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.
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!