15 Apr The Fun Youth Group
When I was in youth, I had a lot of fun. Our youth nights generally consisted of a pretty fun game (wet cloth monkey in the middle, brutus, sock wrestling, red rover, dodgeball…wait, maybe we just liked violent games…). That usually took about 20-30 minutes. This was followed by hype worship songs that always left us super sweaty. Think of songs like “All Day” or “Trading My Sorrows”, always with full force clapping and dancing around. We then went into a time of teaching for 10-15 minutes. We capped off the night with some form of game – soccer, floor hockey, bump – more things to make us sweaty. When the Xbox and PlayStation 2 came out, we bought a few of those and replaced the end games with a room of video games. Like I said, I had a lot of fun.
But if you ask me one thing I learned while in youth ministry, my answer would not be theological in the least. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am incredibly thankful for that youth ministry, because it’s where the Lord saved me, and I have a lot of great memories there, but the thing I most remember is the fun.
A lot of people have asked me over the past five years why we do youth ministry the way we do. Why don’t we have more social time? Why don’t we play games for longer? Why don’t we have more events? Why do we do small groups for so long? Why is there worship and preaching every Wednesday – can’t we take a break from that for an event? Essentially, why do we run a discipleship model of youth ministry instead of an attractional model of youth ministry?
I want to give you some pros and cons to both, and by doing this, I hope to show you why we do youth ministry the way we do.
I will start with the pros to running an attractional ministry. Having fun with students is hilarious, especially when they participate. There is a great bond built when you can just be silly with people, and it does open the students up a bit more to be themselves. Having pizza or ice cream every other week sounds fantastic. More students might come because of the fun, so more people will hear the gospel when you take time to share it.
Some cons are that the gospel might not be preached all the time. The growth of your ministry is based solely on how much fun you have. When you stop being the most fun thing, students will stop coming, and to be honest, competing with video games and streaming services for fun is hard. Those who do profess faith will have little grasp on any sort of theology, because it is not being taught well. Eventually, the ideas for fun and games will run out or get old. Budgets for these are typically much higher because you are always buying supplies and prizes.
When you are running a discipleship ministry, the gospel is preached every week, so no student who comes will ever miss it. Another pro is that small groups prepare them for “big church”. The relationships built in a small group often last for a lifetime. We still get to play games and have fun, just on a smaller scale. The growth of the ministry is dependent upon the Lord, because we believe that we plant and water, but He causes the growth. Theology is taught weekly, so the students have a firmer foundation in their faith when they leave.
We might have less “fun” and students get less social time with their friends. Some students become bored with the format of worship, preaching, and small groups, and some even leave because they want to have more fun. We preach about real things that some students don’t want to hear, which turns some of them off to listening to God’s Word.
So, why do youth this way? Why do youth ministry with a discipleship focus rather than attractional? Because at the end of the day, we want your students to know and love Jesus more, and the way to do that is to preach the Word, sing worship songs, do small groups, and pray together. We love to have fun, which is why we do some events, but we love Jesus WAY more than we love fun. We also believe that if the students want to have more fun or more social time, there are avenues like texting other students to hang out, playing online games with friends, or having parents arrange for students to hang out.
In short, we do youth this way because we want to make sure every student hears the gospel, every student feels loved by their youth leader and I, and every student gets some level of discipleship. It’s not perfect, it has its pros and cons, but we trust the Lord to use the proclamation of His Word and to work by the Holy Spirit to draw and change students for His glory.