Back to the Future of Gen Y Youth Ministry

According to all the Back to the Future references this month, we are now living in the future. So many people have made comments about the lack of hover boards, no self lace up shoes and where is my flying car? It seems we love to predict the future, but we also love to identify how those predictions were wrong. So how did we go with our youth ministry predictions for October 21st 2015?

I will admit that I am old enough to have been around youth ministry when we would use sentences like “millennials are those teenagers that will graduate high school post 2000”, notice the future tense of that statement. Some Generation Y or Millennials will now be 15 years out of high school, so I hope that they have moved on from youth ministry into the adult body of the church.

So how did our predictions go for the “radical” change that would take place in youth ministry because of Gen Y? How many of the predicted changes did we get right and what did we get wrong? Here are just five reflections from someone who was around in the 1990’s when these predictions were being made:

  1. Social Justice – I remember hearing that Social Justice was going to be the new “in” for Gen Y. Youth Ministry was going to shift towards Social Justice to engage the Gen Y who were supposed to more socially minded than other generations. Without denying the attempts by many Gen Y, I would say that they have shown themselves to be no more socially active than other generations. Facebook “likes” don’t count as social justice nor does reposting a tweet about some global issue. Even if Gen Y are more socially aware, the Youth Ministries around today in my opinion are not the hot beds of Social Justice activity that we may have predicted.
  2. Conservative – There were also predictions that Gen Y would be more conservative than other generations. This doesn’t seem to play out in the way we thought. There has been some return to tradition forms of worship, but contemporary praise and worship has never been more popular or normative. The styles of dress and social interaction are not that conservative or traditional. The role of women and the attitude to homosexuality don’t seem all that conservative either.
  3. Music – I remember some of my friends telling me about this music from a church called Hillsong and they predicted that music would be essential for ministry with and to Gen Y. Not only has the Hillsong style become more normative but the Praise and Worship music seems one of the key draw cards for Gen Y. Youth Ministries have transitioned into Young Adult Ministries as Gen Y age and they seems to appreciate good music more than good preaching, though the sermons still have to be good.
  4. Podcasts – not many of us in the late 1990’s would have predicted the impact of the podcast on church life, I remember some churches in the early 2000’s trying to sell their own sermons on CD. To think that young people can download a talk or sermon from anywhere in the world to watch/listen to on the bus ride to school or uni means that their expectations of preaching sermons has been raised. Young people can now listen to the “best” preachers in the world on a daily basis, meaning they could be sermoned out by the time they get to church on a Sunday. Some may have predicted this but I never heard this prediction in the late 1990’s.
  5. Communication – In the late 1990’s we knew that the Gen X grew up in a boom of entertainment technology and that Gen Y would grow up in a boom of communication technology. However we never predicted the impact of the iPhone, Facebook, Twitter or the creation of the “selfie” for thousands of Instagram posts. Believe it or not many people used to like being behind the camera in the 1990’s. Whilst we predicted that youth ministry would change due to a growth in communication technology, youth ministry is really enhanced by this ability to contact young people outside the youth group time slot.

Were you around in the 1990’s? What did you think youth ministry with Gen Y would be like? Did we get it right or were some of our predictions off the mark? If you are Gen Y was this what you thought youth ministry would be like when you were in primary school?

As a member of Generation X I was always one step removed from being in the youth ministry culture of Gen Y. Whilst I’ve engaged in it for the past 25 years, it is a long time since I was an actual young person in the ministry. Leadership positions tend to make you bias. So I would love to hear your opinions in the comments section below or tweet me on @mrmarkmcdonald (so high tech!)

markoffaith.net, Mark of Faith

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What is your comparison point?

We all compare new experiences to a benchmark we have in our head.  When we try a new cafe and we compare their coffee to our best coffee experience at our favourite cafe.  When shop in a new shopping mall we compare it to the benchmark that we have in our mind about our ideal shopping experience.  When we visit a new church or ministry we compare it to our ideal church or ministry whether we know it or not. 

