10 ways to build culture, community in your youth ministry
By Adam Flora
Your youth ministry identity doesn’t form overnight; it requires a great deal of intentionality and time. Try these ten methods out for building a super tight community that the students will brag about.
Make Ridiculous Traditions. You don’t have to be that weird church, but do something each week that is a little bit strange and will leave an impact on the students. At the end of our message each week someone on stage says, “We have some housekeeping,” and at the top of his or her lungs every student responds, “Housekeeping!” all in the same note. It’s dumb, but we do it every week, even a second time in some cases, and students feel like they are a part of something.
Get Adventurous. Stop doing boring stuff as a youth ministry. This year I took 40 students white water rafting. One of my “that guy” students fell out of our raft and got picked up by a very old Asian family upstream that didn’t speak English. It was hilarious. Everyone in the group was bragging to their friends about it the next day of school.
Meet Somewhere Else. If you don’t want your students to equate school culture and youth group culture together, then meet at some cool places. We do a vision night in a local café and once a month we rent an outdoor amphitheater in the summer. When students see each other outside the church, it’s a huge win.
Go Over Your Mission and Vision Every Week. One of the greatest drivers of culture should be your mission and vision, therefore go over it every week! We have a run-through meeting every Sunday night at 5 p.m., and a student must recite the mission and vision. We go over it again at our 5:30 p.m. relational meeting. Keep it in the forefront.
Drill Your Mission Into Your Student Leaders’ Minds. I already told you we tell the adults the mission and vision, but you really want your student leaders to drive home what is important to you. Develop some key rules or goals and have them know it. Students are truly the carriers of culture.
Get Competitive. If you want male students to be involved with culture, there has to be some good ol’ competition. After the “Unity” day at CIY MOVE in 2016, we had a black out – meaning we went to evening session all dressed in black, including face paint, and did chants. We were even led into the room by two awesome/strange kids who brought trumpets to MOVE (I have no idea why).
Respond to Emergencies Well. We were in the nightmarish situation of having a student pass away. When we found out about it, we immediately created a space where our students could come together, ask questions, pray and mourn. While tragedies are hopefully avoided, if they strike they can bring people together like nothing else.
Brand Professionally. You don’t need to pay a million bucks, but find a good graphic designer. Have a clear name and simple logo, and make sure the kids are on board.
Have Swag. Once you have the snazzy logo and name, PUT IT ON EVERYTHING. Have shirts, water bottles (kids keep these on their desk), sunglasses, ANYTHING.
Show Up At School Stuff. Don’t be creepy about it, but when you go to the “big game,” students will follow you, group with you and group with each other in a completely different atmosphere.
Like I said, culture doesn’t build itself overnight, but start here and see what happens!
This article was previously published on the Kingdom Worker Hub – the blogsite of Christ In Youth, a partner of Controlled Chaos.