“Do you know what the “comma-stupid” phrase is for your product or service? In other words, do you know what is most meaningful for your users? Because whatever that word or phrase is (i.e. the part that comes before the “, stupid!”), it should be driving everything from product development to documentation to support and marketing.” – Creating Passionate Users
Apart from all the things that we think are cool at our church, what is the user experience for the people who frequent it? Sure we now have power point, a rocking band, a light show, etc., but what does the user walk away with. Even better yet, if Jesus were asking us what should be meaningful for the people who come to Him, what would that be? Certainly it would be none of the above.
If you are having a hard time trying to see what comes after the comma, then your not alone. In youth ministries across the nations, many of the leaders of those ministries spend a lot of time trying to create an experience for the people coming. In a random poll, informally given to countless youth ministry leaders over the past 15 years, I have found that most youth leaders spend the majority of their time looking for a better game. This is the biggest challenge to the experience of youth ministry. It boils down to a better game.
Unfortunately this often manifests itself in games that drive people away. This isn’t a popular opinion but hang in there. If you are a gaming ministry, don’t turn away… yet. What experience is created with games? Games are supposed to be fun. The way most ministries do games though is contrived, dangerous, embarrassing or tries to prove a point. This not only takes the fun out of games, it also creates a user experience that most teens reject. Why do teens come to church? They can play games that they will enjoy much better somewhere else. I think they come because they want to see other teens and possibly to hear about God.
What experience can be created around this assumption? What experience can we create that they will always bring them back for more? I think the answer is authentic community and the hope only God can give. As an example, look at the whole “emo” movement. It isn’t really based around playing games together. I site a recently discovered described the appeal of emo to me:
“Its currently very cool indeed to be ‘emo’… to be emotional… to be a kid in touch with their emotional side and to be able to express themselves however they feel… whether its just being able to pen a line of poetry without feeling embarrassed, or to express their love for someone (opposite or same sexed) and not to feel ashamed.” – phagnat.com
Teens want a community that accepts them for who they are and gives them hope. They will flock to it, conform to it, and dedicate their myspace pages to it. On the other hand, there are some people who are so into games that they do the same apart from any community or promise of hope beyond gaining extra levels.
I’m not saying, by the way, that games are bad. Play games, please. What I am saying is, don’t let that rule the experience that you are trying to create for the people coming for community and hope. I personally don’t have any program games. Our experience is based on creating friendships and so we focus on initiating friendships with all people who come. But I ask all youth ministry leaders, “What the comma there for?”