So as the leader in your ministry what is your comparison point?  Sometimes it can be another church or ministry.  We tell ourselves if we could just do it ministry like church X or church Y then we would get it “right”.  These other churches may have totally different circumstance and resources to us but that doesn’t stop us from comparing our ministry to theirs.  The key thing is to know what your bench mark is so that at least you are honest with yourself and your team.

Perhaps your comparison point is not another church but a previous era at your own church.  Remember the good old days when we got ministry “right”.  Church members often compare your current situation to a previous golden era where everything seemed to work so smoothly.  The trap with this style of thinking is that our world and culture has changed so dramatically.  Imagine comparing youth ministry pre Facebook to the Facebook era; let alone comparing ministry practices from the 1980’s to ministry to youth today.

What ever your comparison point is you need to identify it so that the unconscious comparison becomes more conscious.  Comparison is not a bad thing as long it it encourages us to be better rather than it weakening us.

Finally it is most important to compare our ministry to what God is calling us to.  The Holy Spirit is moving your forward not trying to recreate the past.  Compare your ministry to what God has in store for you, not the previous golden era.

markoffaith, Mark of Faith, mrmarkmcdonald

A parent perspective on Youth Ministry – Part 2

In a recent post I shared with you a few thoughts on becoming a parent in youth ministry when my son went off to his first youth camp. I had high expectation for the camp and so on his return I was waiting eagerly to hear something spiritual about the camp. Instead he was full of stories about the fun, games and pranks that took place on camp.  After many interesting stories I asked my son what will he tell his best friend about the camp, the one who didn’t attend youth camp, and he replied “he totally should have been there”.  It was this one sentence that made me realise that something significant happened on camp. 

Over the next few days I had many conversations with my son about youth camp, none of them were deeply theological but they all helped me know my son on a deeper level.  In the week following the camp I watched him to see if there was any behaviour change and  I noticed that he was a little more reflective and a little more considerate but mostly he was the same kid who loves playing his video games.  At some level it was reassuring to me that there wasn’t a radical shift in my son; he was the same son just grown up a little.

In reflecting on the experience there are a few things that I learnt from hearing about the camp from my son:

  1. Leaders are important – whilst my son only seem to talk about the pranks the leaders got up to, he spoke with a great respect and admiration for the leaders.  It seems that he looked up to the leaders and when I dug deeper they really encouraged him in his faith.  As a parent I am so thankful that my son had some young adult leaders who were passionate about their faith and willing to share it with my son.
  2. Christian friendships are important – My son will spend most of his time with non-christians so to meet some committed christians is a really important thing.  We spent a lot our conversation time this week talking about the people that he met on camp.  I am sure that some of these people will become his long term friends even though they go to different schools.  In an increasingly secular world it so important to encourage our young people to seek out and develop christian friendships.
  3. The next step is important –  the youth ministry that ran the youth camp knew how important the next steps were and had pumped up the young people to attend friday night youth group.  My son was talking about it all week and was so excited to go that he was encouraging me to leave the house to drive to church.  Yet this is just the first in many “next steps” that my son will take.  As adults, parents and youth ministers, we need to roll out the next steps so that young people who have never done this before know where they are heading.
  4. My own faith is important – as a parent the conversation can be directed at my son; I want to know about your experience.  Yet the conversation seemed to open up opportunities for me to share my faith with my son.  As adults, parents and youth ministers, we can direct our conversation at the young people by asking them leading questions, yet we need to allow them to ask us questions.  I have to create a space where by my son can ask me questions about faith, prayer, theology, church, girls, dating etc etc.  Sharing my faith journey with my children is so important.
  5. This is just the beginning – I will admit that my son and i have had some great conversations but this is only the beginning on his faith journey.  My son still prefers to play video games and watch tv, so he his not an eager theology student by any stretch of the imagination.  My son and I have even had issues where i have had to discipline him and I am sure that this is just one of the many ups and downs we will experience over the coming decade know as “the teenager years”.

These reflections as part of my experience in shifting from a youth minister to a parent.  As I dropped my son off to youth group, which i had witness hundreds of times, I got the “you can go now” look from my son.  In an instance I had shifted from youth minister to daggy parent.  

