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Beyond The Regular Youth Event

Your youth ministry probably has a regular event. It’s the thing that you do consistently on a regular basis. This could  be weekly, monthly, or once every three months. It could be a fellowship with all the youth in the church building or just a small gathering of believers at a home. The regular event may not be the only thing your youth ministry does but it will create a big impression to youth of what your ministry is. For many youth it will be what comes to mind when the name of your ministry is mentioned. Done well, it will be a big reason why youth keep coming back again and again.

Poorly run events also create an impression to young people. And many of the regular events I’ve attended have been well… ordinary affairs. It could be that when we do an event again and again it tends to become ordinary and we lose heart in doing it. This runs counter to what the Bible prescribes: “Whatever you do, work heartily…” Col. 3:23

Here are a 5 ideas on how we can prevent  ordinariness from happening and keep our programs excellent:

1.         Know why you do what you do. A very common occurrence as the ministry proceeds is that people no longer know what the purpose of an event is. Try this as a leadership team: have each leader write down what they believe the purpose of the program is and see if you are all on the same track. Though a program can have many objectives, it helps to focus on one major purpose for each program. If you’re using the G.Y.M.N. pyramid as a guide the main objective can be in the areas of meeting youth where they are, sharing with them the good news about Jesus, inviting them into fellowship, etc. The clearer the intention of the program, the easier it will be to get people fired up for the ministry.

Another way of helping the leadership team in doing this, especially if you are the head youth leader is to constantly describe the big picture of the program to others.

2.         Focus on the youth. With all the preparation we do, the focus might tend to be on the quality of the songs, the use of the latest technology or the charisma of the speaker. But we could meet all of those criteria and still alienate the people we want to minister to—the youth who come to our program. As the Apostle Paul says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” But with a spirit of love for the young people, even the most ordinary event can become a life-changing experience.

As practical output consider putting yourself in a young person’s shoes and asking if the program you hope to run would capture your attention. You can also think long-term: What do you hope will happen for the youth in 6-months or 1 year’s time?

3.         Plan and prepare well. Doing so adds anticipation and excitement to what would otherwise be an ordinary program.

How did Christ do his events? Starting out, I’ve had this picture of Jesus’ earthly ministry as events happening automatically—intentional action from one moment to the next with things being provided for as he went along. After all the angels could just bring him whatever he wanted, right? But as I studied his ministry in terms of programs, I realized there’s more preparation there than I thought to begin with. There’s preparation spiritually: how he would pray all night before a big event. There’s other types of preparation such as sending people on ahead to places he would go to (Luke 10:1) or making arrangements well in advance (Luke 22:7-12). And if you think about it, much of the time he spent on earth was spent in preparation for his ministry. So shouldn’t we also be workers who give time to preparing for our events?

4.         Don’t just stick to theory. Or all the planning and preparation might crash on the hard rocks of reality. Youth ministry in my experience is often about trying something new which means that what happens may be far from what you think it will be. Even with the simplest program, God is on the move and he often works beyond our expectations. These are just to say that no program runs 100% according to plan. So the moment we begin to act on our plans we will need to:

  • Communicate more with the one who does know the future. The more we see the importance of what we do the more we should bring it to God in prayer. Pray for the event before it occurs, pray as you do things, give thanks in prayer as the event comes to a close. This keeps us still mindful of him when things don’t go according to plan.
  • Improvise. Unexpected things happen–the number of people may be less than or more than you prepared for, or volunteers don’t show up, or something you were relying on using is unavailable (in some countries electrical power for example can suddenly be cut-off without warning). When these occur, don’t panic but consider alternative activities that still lead toward the main intent of your event. Reflect also on what God would have you do given the situation.

5. Fall seven times, get up eight times. Great programs usually come from the bones of disastrous occurrences. There’s no teacher quite like learning from your own mistakes. The advantage of doing a program regularly is that we will with time improve, especially if we go at it with the right attitude and spirit. I believe God often uses our mistakes and failures to refine us and even purify our intentions. Towards this goal, keep track of what works and what doesn’t. Don’t rely on your memory but record what you do, writing things down on paper is an excellent way to do this. List down your thoughts immediately after the event and evaluate. A good evaluation question: “What can we do better the next time?”

Personally, the common bond in this list that keeps me fired up to create great programs is found in the verse I quoted at the start, Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men.” It is possible that I could do all the things I mentioned, have an excellent program and do it mainly for the approval of others. But if the primary motivation is not for the Lord all the effort will merely be temporary. I was drawn into youth ministry because of many great things young people represent but I remain in this type of ministry because of what is being built up in the life of each young person who knows Jesus. A work that is for the glory of God, when all is said, should be the prime motivation for keeping programs excellent.

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