The slogan of a fast food restaurant has become the slogan of many ministries: “Have it your way.”
We would rarely ever come right out and admit it, but entertainment has become king in many places in the church. If you can keep someone engaged, locked in, entertained, they will keep coming back. Or, at least, that’s what our behavior at times portrays. The way to grow, the way for your students to bring friends, the most effective ministry strategy, is to pour money and time and effort into the entertainment and enjoyment factor of the ministry. But is it effective? Or do people just come for the “hype”?
It’s a temptation nearly every ministry will wrestle with, because our students love to be entertained! All day long they are entertained by smartphones, social media, Netflix binging, and a host of other things. How could we ever grasp their attention long enough to impart the life-changing and life-transforming truths of the Word of God??
As we wade through the entertainment culture, may we remember three very essential things in our ministry:
Never neglect the power of God’s Word to connect with and draw students
This is, hopefully, the foundation of the ministry you are in. If we are in a youth ministry context that doesn’t use the Word of God, or uses it as an afterthought, we need to reconsider our place there. The Bible is the Word of God. It is relevant, powerful, impactful, and life-changing. The Bible tells us who God is, shows us how He engages His creation, and reveals to us the truth about Jesus Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection. We must be proclaimers and teachers of the Truth of God’s Word. We don’t need more games or silly videos—we need the truth of God’s Word to infiltrate the hearts and lives of students so they might walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him (Colossians 1:10).
Question: What kind of teacher/preacher am I? How can I grow in my understanding of theology and my ability to teach it to students?
The goal is not a bunch of happy teenagers
One struggle we face on a weekly basis is what kind of game to do. The guys love dodgeball (and some of the girls do too!). Most of the girls just don’t like games. What do we do? If our goal is the happiness of everyone, we will never make a decision because nothing makes everyone happy. The same is true of entertainment in our ministries. Not everyone likes everything. Our goal isn’t to make everyone happy or comfortable, but to speak the truth in love as we engage students with the truth of the Gospel.
Question: What is the actual goal of your ministry? Not the expressed, written out goal, but the one that your actions reveal is the actual goal?
Relationships beat entertainment in the long term
It’s easier to entertain than it is to invest. Investing in students, building relationships, takes time and vulnerability. We can entertain someone with lights, music, stories, and all that stuff, but never really connect. But, when we build relationships with students we provide a foundation of trust and truth. When life gets hard and complicated and confusing (and it will—they are teenagers after all!), they will know they can come to us and we won’t give pat answers or make a joke but we will give them counsel from the Word of God and our experience as followers of Christ.
Question: What kind of relationships have you been building with your students? How many of their numbers do you have? How well do you know them?
Ben has served as a Youth and Young Adult Pastor in Holland, MI since 2014 and recently became a Campus Pastor in the Fall of 2016. He has a passion for discipling youth and young adults, helping them realize their God-given potential and developing next generation leaders. Ben is married to Connie and they have a one-and-a-half year old daughter, Aliya. Ben’s hobbies include blogging, playing guitar, soccer, and football. Follow him on Twitter @benmarshall3, Instagram @ben_marshall, or on his blog at youthpastorben.wordpress.com.