My hope is that if you are a youth minister without children of your own, these reflection may help you minister to families in a better way than you currently do.  My hope for parents of young people is that these reflection may put into words some of the feelings stirring in you and perhaps pass them onto your youth ministry team.

Please leave a comment.

markoffaith, mark of faith, markoffaith.net mrmarkmcdonald

A parent perspective on Youth Ministry – Part 1

After 20 years in youth ministry my role in youth ministry shifted this week.  My eldest son headed off on his first junior high youth camp.  That means that I am no longer the youth minister, I became one of the parents dropping their child off at church for camp, while the child tries to get away without a hug or a kiss.

Whilst as a youth minister I know a lot about what happens on youth camp, I find my mind has shifted now that I am a parent.  The things that I am looking for in a youth ministry as a parent are different to what to what I may have wanted from a youth ministry being on the leadership side.  Whilst I have never seen parents as the enemy, I see things differently now my own son is involved.

Here are a few thought about youth camp now that I am a parent:

  1. High expectations – perhaps my expectation of youth camp are a little high but I hope that my son has an encounter with God at youth camp.  I hope that he gets a passion for reading the bible, that he meets some great friends, gets some excellent mentors as leaders, that he likes going to church and that he fights for world peace, ok perhaps not the last one.  Are my expectations a little high?  As a youth ministers I would tell a parent that those might be good expectations after five or six years in a youth ministry but not for their child’s first youth camp.  As a parent though I can’t help wanting the best for my son.  In reality I know that my son will enjoy camp but will come home talking more about the fun games than the bible talks, he will still be the same kid who won’t like doing chores around the house and whilst he may not be against going to church I am sure he won’t always be begging us to go.
  2. Being part of our family – we hope that our son maintains a sense of family and isn’t sold an idea that the youth ministry is the most important thing in his life.  As a youth minister I heard numerous stories of young people who got involved in youth ministry in spite of a lack of support from home.  In our case my wife and I are very supportive of our son being involved in the youth ministry.  Yet as a parent I hope that the youth ministry acknowledges the vital role that we as parents play in nurturing the faith of our son as well.  I don’t want my son going off to youth events every week at the expense of our family time.  Sometimes our son will miss a youth event to spend time with our family and it isn’t a sign of a lack of commitment to the youth ministry.  Too often youth ministers blame families for a lack of attendance from young people, yet as parent I now see the family time is often more important than time at youth group.
  3. Bigger picture of church – as a youth minister I focused so much on the youth ministry that youth camp or going to a youth festival was the biggest thing in the year.  As a parent I still have one son who won’t be going to youth camp for another two years.  I also am more aware of parents in my small group who have kids in the children’s ministry.  As a parent I am far more interconnected with the other things happening in the church so I now realise that whilst the youth ministry is important, so are a number of other ministries in our church.  Perhaps as a parent I am more thankful of the role of the children’s ministry which nurture the faith of my son long enough to help him want to go on youth camp.

Perhaps my expectations are a little high but maybe that is a good thing.  As a parent I should want the best for the spiritual life of my children.  One thing that I must remind myself is that the Holy Spirit has its own plan for my son and I must accept what ever the Holy Spirit does with him.  It will take a life time for my son to understand God, so I can’t expect it all to happen on his first youth camp, but I am just a little excited at what God might do with y son on youth camp.

In the next post I will share a few reflection after my son comes home from youth camp.

Perhaps you have recently become a parent in a youth ministry, what are your thoughts?  share them in the comment section below.

markoffaith, mark of faith, markoffaith.net

A Youth Ministry of Sinners or Saints?

Recently I was speaking at an evangelical youth camp where many of the participants were active Christians.  Some of the young people were well versed in scripture being able to quote various sections by chapter and verse if needed.  One element that struck me was that many kept articulating that we are all sinners.  Whilst I might agree with them on theological grounds, in my experience it is not common for young people to talk like this; many young people don’t understand the language of sin.

