Reaching the lost is important but so is reaching the church kid. We don’t always think this way but church kids have as much need to be reached as the lost. Both kids are in isolated worlds. There have been times where having a single focus on reaching the lost put me at odds with our church kids. They must have thought, “Doesn’t he care about us too?”.
This revelation prompted me to change my priorities, or at least balance them. If I gave it a number, I committed 70% of my time to feeding, training, and fellowshipping with our church kids and 30% to integrating the need for us t reach the lost. The more my kids felt like they belonged and were connected, the more they are were willing to step out together.
We had a Duck Dynasty night one night and we had contests, prizes, and food, etc. but it was not an outreach; it was just to build up our community of believers. It was a new way of thinking from my other churches that had focused on the “reaching the lost at any cost” strategy and my attention to community building paid off.
My definition of a community building strategy is to create events where students and volunteers gather with the intention of having fun, hanging loose and connecting in a structured or unstructured way with no pressure of inviting anyone else (They can, but that is not the goal) .
The purpose of a community night is that our church kids grow with each other, strengthen each other, etc. and find comfort in being a church family.
Three Reasons Why Community Time Is Critical
1. Youth Groups Need “No Pressure” Time Together
Our students need time together where I have not asked them to do or bring anything but themselves. They already feel the pressure to perform at home or school and I don’t want them to feel like church is a place they should perform as well. Even for outreaches, I try not to put too much pressure on kids to perform and “invite all your friends”. I try to encourage empathy and relationship in their evangelism rather than a snatch and grab lifestyle.
Too many times I was asking students to perform on my behalf, so I could get x amount of kids so I could tell my Pastor, etc. I am only now getting comfortable not performing myself and I don’t want our kids to fall into the “performance trap”
Of course, we can fall into two extremes, never asking kids to bring anyone unintentionally de-emphasizes The Great Commission and over emphasizing The Great Commandment. It’ not either or, it’s both. Bother are hard and both must be encouraged to be be lived out, not through pressure but through encouragement.
2. It Gives Us A Break From Intensity
Believe it or not, fun is not a word I use to describe myself and I’m trying to change that. I get after it pretty hard in the preaching and teaching category. I used to think the word intense was a good word to describe me, it means “extremely earnest”, but it also means “extreme force”. Intensity is good for some situations but it’s hard to keep a pace like that in ministry and I don’t want my youth meetings (or our kids) to be described like that either. Community nights give me a chance to breath, relax, and be myself
3. It Builds Internal Identity
Community nights let our church kids be kids and lets us build relationships and memories they would not otherwise have if the focus was completely on the lost. At our Duck Dynasty night I watched kids interact with each other that I had not seen interact before and it was pretty cool.
My kids need this internal time because I want them to trust each other, love each other, and develop life long friendships with each other. I want kids who do not know Christ to have this kind of life changing community to grow in once they come to know Christ but if it doesn’t exist when they get there, they’ll fall out of community as surely as they fell into it.
At the end of every Duck Dynasty show, the family gathers around the table, prays, eats, talks and laughs (even if some of it is staged) but we followed suit with our kids, We had set up a family style eating area where you actually had to use your manners and pass food to each other. I told them, “You’ll
never know when you might need the person on your right, left or across from you. That’s why we need to get to know each other.” What ensued was 30 minuted of laughter, fun, and an internal bonding that strengthened our group for when difficult times arise.
Let’s not be so focused on reaching lost kids otherwise we’ll lose the kids who have already been found.
What events do you intentionally do to build an internal identity with your youth group?
How have these events made your youth ministry stronger as a whole?
Click HERE to move on to Secret #5 Integration