crowd control vs. relational youth ministry


There used to be a time where I wanted to host big events…I have to admit.

The more students who walked into our doors, the more impactful I thought the night would be.

In my mind, this equation was constantly at work

more students= better youth group

Things have changed however.

Just a few months ago we hosted a Halloween party with another youth group.

We packed the place out, the kids were crazy, and it took us about 2 hours to clean up after. Of course with that came a bunch of noisy, chaotic teenagers running around our church loaded up on candy and dressed funky.

At first i thought I was the man!

I mean really…having that many kids in our church at one time (I could even somehow manipulate the numbers so it looked like our average attendance was increasing..brownie points for elders!)

But as I got to reflecting and conversing with my team, I realized that something was amiss.

I asked these important, and often missed questions, and received these answers.

How many conversations did you have with new kids?– zero

How many in depth conversations did you have with our own kids?– zero

Do you think the kids felt or experience the warmth and love of Jesus?– maybe, but doubtful

Then it hit me like a bulldozer plowing into an old building..or more like getting smacked in the privates if the truth be told.

We were so busy doing crowd control that we could not do youth ministry!

So, why did we do this event in the first place?

Now, sometimes these events are worthwhile for a number of reasons

1)  You can get to know new students and have new students get to know your program.

2) It can provide and safe and easy way for students to invite their friends to church.

3)  Once you have them in your church, you can lock the doors, give them pizza and then trick them into listening to a message about their sins!

But what I have experienced and conclude is that an overall approach like this is unhealthy and unwise and should not be our ultimate aim or goal (as it was mine when I first started out)

I mistakingly thought that we would really “arrive” as an established youth ministry if we could begin hosting large events like this maybe once a month. I would lie awake at night imagingin having multiple youth groups, kids coming in from the streets, maybe even atract a football player or two!

All the while, never realizing that what we have already been doing…had been incredible and powerful.

The Wed nights, emails, conversations, coffee times, MacDonalds visits, recitals, dinner invitations at home, with the group we already had…these were building long-lasting friendships.

We were really entering into the lives of these students, their pain and suffering along with their joys and hopes.

It is hard to do that with teenagers you meet just once and hardly have the time to even get their names right.

Too much crowd control (like too much sugar or caffeine) can never be good.

It can give you a necessary jolt or burst of energy, but a steady diet of it will always be counterproductive and unhealthy over time (not to mention the increasing stomach pains and doctors’s visits)



2 thoughts on “crowd control vs. relational youth ministry

  1. Excellent post. Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope others in youth ministry read and learn. We’ll be posting this on our blog to help spread the word.

    I appreciate your feedback and support. I value your site and ideas as well and glad to see you guys engaging thoughtfully in this conversation. I am encouraged by the responses and excitement around the nation that appears to be emerging from both new and seasoned youth pastors about the need to rethink how and why we do youth ministry.

  2. I have to really say, great job and great insight. The number game is the one equation the church fails at all the time. we get caught up in it all the time.

    I am reading up on your latest post on the myth of bigger is better, hoping to respond tomorrow. blessings man and hope to have a few more dialogs with you about youth ministry in the future

    Thanks for the reply and response. Too many of us have fallen prey or victim to the number game and I hope change is in the air. I would love to talk further with you about your ministry and some ideas/experiences you have had.

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