It seems that many evangelical styles of youth ministry have been focusing in on young people being sinners in need of a saviour.  I think most of us will agree theologically that we are all sinners even if we are hard or soft on the exact language we use.  The issue is not theological but cultural; is the “we are all sinners” argument an out of date cultural image for young people?  Are the young people and youth leaders in our churches using that language because they understand it or do they just adopt it because that is the language of their church?

Recently I heard two speakers mention that many young people today already have a low opinion of themselves, that they know they have many flaws they don’t need the church to remind them of that.  they suggested that young people seek connection in the peer group because it helps them blend in and cover up their flaws.  So is the church preaching a message that is that different to the rest of the world?  Perhaps we aren’t if we only give young people confirmation that they are flawed.  We need to separate our message out from the self-help industry which articulates our flaws but if you buy this new book it will rescue you from yourself.

As Christian we preach that Jesus is the saviour of our flaws and weakness.  We should be a little different to the dominate culture which teaches that with our own hard work we will be better.  Perhaps youth ministry needs to teach young people the language of being saints.  In Christ we are a new creation, no longer our old selves but saints.  

Galatians 2:20 reminds us: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” In the power of the Holy Spirit, young people are not weak sinners but powerful witnesses to the Resurrection.

When I was young, in the 1990’s, our youth group heard a talk by our church leader inspiring us to be Saints of the new Millennium.  We were reminded that we called by God to be a generation that made a difference in the world.  Back in the 1990 the young people were told by business to get a good job and earn you way to the top; top young people are told they can achieve anything they want to.  So perhaps this current generation knows they can make a difference in the world but do they realise that God called them to do this?  Perhaps this generation of young people in our youth ministries need to hear that they are called by God to be saints, set apart for the work of God.

Perhaps in youth ministry we need not just the sinner language or saint language but both.  We are a new creation in Christ, saved from our sins in order to be the saints who help build the kingdom of God.

Please leave a comment.

markoffaith, MarkofFaith, mrmarkmcdonald, markoffaith.net

What was Youth Ministry like when I began in 1991?

Youth Ministry in 1991Recently I was presenting a workshop at a youth ministry training event and I began by telling the participants that I started in youth ministry in 1991.  About half of the participants in the room indicated that they were born after 1991 and most of the others were very close to the same age.  While I was running the workshop I became more aware of how different youth ministry was when I began over 20 years ago.  Young culture and Church culture have changed so much in the last 20 years that I thought I would share some of these with you.

Now before we go any further this is not a historical overview of how youth ministry has changed in the past 20 years globally or even nationally.  I will share a few observations from the youth ministry in my church back in 1991 and if you were around youth ministry in 1991 please leave a comment to share your observations as well.  If you weren’t even born in 1991 then read this as a history lesson.

