The third STEPPS principle Jonah Berger shares in Contagious is : When People Care, People Share.
How much do your kids care about the youth ministry? You could ask your teens, “How do you feel about the youth ministry?” but those can and do change daily based on …well… everything. One way you can tell if the kids in your group care about it is whether they are sharing it with others either in person or online. We can’t control how kids feel but we can influence them to feel better about being at church versus feeling worse. Here are some things I do, on purpose, to dial up the care factor.
I want people to feel welcome
I do my best to have a brief conversations with just about every kid even if it’ only a “Hey! Glad your here”. Now one likes to be ignored and if I do not have the time before service I make sure another or adult or student is making the rounds.
I want kids to feel glad they came
I want kids to feel like they made a good investment on their time. They could be home doing something else, but they came to be a part of a community of faith for 90’s minutes and I don’t want them to regret it. I want them to feel like they made a good choice. I don’t want to waste their time with boring.
I want kids to feel connected
We do small groups once a month for the lesson time. Kids get up close and personal with each other and the adult leader. Teens care about relationships and I want to give them a chance to care about each other and become a gathering they would not want to miss.
I want them to feel at home in God’s house
I do a lot of videos about room design because I think the space we meet in matters. The meeting space can make people care. Why do people go to Starbucks? Sure it’s for the coffee but why do so many hangout there? Because it’s warm , inviting, and says, “Stay a while and drink that $5 latte.” The smell, the music, and the furniture all play a part in feeling welcome there and they designed it on purpose.
I want them to feel respected
I always do my best, when I share the message, to speak up to kids not down to them. I don’t treat them like idiots and they don’t know anything. My kids know a lot , they have the internet you know. They just may not know the right stuff. After they hear a message I want them to say “You know, I didn’t agree with everything he said, but I appreciate the way he said it.”
I want kids to feel like they matter to God
We do service projects around the church and around our city. Even during the offering time I remind our kids that every dollar goes to support our missionaries. I ask kids to help me lead the service by helping with communion, moving tables, and cleaning up after service. All of this helps a kids feel like they did not just show up to hear a message but to help the program happen. Just like Olympic runner Erick Liddell said in the movie Chariots Of Fire ,” I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.Kids feel God’s pleasure when they serve in big or small ways.
I want them to feel God’s presence
Yes, this is a subjective statement but I cannot tell a kid whether he did or did not feel God. I do my best to get out of the way of my message by not being to funny or focusing their attention on me. I give kids a chance to respond to a call to know Christ by coming up front to pray with someone. Before the worship band plays I encourage kids to sing, move, and participate because if they do, their actions will lead to feeling not the other way around. It’s not whether God shows up when we gather, because he does (where two or more), the question is whether we are allowing kids the opportunity to participate with God while He is there.
In the end, I can’t make kids feel anything at youth group, but I can create experiences where positive feelings flow even if I preach a hard message or not everything goes as planned. Any growth I’ve experienced in the youth ministries I’ve led is because a teenager felt like we cared and when we care, they shared it with others.
How do you create an environment that kids care about being a part of?
How have you seen kids share their experience with others? ( I love when a kid leaves a positive note on Facebook after service)
Which of the ways above can you work on to make kids care a little more about coming to your youth group?
Leave me a comment and tell me how you are encouraging kids to care about their faith and about what God has done for them.
Tomorrow: Taking Your Youth Ministry Public
Here’s Jonah Berger talking about emotional sharing