What message is your programming sending?

Just yesterday, our student ministries team was talking philosophy for an upcoming event. We’re essentially rebuilding this event from the ground up. With that, comes a long conversation about philosophy. In student ministry there should be a purpose and a clearly put together philosophy for everything you do. This applies to weekend gatherings, mid-week small groups, lock-ins, service projects, etc.  

At most of our events, we all hope for two things: We want it to be fun and we want students walking away with a stronger relationship with God. My question to you is this, which one does your programming put more of an emphasis on?  Because the fact of the matter is, most – not all – of the time one of those two emphases will take the back seat. Whatever program you’re planning will typically fall into one of two camps, either it’s a fun time to grow closer to one another (we call these reach events) or it’s a time to grow closer to God in our quest for discipleship (we call these grow events). Now, let me be clear, this is not to say that your programming can’t accomplish both, but typically there will be an emphasis on one or the other.

If we want to better disciple students, then we need to start crafting our programs to put a higher emphasis on discipleship and less pressure on just “having fun”. Fun is never a bad thing, but if we aren’t careful, our students will miss out on the times where they can have a genuine encounter with Jesus because they’re waiting for the next round of dodgeball.

Make it clear to students what the purpose of your upcoming program is:

“Hey everyone! Join us this Tuesday for a special night of worship. So-and-so will be sharing a message that God put on their heart. If you have friends who don’t normally come to church, but you would love for them to get to know Jesus, then this is a great event to invite them to.”

I don’t think there is anything wrong with being clear and concise about what’s going on during the program. This gives students an expectation and an understanding of what they’re coming to. If a kid doesn’t want to come because he’d rather wait for the color war, that’s alright. But it gives them the opportunity to show up when they want and find exactly what it is they’re ready for. The harsh reality is that not every student it ready to take that next step in their faith. That’s okay. But we should be willing to walk with them wherever they are. That’s discipleship. It’s meeting students where they are, not where we wish they were.

– Ayren Nelson

Discussion Questions

  1. What do we want this upcoming program to accomplish?
  2. What do we want students to think when they walk away from it?
  3. How are we going to promote the event? (The way you promote has a direct correlation to what students expect when they show up)

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