the end of “friend night” and “outreach” events

I have a confession to make.

There would be nights at youth group when i would think to myself, “I hope a new kid does not come. I don’t want them to feel awkward or think we are part of a cult!”

Some nights at youth group would include heavy doses of intense “spiritual” things for our core kids.

Then some nights, we changed the music, games, and an alternated lesson to make it more fun and relevant,  less intimidating, and always mixed with an added gospel presentation.

But it got me to thinking…is our faith that compartmentalized?

We should be able to welcome any new student to our program on any given night without fear of freaking them out.  If our faith is real, relative, and alive, than that should be attractive to a generation seeking meaning, purpose, and hope.

Within our expressions of faith and journeys with Jesus, there are elements of fun, laughter, conversation, Biblical exploration, prayer, and spiritual exercises.  It’s all there.  We don’t have to promote the spiritual aspects just for our solid kids, and then hide the religious stuff and break out the fun and wacky games for the uncommitted ones.

At our youth group, we make no excuses for being all about Jesus. But it took us a long time to get there.

But we also present and live out our faith in very real and tangible ways that actually can, and should, be attractive to prospective students.

Today’s adolescents are truly longing for meaning, purpose, significance, and spirituality.

They are crying out for relationships: deeper ones with each other and ones with some transcend and good God.

Is that no what youth group should be about on all nights?

The outreach events now are not based on playing some new Christian band that kind of sounds like some other popular band on the radio.

Nor do we try to entertain them with huge movie projector nights, some sort of inflatable obstacle course, or cheesy themed night like Hawaiian night.

Kids just don’t buy into that stuff anymore.

Plus, we cant keep up with the entertainment they have at home and at their fingertips, so why bother? Even if we had big enough budgets, is that how we should be spending our time and energy?

And truthfully, they see right through those gimmicks and false advertising anyways.

They know that the real reason we are hosting this event or offering free pizza is because we want to preach to them and get them “saved”…not to build life-long relationships and deep friendships.

So, after about six years of the same old same old, our “outreach” events are now geared around community service opportunities such as Food Outreach, Soup Kitchens, 30 Hour Famine, AIDS relief, etc..

I find that kids know exactly what they are getting into and are actually excited for the opportunity to make a difference and do something positive in our community and world. There is no false advertising and no hidden agendas and we actually get more kids out to these events then Karate Night!

Another benefit is that my youth group kids are much more comfortable inviting friends to these events then to a typical church function or handing out fliers for “friend night”

Once they have experienced what it means to serve and love someone above ourselves (the way Jesus did) I can then explain to them in very real terms how this is part of the mission of God to restore, redeem,and repair the world…and that he would love for them to partner with Him.

So, now we no longer promote “friend night” or plan large outreach events. Rather, we invite all students to come to participate and partner with God, encounter God’s spirit, and learn about what it means and looks like to follow the way of Jesus in the world.

I think that’s a better place to start.

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4 thoughts on “the end of “friend night” and “outreach” events

  1. Great post, I love the honesty and change on programme to reflect the recognition of your values. It’s a little different in the UK, but we run a social night each week which does all the movies, games and crazyness, then have small group bible studies at the weekend. It works well and new kids over time ask to come to the bible studies.

    However you make a good point of compartmentalizing faith. I think the kids recognize that we want to build long-term relationships, so why do we ‘hide’ the bible stuff away? Thanks for the food for thought!

  2. Amen. Excellent post. I work with our church evangelism team and it occurs to me that we do not compartmentalize our worship service — we assume that every Sunday morning has to be visitor friendly while also being true to our identity as followers of Jesus. Why should youth group be any different?

    I agree 100%. and personally I am very wary of trying to make things “seeker sensitive”. We should simply be authentic, not aggressive nor ashamed or timid.

  3. Pingback: Sunday Shares: 7 December 2008 | Jon Jolly: My Life & Youth Work

  4. i like how you re-defined the real purpose of community service projects. they are not about outreach, they are about serving.

    Amen brother! We continue to look for ways to bless and serve our neighbors…no strings attached. We are currently collecting donated canned goods for a food pantry not associated with our church and also sponsoring a local family for Christmas.

    The way I look at it is this: We are simply doing what God wants us to do…love and serve His children. We will partner with any organization (Christian or not) that has a desire to help those in need. Because by doing so (whether they realize it or not) they are joining with God and working with Him to heal the world and we are on board with that!

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