  1. Led by Parent Couples – when I first started in youth ministry every youth ministry had a parent couple attached.  These were a married couple, or several married couples, who would oversee the youth ministry.  In my youth ministry they trained and support the youth leaders, helped workshop youth talks and run the finances.  As a young person we felt safe knowing that parents were looking after the “hard stuff” like finances so that we could have fun.  In 2013 it seems that parent couples have almost disappeared from the youth ministry landscape.  I know some youth groups in 1991 that had to take a break until a parent couple could be found, something that would seem unreasonable in 2013.
  2. No professionals – in 1991 I don’t remember any professional youth ministry staff.  Knowing the history of youth ministry that I know now, there were a few professionals around but they were rare.  Youth ministry was a volunteer ministry that was often peer led.  In 1991 I never ever thought that I could spend 20 years of my life getting paid to lead youth and young adult ministry.  In 2013 the “high” turnover rate that some see as a problem stems from the era of the 1980’s and 90’s when everyone volunteered for 1-2 years as a youth leader then moved onto the adult congregation of the church.
  3. After church on Sunday night – in our location and many other churches in 1991 youth group was on a Sunday night after our 6pm Church service.  Back in those days many young people were still going to church on a semi regular basis so linking youth group with the church service seemed like a natural thing.  In fact in 1991 it was easier to recruit youth group members from the church congregation if the two were linked.  In 2013 the biggest question many youth ministries face is the opposite question, how do we get our youth group members to join our Sunday congregation.  In 2013 youth group is often set in concrete on Friday nights as though that was how it has always been done.
  4. Keeping young people in church – when I started in youth ministry in 1991 many youth would stop going to church about 15-18 or Year 10.  So youth ministry was a way of keeping young people coming along to church.  In 2013 youth ministry seems more about starting young people coming to church as most young people stop going in the children’s ministry age group, if they were ever attending.
  5. No mobile phones – In 1991 a friend of mine showed me his dad’s mobile phone and it was as big as a brick.  Only business people had mobile phones.  Young people not only didn’t have smart phones they didn’t even have mobiles.  Youth Ministry was the time to catch up with people for the week and if you missed youth group you missed a week of connection with your peers.  If you missed youth you may have missed news of a party or social outing and there was no way to catch up.  In 2013 if young people miss youth group they can catch up with all the news, gossip and party news within hours via Facebook or SMS.
  6. Film Cameras – this might sound really old fashion but only a few young people had cameras at events and it would take a week or two to send the film photos off for developing.  In 1991 there was always a physical photo wall or photo album put up three weeks after youth events to show what had happened at the events; it was a real way to keep the memories alive.  In 2013 the photos go up on Facebook and Instagram as the event is happening and are forgotten about within days.
  7. Youth Culture – in 1991 in my area there were the metal heads (Heavy metal music), wax heads (surfers), skateheads  (skateboarding) and nerds (those who weren’t part of the other groups).  Whilst I admit that I was a nerd, it seemed that there were only a few youth subgroups to fit into.  In 2013 the youth culture has split the youth subgroups in to thousands.  The music industry alone has thousands of music styles that weren’t branded this way in 1991.  Youth clothing has become more targeted in 2013 and costs a lot more money.  In 1991 if a young person had slashed jeans they weren’t $250 designer jeans, they were the cheap jeans showing signs of being old.

This is just some of the ways that youth ministry was different when I first started in 1991.  My hope is that some of my colleagues who were around in the 1980’s/90’s might add a comment with their observations from that period.

Whilst the specific details might vary from location to location in 1991 they also vary from location to location in 2013.  Rather than this being a post of the golden era of youth ministry from the good old days, I just want this generation of youth ministry leaders to recognise that ministry changes and that is OK.  Many of the things that some youth ministers think we have always done in youth ministry are in fact new additions that have improved or complicated youth ministry.  It is OK for youth ministry to change, in fact I hope that youth ministry continues to change and adapt as young people change and adapt to the culture around them.

Please leave a comment.

markoffaith, MarkofFaith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald, markoffaith.net

How many people does it take to start a youth group?

How many people does it take to change a light bulb? This is often a joke told where the answer gives an insight into a particular stereotype. Whenever I hear this joke, I wondered how many Catholics does it take to start a youth group? Whilst I am sure that there are many humorous answers that we could give if we were telling a joke, the number one issue that people ask me about is how many people do you need to start a youth group?

Let me tell you my answer with a real life story, you may even guess the group.  About five years ago three Catholic young men were interested in starting something in their parish for young people. They wanted to lay a solid foundation for youth ministry in their parish and “get it right” from the start. So they decided to come together every Thursday night for prayer, to ask God for guidance, vision and direction.

Their next step was not to launch into a mega ministry or try to entertain the “youth”, the three young men thought “who can we invite into this group for prayer?” As they added the next person then the next person, the group began to grow. This was training the group in the evangelical spirit which characterises the group today. Not “Evangelical” by denomination but the group has a heart for evangelisation or to put it simply they want to share this with their friends.

Five years later those three young men have gathered 50 or 60 other young people to meet for prayer on a Thursday night. The group looks different from what it did five years ago but the element of prayer is still present. If you ask me what makes this group successful, the prayer element and evangelistic spirit would be it.

