Transforming Youth Services
By Darrell W. Johns
What goes on at a youth meeting has everything to do with kids wanting to come. It often makes all the difference in your youth ministry since effective youth services are vital to the life of the youth group.
Goals Of A Youth Service
The best youth services have their beginnings in two worlds, the world of fun and the world of the Spirit. Having an all fun night or an all spiritual night is not the goal. The ideal is to combine the best of both worlds. There are three goals of an effective youth service.
1. To Have Fun
Young people love good times with their friends. Having fun is often their number one goal. Planning fun into the beginning of your youth service will break down barriers, making everyone feel comfortable, relaxed and receptive.
2. To Meet A Need
We are ambassadors of Jesus Christ and have received the ministry He modeled while on earth. Jesus met the needs of people. When hurting and needy people came into His presence, Jesus loved them and met their needs.
Youth services are times when young people come loaded down with stress, guilt, strained relationships, confusion, and all sorts of needs. Do not send them away hungry, spiritually speaking. Meet their needs!
3. To Feel Accepted
Every aspect of the youth service reinforces one central message: “You are accepted here!” Young people may feel rejected at home, at school, at work, by their peers and unfortunately often by people at church. Their feelings may not be accurate, but feelings are perceived as reality.
Let your youth service be the greatest event of your young people’s week. When they leave, make sure they go home with the message that they are loved and accepted. This is especially true when visitors attend.
The following comments are the flesh that goes on the skeletal structure of these three goals.
Basic Elements Of An Effective Youth Service
1. A Comfortable Climate
A climate is more than the setting on the thermostat. Climate has to do with the entire package of the feeling you create. A comfortable climate is created several ways.
* The Right Name
Select a name for your youth group and/or your youth service. The name should be something with which they can identify. The name “The Holy Rollers” is not recommended… or anything that is of that same mentality. Below are listed some names you might consider:
o The Crowd – Everyone wants to be part of the crowd. Things go better with the crowd.
o The Carpenter’s Shop
o Youth World
o The Youth Connection
o Youth Alive
o The Cleft – A special place to be
o RIOT Night – Revival In Our Times
o The Source
When young people are inviting their friends it is easier to get them to visit if they can say: “Hey, how would you like to come to RIOT Night?” Select a name your young people are proud to proclaim.
* The Right Room
The right room facilitates both fun and the spiritual. Most often, the church auditorium is not a prime location. The place does not have to be fancy, just a place they can call their own. Let the kids raise the money and decorate in a contemporary fashion.
You may consider getting a few couches, a ping pong table, concession machines, etc.
The platform should not be dominating. The seating is best if it is flexible to allow for diversity in programming. Use what you have. Make it as youthy as possible.
* The Beginning Atmosphere
The youth service can be promoted with posters, upbeat announcements, and one-to-one talk. As young people enter, have Godly music playing that is of a youthful style.
Visitors should be welcomed by smiling young people who get their name, address and phone number for follow-up. The visitor should be introduced to a young person their age and made to feel accepted. pre-service prayer should be planned in a separate room.
* Who Comes To The Youth Service?
The youth service format will be geared toward those that attend. There is no Biblical doctrine on this point, but some youth groups seem to be more successful when only those in the youth group can be those who are age twelve or older and single. This is only a suggestion. Tailor your ministry to your local situation.
* Consider Casual Dress
Allowing young people to dress casually will make visitors feel more welcome. You as the leader might even consider casual dress for yourself.
* Give Young People A High Profile
Let the young people sing, speak, run the sound, lead the service, and do anything to get them involved.
2. The Need For Humor
Young people love to laugh. Laughter is a response. It is also a release valve for tension and apprehension. Laughter breaks down barriers. Don’t feel intimidated when kids laugh.
Inject humor through crowd breakers, skits, planned jokes and unplanned comedy. Laughter communicates. Laugh at yourself when you make mistakes.
