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.