Over the holidays my wife and I spent a week in Charlotte at my wife’s parent’s house. They are great hosts and always make sure we feel welcomed, relaxed and taken care of. My mother-in-law is passionate about hospitality. She loves hosting guests and entertaining, and she does a great job of it.

I just discovered that when her and my father-in-law moved into their home, they spent a night in each of the guestrooms in the house. Why? Because they wanted to know what the experience would be like for their guests. They took note of the different room temperatures, the comfort of the beds, noises, the light the comes through in the morning, etc.

Talk about a commitment to your goal! As leaders this should be our mentality, we should be willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish our mission.

Are you trying to make your church or youth group more welcoming?
Have you ever visited another church or group just to feel what it’s like to be a visitor?

Are you trying to reach a new level of excellence in your programming?
Have you ever run through an entire service; message, music and all, in advance to find the weak spots?

Are you trying to make a relationally-focused youth ministry?
Have you ever tried to go on campuses near your school or attend students games and performances?

Are you trying to do a better job with publicity and advertising?
Have you ever paid attention to how you receive and interpret marketing?

These are just a few questions I thought of. The questions we need to be asking are all unique to our ministries. What are you trying to accomplish? How can you get a new perspective on that goal? What room haven’t you slept in yet? These are the questions that people who are committed to their ministry ask. Don’t settle for the status quo, find something to improve on. Be willing to sleep in all the beds.

Stuart Owens is the youth director at his childhood church in Tallahassee, FL. You can read more at his blog, www.stuartrowens.com.

I was reading an article in Group Magazine about magnetic ministry. The article pointed me to a video on YouTube entitled “What if Starbucks marketed like the church?” After watching this silly, but accurate, portrayal of the church, I once again pondered the way the church looks to those on the outside looking in. From the early days of my ministry, I have constantly made an intentional effort to evaluate my methods based on the perspective of the outsider. I’m not an advocate of making sure everyone feels comfortable all the time, because the gospel is uncomfortable to unbelievers. My goal, however, is to remove all obstacles before coming to Jesus. Unfortunately many people reject the church out of hand long before they make a decision for or against Christ.

Many church leaders bristle at the words “seeker-friendly church”. When they hear those words they think of “rock-n-worship”, tattooed youth pastors, and senior pastors teaching in shorts and sandals. Though that is an apt description of some of my most remembered worship experiences, that is not the point I am trying to make. The ambition is not to be “seeker friendly” or to adopt a certain style within the church, but to remove anything that stands in the way of pointing people to Christ.

When was the last time you visited a church for the first time? Visiting a church can be a very intimidating experience. Though it is impossible to eliminate that aspect of church it should be the aspiration of every church to alleviate the awkwardness as much as possible. How can we do that? Here are a few suggestions for worship meetings that are most likely attended by first timers. For most churches this is the Sunday morning service.

  1. Speak modern english, even while praying. God can understand you even if you don’t sound like Shakespeare!
  2. Dress casually. If the point of the meeting is to worship freely 6 inch heels and 3 piece suits may not be the best choice.
  3. Have all song lyrics and bible passages readily available on handouts or on the projection screen.
  4. Eliminate traditions that aren’t easily understood.
  5. Explain the why behind even the most routine things. I once had a couple ask me what was going on during communion. What seems routine to some is brand new to others.
  6. Give them what they came for. No one comes to church for the first time on a whim. They need the love of Christ in their life. Show them the way!

Dusty Smith is a youth ministry veteran of 12 years. For the past 5 years he has been serving in a mid-sized church in Marshall TX. He is married to Kristy and they have 3 kids. Born on Super Bowl Sunday 1980 Dusty is a life-long Steeler fan!



This summer a GUEST POST about first-time visitors mentioned a Bible called Daggers from The Dagger Project. The founder of the project, Jim Houliston, said there was a good amount of interest in the Bibles from the MTDB community and they just recently launched their site with the Bibles finally available for purchase. If you want to check them out, head over to their store today!

JG

Let me start by saying, my name is Geoff and I am not ashamed being part of an attractional youth ministry. A few months back I attended a Youth Pastors gathering in my area, and the topic of attractional vs missional ministry came up, and the proponents of each began to discuss and debate the virtues of each and it became clear that the two camps were miles a part. Not only that, I was told that I was running an attractional ministry and that they are not effective in growing students. EXCUSE ME?? I get frustrated when other Youth Workers write off “Attractional Ministries” as having no substance, and are merely entertaining students. I don’t agree and feel they can be effective and here is why.

You get one chance to make a first impression: Having a student in the Church for the first time is an honor, but it is important to look at it through their eyes. It is important to understand that churches can be intimidating and they are probably coming with preconceptions and ideas of what it will look like and what is going to happen. The fellowship time before we start and the first 15 minutes of our services is designed for new students, seekers and non-Christians, it is intended to help make them feel comfortable and welcome. The bells, whistles and flashy elements are for these students, they ad credibility and help to challenge their idea of what Church is like.

We have Lasers, but they don’t matter: Our Services are packed with Worship, lights, haze and sometimes lasers, but students do not stay because of them. Recently I met a focus group of 30 students and asked them questions about our ministry, and when it came to what keeps them coming back, not one of them said it was lights and lasers. In fact, most said it was having a small group leader who cared about them and challenged them in their faith that was most important.

We are about seeing the Lost Saved: The lights, the smoke, the videos, it’s all a lot of fun, but the purpose is not to entertain, its to compete. Not competing against my buddy Tyler or Kevin’s Ministry down the road, but against X-box, TV, drugs or just plain apathy that keeps students from coming. My heart is to see the Holy Spirit get a hold of these teens, but if that means having fancy lights to get them in the door, I will do that. There are 4000 High school Students within 15 minutes of our Church, they need to know Jesus.

Students are sharing their faith and serving : If you ever have wondered how community kids end up at a Youth Group, they are invited, intentionally. Encouraging students to invite friends to Youth allows for conversations to happen, about God, faith, Church and life. Having a place that is safe to invite your friends to is a good start. Having more elements of the service allows more students to serve in ways they are passionate about. We add elements to allow more people to serve, one in four students serve on one of the Worship or Technical teams, this is a great way to develop a Kingdom building group.

We share the Gospel with students: I have been told in the past that Ministries like ours water down the Gospel, or worse don’t share it at all. I can tell you this, that no matter if your are Missional or Attractional or both, Jesus is the center, he is the reason we get up in the morning and come to work. We share the Gospel in its fullness and apply it to the lives of today’s students, relate in a way that they can understand, and wrap their minds around and hopefully engage it in a real way. We equip our students with the Gospel so that they would follow the Great Commission, and bring those friends to a place where they can be learn, engage and be discipled.

This subject tends to put a bee in my bonnet, I love being a Youth Pastor and if a Youth Ministry can attract students to come to the Church, learn about Jesus, challenge them to know Him better, facilitate them being involved in our community and build his kingdom, then I am all in. God deserves everything I have, every resource I can use to help build His Church. Before you write of a Ministry, go check it out, hear the heart of the Pastor for their students and go see what God is doing there.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MoreThanDodgeball.com. You can, too! See how right here.