Sometimes as an intern, volunteer or youth minister, you may want to copy the program of a successful youth ministry that you admire. Instead copy the heart and culture of the ministry. Many people think that Hillsong is successful because of their music, yet it is the culture of small group discipleship that drives the ministry. Some people might thing the group mentioned above is because they have a supportive Priest, but it is more than that.

So next time you ask yourself how many young people does it take to start a youth group, know that it only takes three.

———————

This post first appeared in February 2010 and people still ask me about how many people it takes to start a Youth Group.

markoffaith, MarkofFaith, Mark of Faith, mark of faith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald, markoffaith.net

Ministry is like herding sheep, cats and sheep dogs

Recently I attended a conference session with Tim Hein which explored stages of faith development.  Whilst there were many complex elements to the presentation, a fun image that Tim used was the image of ministry as the art of herding.  So I thought I would share a quick overview with you:

  • Youth Ministry is like herding sheep – young people naturally want to run together as a herd.  There will be differences within a group but they tend to follow each other.  Young people like the stability of the herd and so are happy to go along with the routine.  Leading a youth ministry can seem difficult but it doesn’t have the complexity of Young Adult Ministry.  The challenge is to introduce complexity so that when they make the transition out of following the herd they know how to handle it.
  • Young Adult Ministry is like herding cats – young adults naturally want to explore their uniqueness.  Being a young adult is about testing out the boundaries, exploring the complexity of life and finding your unique place in the world.  Therefore ministry with this age group can end up with people heading in all sorts of directions.  As a young adult minister you can try to herd the cats but you will get a few scratches along the way, see the video below.
  • Adult Ministry is like herding sheep dogs – adults in the church need to run free because they are their own person but they can be roped in to help with the mission of your church.  Sheep dogs don’t need fences because they naturally stay on the farm; adults will naturally come back to church.  Sheep dogs don’t own the farm and the challenge with adults is to remind them they don’t own the church.

Some of these thoughts were my spin on what Tim was saying, his presentation was far more detailed than this.  I really liked this image because it seemed to resonate with the room, does it resonate with your experience?  Check out the funny video below then leave a comment explaining the image that you use for ministry.


markoffaith.net markoffaith, mrmarkmcdonald, mark mcdonald, Mark McDonald, Mark of Faith.

Should the 2012 Olympics be a wake up call for young people in Australia?

Looking through the newspapers on the weekend highlighted that many sport commentators are questioning the condition of the Australian Olympic team.  But it was the comments about the “Gen Y” training style from Eddie McQuire, Shane Gould and Suzie O’Neil that drew my attention.  Their thoughts about the swim team that indicated that the tough training schedule of previous generations had been relaxed to suit the Gen Y culture.  There were several other writers who commented about how distracting it was for athletes to engagement with Social Networking.  At least from the number of medals won it hasn’t paid off.

It seems that many of the successful countries in these Olympics have not given in to “Gen Y culture” in their training techniques.  Whilst many people question the “medal factories” in China, countries like Great Britain and the USA still demand a lot from their athletes even if they are Gen Y.  There are even some commentators who point out that Australia Gen Y athletes have only grown up in  the super investment period leading up to the Sydney Olympics.  The reality is that the funding is drying up or at least slowed down in many sports.  Whilst the Australian athletes are doing their very best, there isn’t a Gold medal for everyone at the Olympics.

Whilst the articles in the weekend paper were focused on sport, the reality is that the globally trend of young people having the pick of jobs is over.  In his book “Generation Y” Peter Sheahan believed that Gen Y had forever changed the corporate culture, yet the bubble may have burst due to the economic downturn.  In many countries, perhaps except Australia, youth unemployment has gone back to  at least 20%-30% which means young people can’t be as picky with where they work.  Young people are again having to take work where and when they can get it rather than choosing where they feel like working.    The dominance bubble that Gen Y and Youth Culture have had over the past 10 years may burst with the reality of economic crisis.

