My first year in ministry, I was haunted by a girl I never met.
Her name was Laura and she never attended anything.
She didn't come to our weekly youth ministry gatherings.
She didn't come on our summer mission trip.
What's more, her family rarely attended church.
Yet, every single time I met with the youth board - a group of lay people who, for all intents and purposes, functioned as my boss - I was asked, “Has Laura come to youth group?”
When I'd answer no, inevitably the follow-up question would come: “What have you done to reach out to Laura?”
I'd then diligently recount the steps I'd taken in the last month to reach out to Laura.
- I called and personally invited her to attend.
- I sent her a handwritten note saying how much she was missed.
- I scoured the pews on Sunday mornings in search of her family, hoping for the opportunity to say Hi.
To my board, these steps were never enough so we'd spend the next 30 minutes brainstorming additional ways I could reach out to Laura.
None of these attempts ever worked. Yet, every month for the year I served at this church, I had the same conversation with my youth board.
Rather than focus on the kids we had, we obsessed over those we didn't - despite the fact that this was a fragile youth ministry still in its infancy. Prior to my arrival, it was a ministry centered around a lone summer trip. It lacked a weekly gathering and content of any kind.