens to bring other, more reluctant peers to youth events. Encourage all the teens to bring a friend to all events. Teens feel more comfortable when they have familiar faces around them. Offer an incentive for church teens to bring their peers to the group or church activities, such as a gift certificate to a favorite fast food restaurant for teens who bring three new members to the youth gathering.
Spread the word. List youth events in the church calendar and weekly bulletin, so parents are aware of upcoming activities for their teens. Reach out directly to the teens through social media, using terms and visuals that appeal to them. Focus on the elements of the activity that are most likely to trigger a positive response so the teens don't automatically turn off to the idea of yet another dry, cookie-cutter church group program. Create a bulletin board or website specifically for church teens; be sure to include pictures of teens enjoying the most recent youth group event.
Serve food. Food probably isn't the main purpose of most youth events, but it's definitely a way to attract teen attention and participation. Use a make-your-own ice cream sundae as an icebreaker on the evening that you're starting a new youth Bible study. Order pizza for a lunch break during a youth group community service project. Organize a chili cook-off as a fall youth group kick-off activity.
Plan activities that take the kids out of the church building itself and require hands-on, active participation. Organize a mall scavenger hunt in which teens have to find the words to a familiar Bible verse, each in a different store sign or advertising poster. Create a team of church teens to participate in a local charity walk or sports fundraising event. Spend a day doing community service or mission work in your area. Guide the teens in organizing and carrying out the annual church Easter egg hunt for the younger kids. Also, sometimes hold group meetings at a favorite coffee shop or in somebody's basement for a change.