I Want To Lead A Youth Ministry That Has All The Conventional Strengths And Experiments With New Stuff At The Same Time

[For those of you who were interested, here’s a link to a pdf of one of the children’s bulletins we’ve been designing this month.]

Today I want to share a thought that’s been gurgling the last several weeks. We tried a couple of experiments over the summer to stimulate unconventional youth participation, and concurrently we ran the summer thing youth are used to. The experiments floundered and the conventional thing thrived (well, the experiments didn’t totally flounder–youth participation was disappointing, but adult leaders emerged who otherwise wouldn’t have, so that’s a win). The experiments were low-cost, low-risk, low-time commitment. The conventional thing was a week-long mission trip, which is high–allthosethings.

So the conclusion I’m tempted to draw is this: these youth are better served right now by conventional programming that makes a high demand on their time and investment (lock-ins, mission trips, retreats), and less well served by things designed as easy points of entry (afternoons at the beach, meetups at the movie-in-the-park, Summer Sunday morning classes).

Yet no sooner does that thought escape my fingers than another one follows: that may be true of these youth, now, today, but that doesn’t mean we can stop experimenting with gatherings and service opportunities designed for youth who aren’t presently participating, either because they’re simply not here yet or because they are here and don’t relate to the youth ministry as it’s currently configured.

Can you double down on the approach your community is used to and commit to experimentation at the same time?

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