Pizza Church

 —  August 15, 2013 — 8 Comments
Picture courtesty of Brothers' Pizza

Picture courtesty of Brothers’ Pizza

Recently my 7th grade son came up with what he felt would be a brilliant idea.  He is going to offer “Pizza Church.”  At the end of each service he will have and alter call. As he invites others into a relationship with Jesus there will be a Pizza down front.  If you come forward for prayer you get a slice or two.
While he was not serious, it did get me thinking about the “gimmicks” we use to get our students and their families to come to church.  Our answer is always another “program,” or “formula” to get people through the door.  We know it doesn’t keep them returning, yet we do it anyway.
So I thought I would offer other ways we can keep youth from NEVER coming back week after week:

Focus on “The Show”

By all means make the Pizza the star.  Kids like free food and that is the only reason why they would want to be a part of something bigger.  Make your youth environment one where they can slip in and out without being noticed.  Like any good concert or movie, make certain they are merely spectators.  After all if you have put on a good show then you feel  good about what you offered.

Avoid Authentic Relationships

There will always be the superstar student and the overtly needy student.  They will find us and we can go ahead and spend all of our time with them.  Never make time to get to know students, and of course avoid parents at all cost.  Assume all of your “good kids” are home schooled and all the “troubled” ones are unchurched.  Go ahead and even make time to see students in their latest sports endeavor or school activity.  Wave afterward or perhaps give them a high five, but never actually sit with anyone, find out their heart or ask them who they really are.

Make Assumptions

Never actually ask any of the families in your ministry what their needs are.   Do not under any circumstances ever hold a forum and brainstorm ways you can better serve your youth.  In a silo pick curriculum that reaches your student’s deepest issues.  It’s a media driven culture so they must want videos, movie clips or the latest and greatest idea.  You know what better yet they don’t even know what they want or need so you decide.

Lower the Bar

Our students are apathetic and lazy.  It’s best to not ask too much of them.  They couldn’t possibly want questions answered or to know the Bible in a deep way.  None of them even open up the Word at home so just push them to do less.  They don’t really want to be here anyway.  Make sure to never expect them to lead or do more,  this is very helpful.
As we laugh, how many of these do we do anyway?  How many has a “youth ministry culture” perpetuated even when we know they don’t work?  My 7th grader understands that “Pizza Church” might get them to the alter, but it doesn’t grow a deeper relationship with Christ.  Could we need to shift paradigms and learn to reach a generation that is genuinely hungering for more?
What are some ways we might ENGAGE youth and get them involved? What are YOU doing?

I would love to hear!

youthpastordiet was a random idea I had one Thursday night and 2 weeks later almost 75 youth workers jumped onboard to host a friendly 90-day competition to help youth workers get in shape. We lost like 1 kajillion (that’s kajillion with a “k”) pounds and many have asked when we’re going to do it again. Well … here we go! Want to get in on Season 2? It starts on Monday! Here’s the gist:

  • no cost to enter! UPDATE: the Weight Loss Wars site I’m using to host the contest costs $10 to use if this is your 1st time using their site
  • weight loss is based on percentage lost
  • 90 day weight loss window, April 1 – July 1
  • prizes for the Top 10 place finishers
  • Top 3 are going to be worth playing for, I promise!

Want in on Round 2? is the place to register NOW!


I’ve yet to meet a youth minister who gets excited about managing budgets or planning fundraisers, but those are things we all have to do. At Smarter Youth Ministry, I’ve shared the kinds of money saving ideas that make it easier to manage your finances so that you can pay more attention to your students. Last month, I heard from a youth worker who’d been able to eliminate to car washes and replace them  with fun outreach events. Here’s how he did it.

Cut a ton of money from your budget by negotiating pizza prices.

Most chain stores are run by independent franchisers which means that they’ve got the latitude to cut you a deal, and except the one you’re currently using, every place in town would love to cut you a deal. Here’s how to give them that opportunity.

1. Create a one-page proposal that you can share with every pizza place in the area. Tell them how many pizzas you anticipate ordering this year. Tell them the kind of deal you’re getting right now. Tell them you want a better one. Give them a window of time to get back with you (48 hours seems right). Throw out phrases like “official pizza provider” and give franchisers the option to place posters or coupons at your serving area.

2. Fax, email, or hand-deliver your proposal to every decent pizza place in town.

3. Once you receive responses, send another proposal to each of the places that responded. Share the best deal you received and give each one more chance to beat it.

4. Decide on a deal and lock it in. Negotiate delivery fees (these are always negotiable). Make sure the organization knows that you’re tax exempt!

5. Do this every year. Pizza franchises are notorious for changing ownership on a regular basis, and a new owner might be more willing to cut a deal.

When I started in youth ministry in 2004, I was paying $9.50 for a large pizza at Donato’s. Today, we get large pizzas from Cici’s for $4.50, there’s no delivery charge, and the owner insists that we do not tip the driver. In a larger youth ministry, it’s feasible that this could save you $1,000 or more.

If someone showed up to donate a few hundred dollars to your program, you wouldn’t hesitate to take it. What would stop you from saving just as much money and giving a couple of local establishments an honest chance to win your business?

Aaron Helman is a youth minister in South Bend, Indiana and the creator of Smarter Youth Ministry. He wants to reduce your frustration so that you can do ministry forever. Join his free email list to receive the actual copies of the letters he’s used to negotiate pizza prices.