How to Stop Baby Sitting Students

How do you know if you have begun to babysit students?

It can happen so easily. Somewhere along the way my ministry turned into a baby sitting service. I didn’t even see it happening. Something changed in me and in them. Here are 7 signs that you are baby sitting and some ways to get out of it.

 1. Assumptions: kids are kids

–This ministry is called babysitting because it provides a safe place for kids to have food, fun, and fellowship but there is no pressure on the youth or the leader to see spiritual maturity develop in the youth. One leader running a program like this admitted, “The kids are off the street, not doing drugs, or sleeping around. What more can you ask for?”

2. Program: fun and games

–In this context entertaining the youth so that they will continue to attend is important. The important thing is that teens keep coming back week after week. This keeps the youth and the parents happy, or at least that is the assumption.

3. Motto: Are we having fun yet!

If this group had a motto this would be it. This kind of ministry seems to try to prove that “just because we are Christians does not mean that we cannot have fun!”

4. Goal: keep them in church, provide alternative to the world.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to attract youth to a program and to offer healthy safe alternatives to some of the risk taking behaviors available to youth. The weakness of this approach is that many youth are looking for more than what they can find at the community center, high school clubs or the YMCA.

5. Source: music, entertainment, sports

–What is meant by source is where does the inspiration come from for this ministry? Babysitting leaders are looking for the next great game or event that they can pull off to attract new kids and entertain the kids who have been coming out.

6. Expectations: low

–Each of these unbalanced approaches has an unwritten expectation. The Baby sitting approach has low expectations of teens. It expects that kids just want to have fun and that the best that can be done is to keep them safe and let them wait out their adolescence until they get serious about life and God. In an interview with Sproule a noted Christian author and leader, he said. “You can’t expect a 16 year old to make a serious commitment!” Sadly there are even those who work with youth who have such low expectations.

7. Results: low

–The law of expectation in psychology states that students will live up to (or down to) the expectations held by those around them. If a youth ministry expects youth to just want to play and treats them that way that is how they will respond. The Babysitting approach will repulse students who are anxious to impact the world with the gospel. Likely these youth will be found volunteering in the nursery or teaching a Sunday school class. Sadly Campolo is correct in saying that, “We lose our best students not because we make Christianity too hard, but because we make it too easy.”

 What to Do.

If you start by changing your assumptions and expectations everything else will change. If you see your role as developing disciple makers it will change your approach, the resources that you will use, your goals and the product of your ministry. Enthusiasm will return as you partner with God to see lives transformed and those same students discipling their friends!

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Ron Powell


Ron Powell is the Adviser to the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for over 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email


  1. Love this article. I think apologetics ought to be taught to youth, as at that age, they have all sorts of questions and actually seek the discussion. Yet, I don’t often find it on the agenda. It is so true that the expectations determine the outcomes. Hope this gets well read and well responded to, and not just filed in a folder.

    • Kathy
      You are so right about apologetics and the law of expectations. Compared to the complexity of subjects dealt with in high school the content that we share with students is often juvenile. Probably we need to apply the historical context of stories in the Bible and make connections between what they are learning in school and what how Scripture relates to these! Thanks so much for commenting!

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