The wake up call is out there for young people, particularly in Australia, now that the choices are shrinking.  In the economic boom Gen Y were able to buy everything they wanted, travel where ever they wanted and work where ever they wanted.  During the sporting life of Gen Y Olympians there has been a boost in funding ever since 1996 in the lead up to Sydney 2000.  Talk to a Gen Y Australian and they will tell you about where they want to work and what they want to do with their life.  Talk to a Gen Y from Ireland, Greece, Portugal or Spain and they are just trying to find a job.   My own hope is that it should be a balance of young people having options and young people having to earn their way to the top rather than have it handed to them.

This is not meant to be a beat up on our Olympic team or on young people in general.  It just seems from observing the media on the weekend the landscape that young people are facing globally has changed and our young people have been sheltered from it because our economy is doing so well.  It also seems that whilst young people may be natives in the technology landscape they are unaware of how distracting social networking can be to achieving in life.  It seems that there are some important lessons for young people to learn from the experience of Gen Y athletes at these 2012 Olympic games.

What are your thoughts?  Please share a comment below.

Mark of Faith, markoffaith, MarkofFaith

Overall presentation at Events matters

Have you ever been to an event that has exceeded your expectations?  Have you been to an event where everything looked perfectly in place, well laid out and everything flowed smoothly?  Sometimes in the rush to get our events ready we overlook the presentation of the event to focus on the content.  Whilst content is important, bad presentation spoils content every time.  For example, imagine a poorly designed website which may have great content but you can’t find it.

Last night I went to a youth ministry event by Mustard that exceeded my expectations.  Mustard is a ministry that runs events in schools here in Melbourne and were hosting a Roundtable event for Parents and Youth Leaders.  After almost 20 years in youth ministry I have seen all types of events from well-done presentations to complete train wrecks.  This event was above the average events I attend, even many of the good events that I have been to.  There were just a few things that caught my eye that were better than standard events that I go to.

Here are a few little things that made the overall presentation at the event better than other youth ministry events I have attended:

  1. Welcome signs – as the event was on a large church campus with many rooms there were signs directing me from the car park to location of the event.  Often event coordinators assume that people will follow the crowd or look for where the lights are on to know where the event is being held.  As an event coordinator help participants find the right room with a few welcome signs.
  2. Greeter – at the main foyer there was a person who greeted me and directed me along the hallway to the sign up desk.  At the sign up desk there was a person greeting people in front of the desk and several people behind the desk taking registrations.
  3. Name tags – I am used to writing my name on a name badge with a marker but these name tags had my name printed on the tag as well as the event logo. 
  4. Event logo – The team hosting the event had designed a logo for the event and printed the logo on the registration form, name tags, PowerPoint slides and handouts.
  5. Button Badge – each team member had a button badge with the ministry name on it.  It was that extra step that impressed me.  Each of the team members were smartly dressed rather than dressing like young people because it was a youth ministry event.
  6. Stage set up – there were a few props on stage that got the crowd talking as they entered the room.  These props were then used at a point within the event to explain a key message.
  7. Skype call to Guest – there aren’t many events that attempt a live feed of a guest from another country.  Mustard had a live feed of special guest Cheryl Crawford from Azuza Pacific University and Fuller Youth Institute in the USA.  This isn’t a multi million dollar ministry either; they were just using skype but had done their homework on how to get working well.  Cheryl had been prepared ahead of time and they had a plan for drop outs, which did happen, to keep things moving.
  8. Hospitality – the coffee and tea were laid out really well and there were nice cupcakes to go with the drinks.  Whilst we drank our tea and coffee there were team members connecting with the crowd.  There was a musician creating atmosphere with some live music.  There were also large posters of other ministry events on art easel’s to create atmosphere.

Whilst the ministry team had gone to all this effort to get the overall presentation correct, the content delivered as well.  As we connected over coffee and tea the participants were talking about the content of the talks. If you are interested in the content of the night you hear an audio copy of the event on a special website, click here, which again is above average for many events I go to.

Presentation should enhance the content of an event rather than dominate it.  Yet sometimes we rush our preparation, setup and layout to focus on the content and we overlook how important presentation is.  Take the examples about as a guide of how you might exceed people expectations at your next youth ministry event.

Please add a comment about events that you have attended where the presentation exceeded your expectations.

You might also be interested in Creating a Big Impression at Church

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