My students know about upcoming youth group meetings and special events. Of all the teens not participating, not one of them claims ignorance.
They know about the youth ministry. They’re choosing not to participate. And my shotgun publicity strategy is succeeding only in giving them more and more opportunities to choose against the church, to say, “no,” by deleting the unread email or tossing the postcard in the driveway trashcan.
Doesn’t all this communication reek of desperation, anyway? I mean, if something’s worth going to, I’ll find my way to it; I don’t need a letter, a postcard, an email, and a text message to tell me to go. One of those will suffice, and I may not even need that. It’s as the web-conditioned news consumer told Jeff Jarvis in What Would Google Do? “If the news is important enough, it will find me.”
Perhaps the more formal communication I receive about something, the less important I’ll deem it to be. And don’t kid yourself: texts are just as formal as a piece of mail, especially when they’re sent by a youth leader to a student. At least, they’d better be. If they’re not formal, they’re creepy.
The kids who come to the weekly youth group like what’s happening there. They’re coming, postcard or not. The ones who don’t come have other things they’d rather be doing. I’m fine with that. What I’m not fine with is the realization that my nonstop communication with these non-attenders, apart from being hopelessly ineffective, is most likely intrusive and counterproductive. Each week I invite them to repeat a ritual: pull the neon-colored postcard out of the mailbox, glance at it for just a moment, and decide for the the 33rd time since September, “Nope. Not for me.”