This week’s blog post is by Brad Wright, Compass Rose’s campus chaplain. To learn more about Brad, click here.
Every youth pastor wants to attract the students in his or her area with big, exciting events. I’ve been doing youth ministry for the last 20 years, and I’ve tried everything to relate to my teens. I had big events, lock-ins, ski trips, concerts, conferences, beach trips, Bible studies, small groups, large groups, boys groups, girls groups, early morning meetings and late night meetings – I’ve tried it all. The events may get them in the door, but your ability to build relationships and relate to them will keep them coming back. Let me say that again:Your ability to build relationships and relate to them is what keeps them coming back!
Let me say this first – there are a lot of ways to make youth ministry relatable to your students. One area of the country may be into Bible Bowl, and another may be into small groups; others may be into big events, and others may be into Sunday school. What works for one group may not work for another group. Be careful to try not to force something that isn’t right for your audience. The one thing that is right for everywhere is Jesus. Just figure out how to make ministry relatable in your area.
Here are some tips:
(Try to) understand the teen culture. Last time I checked, teens still want to fit in, have a voice, be involved and be accepted as having something to offer this crazy world! They still think about sex, what their hair looks like, who they are dating, what kind of car they drive and music; think parents are dumb; and struggle with temptations. They still watch what’s popular on TV and love hanging out with their friends. Sound familiar? It should – it sounds like our teen years!
As you make youth ministry more relatable, use the things that are part of teen culture, and talk about them. You don’t have to know all the answers or understand today’s latest and greatest – just be real!
Be yourself. Teens are not looking for youth leaders who can be teens. They are looking for leaders who care about them, spend time with them, listen to them and love them no matter what they are going through. They need you to be you, not an overgrown teen. Yeah, that may be fun for a while, but teens will grow tired of the act and begin looking elsewhere for someone authentic.
Don’t act like you were perfect. Admit that you made mistakes as a teen and still make mistakes as an adult. Life is messy! Teens need to know they aren’t being judged — they are being loved. I wish someone would have come to me as teen and shared that life is messy and hard – but together, we can get through whatever is going on in your life.
WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) Seriously, how would Jesus make youth ministry relatable to teens in 2013? Go back and read the Gospels, and write down all the things that Jesus did or said when he was teaching, speaking, hanging out and dealing with people – then, make it applicable to today. This won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.
Finally, ask yourself this question: “If I could tell teens in my youth ministry one thing, what would it be?” Let this be the foundation of making your ministry relatable to teens.