When young people respond through interaction they are opening up their private worlds to you. Below are listed some interaction tools:
* Group Discussion
Divide up into small groups and discuss a current event that will spark life. Issues that incite debate are good. Allow the youth to express their opinions without criticism. Settle the issue Biblically before leaving.
* Tension Getters
A role play device that kids can act out.
* The Ungame
Many provoking questions that deal with God, personal relationships, and personal values.
* Panel Discussions
Use parents, ministers, older young people, or anyone to respond to questions from the group.
* Dear Solomon
Similar to Dear Abby. Young people anonymously write in questions which are then exchanged. A second young person writes advice back to the questioner and all the Dear Solomons are collected. Then, each youth service a few are read aloud and the youth group responds with advice. Finally, the response on the question is read aloud and the group leader adds comments to give help to the young person who originally wrote the question.
4. Praise And Worship
Entering into worship is the key to a successful spiritual service. Young people are self-conscious, by nature, and need encouragement and assistance. Teach on the power of praise. Sing true worship songs and fresh youthful choruses that exalt the Lord. It is wise to reserve certain songs to be used only for your youth service. Once again, young people like the idea of having things that are exclusively theirs. Help their inhibitions with an atmosphere of music and involvement. You must worship, too. Lead by your example.
5. Use A Music Strategy
A music strategy simply funnels the scattered minds of young people into a spiritual focus. These are the phases to a music strategy.
* Songs For fun
Songs for fun are Christian but are written to be light and upbeat. They should be songs that young people enjoy singing. The main purpose of this first phase is involvement and enjoyment.
* Songs Of Transition
A song of transition has serious lyrics but an upbeat tempo. The song, “Turn It Over To Jesus” qualifies in this setting. The young people are involved and their minds are now being turned toward the Lord.
* Songs Of Worship
A worship song is sung to the Lord. It has meaning and feeling. At this point in a music strategy, a slower song that draws a deep spiritual response is needed. Now, young people are ready to receive the Word.
6. Implanting The Word
You want young people to receive the Word and apply it to their own lives. Here are a few helpful hints that are covered in more detail in other Youth Workers’ Seminars.
* Make It Concise
Get to the point and don’t speak too long. Your message does not have to be everlasting to be immortal. Do not get intoxicated by the sound of your own voice. No matter how interesting a speaker you may be, thirty minutes is pushing the limit with young people most of the time.
* Make It Relevant
Place old truths in a new frame. Bible truths are relevant. We as the communicator must express them in understandable and convincing terms. Illustrate extravagantly. Every concept needs a concrete example. As young people listen, they subconsciously ask, “What does this have to do with me … now?” To answer those two questions is to be a successful communicator.
* Make It Stick
By putting truth into practice your teaching will stick. Overcome the “hearers only” syndrome by helping your young people become doers of the Word. Do not condemn young people for not living out the Christian teachings if you do not provide a “doing” opportunity.
Hold a contest and give points for following spiritual disciplines. When you teach on loving one another, create a follow-up activity that allows the young people to apply the truth to their own lives. Make it stick.
Allow The Holy Ghost To Work
Obey the Spirit. When the Lord prompts you to deviate from the program, swiftly follow. The Lord knows what He wants to accomplish in the lives of your youth.
Entertain the Spirit. When times of worship are free-flowing, encourage the young people to respond to the Lord. It is in those times that supernatural works are accomplished in their lives. Meet the needs of your young people through the Spirit. Allow
God to flow through you in prayer to heal the broken-hearted, deliver the captives, recover sight to the blind, and set at liberty them that are bruised. (See Luke 4:18)
In summary, the effective youth service is one at which young people have fun, have their needs met, and feel accepted. These three goals are more easily accomplished through a comfortable climate, humor, interaction, praise and worship which uses a music strategy. implanting the Word and when we allow the Spirit to work in the lives of young people. Transform your youth services!
This article “Transforming Youth Services” by Darrell W. Johns is excerpted from The Youth Workers Workshop Notebook, 1988.