Original photo by Lotus Carroll
Let’s say you’re standing in the hallway outside the youth room. Which would bring you back into the room faster: loud noise or complete silence? Probably silence. Why? Because youth ministry is loud. It’s supposed to be loud. Youth ministry is like that perfect song on the radio that MUST be turned up as the window goes down.
Too often churches want to treat the youth program as if it were a continuation of Sunday school. The curriculum is merely an extension of what they learned in grades one through six. When you become a teenager, the brain kicks in certain chemicals. (Don’t we sound all expert-y?) When these chemicals kick in, the human brain begins to experience things on amazingly high levels. Sitting students down around a table and having them fill out the “teen version” of what the kindergarten class is talking about won’t cut it. Youth ministry must be about the experience if it is to be effective.
Youth ministry is abnormally loud, ordinarily annoying, as a rule messy, universally unglamorous, customarily disgusting, repeatedly boisterous, routinely disorderly, often smelly, frequently vulgar, seldom peaceful, and every now and then… downright dangerous.
Allow for this. Allow the program to be messy. Allow the spirituality of your teens’ faith to be messy. Don’t try to force your program into a smaller container. (Unless it’s like one of those noisemaker thingies where you push the clay into the little plastic pail and it makes that glorious FRAAAAAAAAAAAPPP sound.)
Allow for the gross.
Allow for the loud.
Allow for the mess.
Allow for the borderline-sacrilegious.
Churches that understand this simple concept will see how much a program can grow because its students are given permission to be what and who they are. If they are accepted for who they are at your church. If they understand your church, your youth room, your community is a sanctuary, they will be much more likely to open up and let you into their lives. If they feel safe they will be more likely to let God into their lives. If they feel they can be themselves… they will be more likely to be who God called them to be.
Steve Case has been in youth ministry for 25 years. He has written numerous books for YS and countless articles. His book Everything Counts is available in the YS Store HERE and his first novel, Father Dark is available on Amazon HERE.
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.