#GETBEYOND: Entertainment VS Gimmicks in Youth Ministry

Youth Specialties
August 5th, 2015

There’s a difference between a gimmick and entertainment.

Entertainment is a part of what we do in ministry. After all, it’s YOUTH ministry. If you know me, you know that I place as much value on the deep stuff of discipleship as anyone, and believe our ministries should be places that are laser focused on spiritual formation. But, entertainment and fun is awesome when it’s one facet of a holistic approach to discipleship.

Gimmicks are different.

When an organization can’t keep someone engaged with their products, they resort to gimmicks. Gimmicks are what many companies, and alas, many ministries offer in the place of solid content.

I believe your students come to you because they have an inherent need. They may not always be able to articulate it precisely, but I believe they’re compelled by a need for Christ. And you, by all accounts, are that place where they come to find Christ.

Ideally, your ministry is a place that feeds this need, that builds on this desire and draws students to deep, transformative encounters with Christ. Ideally, your ministry is grounded in Christ-centered spiritual formation. And ideally, students are excited to engage with your ministry because of the spiritual need it meets.

But often, youth ministries aren’t built on solid discipleship principles. Often youth ministries and ministers simply aren’t planning for or providing a place where students are consistently shepherded along in their discipleship journey.

In these ministries, gimmicks rule.

In a gimmick-driven ministry, the flash and the fluff is pushed to the front. While this satisfies the senses, and makes for a big experience, it leaves the heart cold. And when it’s all said and done, these ministries graduate students who have had a blast and maybe made some great memories, but haven’t developed into followers of Christ.

This is failure.

No amount of gimmicks can make up for a lack of content. Well, not in the long run anyway. It will work for a while, but we’re not interested in “for a while.” We want long term impact.

If you’re offering entertainment as a part of a well-conceived discipleship strategy, good for you. Fun is fun. But if you find yourself asking if your fun is entertainment or merely a gimmick, it might be time to really sit down and evaluate your plan for leading students deeper in their faith.

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andyblanks_twitter imageAndy Blanks is the co-founder and Publisher for ym360. If it’s a blog post, resource, or workshop, Andy had his hands on it. Andy has been designing Bible study and discipleship resources for youth ministers since 2003. He lives in Birmingham, AL with his wonderful wife Brendt, their three daughters, and one son. He’s a pretty big fan of both the Boston Red Sox and anything involving the Auburn Tigers. When he’s not hanging out with his family or volunteering at his church’s youth ministry, you can find Andy trail running or mountain biking.

The #GETBEYOND series of blog posts are building toward the powerful conversations we’ll be having about the future of youth ministry at NYWC. Join thousands of other youth workers at NYWC as we look to the future of youth ministry and wrestle with how to get beyond our discomfort of addressing these kinds of roadblocks in ministry. Ready to register? CLICK HERE

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Youth Specialties

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.