Keep Youth Ministry Weird

Youth ministry is weird. 

When planning a worship service for adults you’d never think, “We need a big group game to get people laughing.” Or, “Let’s have a sleep over right here in the church.

A little too weird for most adults. But awesome for 8th graders.

It’s pretty rare that adults will show up an hour before church just to skateboard in the parking lot or hang out with their friends. I’ve been in some fun adult small groups, but we’ve never gone to a trampoline park together. Teenagers don’t donate old couches for adults to sit in on a Sunday morning. And, as sorry as I am to say it’s true, it’s pretty tough to get 25 adults to show up to help clean up the neighborhood.

Silly games, fun nights, mission trips, service projects, t-shirts, bad pizza, over-the-top songs, all-nighters, pointless road trips, winter retreats, just-cos-movie nights, helping at VBS, camp flings… all of these are staples of youth ministry.

Youth ministry is weird because weird is what works with teenagers.

If you aren’t a little bit weird you’re a lot-a-bit creepy.

Tune Out the Tamers

To me, one of the scariest things going on in youth ministry right now is the desire to tame it. People are so worried about youth ministry being a one-eared Mickey Mouse (not fitting organizationally) that they put a saddle on their youth group and break it.

  • People start to see youth ministry as a great way to market to families instead of a great way to reach teenagers who need Jesus.
  • People worry so much about integrating with kids ministry and young adult ministry that there aren’t really any non-church kids to even worry about integrating… we’re integrating people who were going to integrate anyways. 
  • People preach the Gospel of safety and political correctness more than they preach the Gospel of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

If you tame it you’ll lose it. If it’s boring the only people who will come are the students whose parents make them come.

If you finish a night of youth ministry and you didn’t have at least one point of the night where you weren’t sure if it was going to work or if you were going to lose control… you need to tune out some tamers in your life.

Youth ministry, at it’s best, is weird. 

Deal with the phone calls.

Explain it in staff meeting.

Get your volunteer team to back you up.

And keep your youth ministry weird, baby. 

Photo credit: Zorbs by Ian Southwell via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Published by Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

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