I have been giving this post some thought over the past couple of days.  Then a friend of mine on Twitter, Brian Ford, made this comment:

“Are you using the gospel to reach students or money and big events to draw them in? #THECause

His thought gave me something to think about as it relates to this post.  It is a great question.  For years I have subscribed to the mindset that you HAVE to have video games and technology to draw students in.  I live by this motto and did student ministry by this motto.  Largely because I was in a ministry where I had inherited all of the latest gaming systems and a ton of other stuff along with a healthy ministry budget of $20-$25k for the student ministry.  I was indeed blessed to have been a part of that ministry for 6 years.

I’m now in a different church where we don’t have the latest video game systems to draw kids in.  We don’t have a large budget (it is decent) to spend lots of money on events and programming to draw students in either.  So it has made me re-think how I go about doing student ministry.  The question I have struggled with over this past year is, “How can we draw students in without spending a ton of money and without the latest gaming systems?”

Here’s what I have learned.

  • games/ technology: Don’t get me wrong.  I love video games and technology.  Over the past year I have stepped away from using games as a primary focus to student ministry.  We still use videos and motion backgrounds to our songs.  I found I was putting too much focus on games in the past and not enough energy and focus on using God’s Word.  That’s a hard statement to make.  If games are your main way of bringing students in your ministry may became stagnant and stale over time ultimately losing kids – maybe not through numbers but losing them through not grounding them in God’s Word.  Honestly I am praying for Bethel to build a ministry center someday – and I do envision a pool table or two and maybe a video game system.  Not as the hook to keep kids.  We will always use the Gospel to keep them coming.  I do think games/ technology can be a help at CREATING an atmosphere but they CANNOT replace God’s Word.  In fact they MUST not.
  • atmosphere is key: Creating a contagious atmosphere is a must – but it CAN be done without video games and pool tables. My advice to anyone who may be a new youth pastor is this: Build you ministry strong upon the foundation of God’s Word – make that the focus.  Maybe then slowly work some games in or a pool table or two.  If your ministry ever gets to focusing on games and technology more than God’s Word then remove them fast!  Nothing can replace the transforming power of God’s Word.
  • deep and wide: I can’t say enough about the deep and wide strategy from dare 2 share.  We are using the deep and wide philosophy and we’ve seen huge changes.  Instead of games/ gimmicks we are using the Gospel to attract students.  Sure we have live worship and a decent youth room – but we don’t have any gaming systems.  Just good old fashioned proclaiming God’s Word through going deep with doctrine and challenging our students to go wide by sharing the Gospel and inviting their friends – and their friends are coming!
  • be different: Be the ministry in town that focuses on transformation of lives rather than the high score on Halo: ODST.  Be different – be the ministry God has called you to be.  While technology can be helpful it is not the catalyst for life change – God’s Word is.  So many times we try to “enhance” the Gospel with other things (video games. cool lights.  pool tables.  etc.) The thing is that when we do that we often change the Gospel to fit our mold and think it is somehow better with the coolest trend.  The Gospel is never cooler with the latest trend or gimmick.  The Gospel is always the Gospel in it’s purest form – God’s Word.