In the days of yore, people would tie strings around their fingers to remind themselves to do something. Today we have apps for that but reminding kids about their faith in Christ and their place in our community, called the church is a reminder we cannot afford to forget.
Yesterday I shared about the importance of sharing what your youth ministry does best with your online community and the five STEPPS you need to consider if you want your youth ministry to be contagious. Today I want to share about Triggers. Triggers are things trigger or remind of things. Triggers could be a jingles, photos, music, a place, etc. that remind us of of experiences and evoke feelings and stories. Let’s first examine the top two things we should be reminding kids about.
1. Their experience or commitment to Christ
I can clearly remember my commitment to Christ. It was at Life For Youth Camp in 1982-83. I was there for a weekend camp and I was struggling with some issues as all teenagers do. My counselor and I sat in the game room and talked and then we prayed. I can remember crying and then opening my eyes and the whole world looked and felt like it had been created in that moment for me. The world was fresh and new. I have been speaking at this camp not for 12 years and sometimes I’ll go in the game room and look at that bench and think about that night.
Camp Memories are some of the most powerful memories for me and for many of the students I have served. One of the challenges in youth ministry is helping kids remember those times and those commitments they made to God, not in a sense of guilt but to help them remember their best times with God. How do we do that?
Three of the ways I use triggers in our youth ministry are photos, music and takeaways. During a camp or retreat I take a ton of video and pictures. I get the photos blown up and put them in our youth room in a section called Fusion Fame. Kids will walk through the hallway pointing and telling stories about this and that. After camp I show the video in youth and main church if i can, so that kids and adults who did not go can gt a glimpse of the fun we had. I show the video again a few months before summer camp the next year to remind kids of the great time they had and why they want to come back.
The second way I help students remember their commitment to Christ is through music. The worship services at camp or concerts we attend are powerful nights filled with great music. During camp I make note of the worship bands set list and buy all the songs they sued during the week. Back in the day I would make kids a cd of the songs so they could remember those worship services. After concerts I would buy a few cd’s and give them away at the next youth meeting. Now, I simply upload music and send a link to them so they can download it. To me, creating triggers through out the year to remind kids of their faith and God’s love for them are as important as the event itself.
The third way I use triggers are take-aways. Take-aways are things that kids can physically take away with them from an even. I had some custom wooden trophies made for an awards night we did and kids still have them to this day. On graduation day I gave away rulers with their names engraved on them to remind them of how to measure their lives. I have given away journal, devotions that I especially wrote for an event, wooden crosses, and a host of other things with the hope that they would act as triggers one day that remind them of their experience with God.
2. Community (This is where I belong)
The second thing I want to remind kids about is that our youth ministry, their church, is where they are loved and belong. Kids come and go and so I am always trying to look for ways to help kids connect and deepen their binds with other kids and leaders so it would be hard for them to leave. If a kids stops coming to our group that is ok, but if kids quits going anywhere that is what saddens me because they are missing out on epic moments in a Christian environment called the Church, life in community. Those early years, middle school usually, are critical to helping kids feel like they belong to our youth ministry because we want them to be life long believers, growing in their faith, to become adults with strong faith.
Jesus offers his own disciples a trigger of sorts, one is communion. Jesus said,
“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.“
Jesus also said, after washing the feet of the disciples,
“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
As a youth ministry we are always trying to deepen the level of community in our weekly meeting. Although we have not done a foot washing service we do have communion at least once a quarter to remind kids we belong to Christ and each other. We also have used small group prayer time to end our services where they pray for one another rather than me closing with prayer> we have also sued prayer stations with a testimony time afterwards. Not every community builder has to be series.
Every summer we do 10 weeks of Tribes where we break our normal pattern of service so kids can get in teams and compete every week to win a trip to a fun place like bowling, laser tag etc. These Tribes play together, pray together, win together, and lose together, but in all things they grow closer.
Those are just a few ideas we use that we found that work for us. How about you?
What triggers do you use in your youth ministry?
What do you try to remind kids of?
What kind of stories do you want your kids to tell about your youth ministry to their friends?
How do remind kids of their experiences with God?
I’d love to hear how you are working out this process in your ministry. Leave me you triggers in the comment below.
Tomorrow: Evoking Emotion (Not Manipulation)
Here’s Jonah Berger explaining Triggers