(2/2) The Dynamics Of An Effective YTH Service
What are the elements of an effective YTH Service?
This is one of the most asked questions of me in my work with young leaders. I just read this week on social media of someone saying that many YTH Leaders seem to think that the YTH Service setting is out of date. I didn't see any research.
What is your philosophy for the YTH Service setting? What are the elements of a dynamic YTH Service? How important is a regular YTH Service?
There has always been a tension between the 'play' crowd and the 'pray' crowd. One philosophy says students want to 'play' and YTH Ministry should be more fun. And the other philosophy says that students want to 'pray' and the YTH Ministry should be more serious.
Which one is best? Can we really do both in a 75-90 minute YTH service setting? Is there a better setting for each? What do the students really want? What do the students really need? What is the role of YTH Ministry as it relates to developing students into disciples? And what role does 'play' and 'pray' have in making disciples?
A lot of questions. Let's try and answer some of these.
I believe every YTH Ministry needs both 'play' and 'pray'. Both are critical for making disciples. But, I also believe that the YTH Service setting is the best place for one of these. And that there is a better setting for the other. My personal conviction from 4 decades of working with teens is that 'play' is best done in the small group or event-based settings in YTH Ministry. And that 'pray' is best done in the YTH Service setting.
Partly because it is very difficult to do both effectively. But, mostly because it is the responsibility of the Church to make disciples. And the YTH Service setting is the one place where the whole YTH Ministry is together at one time. Separating the two objects of our tensions will assure that each will be more productive. Especially concerning the 'pray' aspect. To do this vital spiritual discipline well, it takes time and priority.
Theology And Theatre
If you read blog one from last week you will hear my thoughts on the importance of the YTH Service setting. In short, this is the one place where we have everyone together. And the one moment for God to suddenly move upon our students and leaders in a transformative way. It does take a lot of planning to do a great YTH Service. But that is the reason for collaboration and shared-ownership of students and leaders and several other elements that we will talk about in this post.
The main point of the post last week was to prove that THEOLOGY and THEATRE do not have to be enemies. They can work together closely to create both a scriptural and a cultural vibe in the YTH Service. The two are inseparable.
So, this week we finish up the y t h o l o g y LIVE! broadcast from Sunday night on elements of a great YTH Service. Last week was the dynamic of theology. This week is the dynamic of theatre.
Spiritual Formation Comes In Many Theatrical Forms
Discipleship is both theology and theatre. Let's look at how theatre can help us create a setting for discipleship and introducing students and leaders to God.
The temperature in the room must be raised. How this is done takes creative thought and time. It takes an intentional and collaborative effort of a YTH Leader and the team to do this. It is easy to collaboratively develop a 60-90 minute message to a YTH audience weekly. That message should come through words, pictures, movement, and feelings. Kinesthetic and not just linguistic.
Here are several ways to use theatre in YTH Ministry:
Think of it as the 4 T's.
You have the topic/the series you are planning. The text/the scripture that will anchor the series. The tale/the communication of the message or story you will tell. The takeaway/the transformation of the students lives through the content in the service. This also is the response of the students and leaders in either a personal or relational way to apply the message of the evening..
Creativity and Preaching do not have to be enemies. Theology takes place through theatre - sight and sound, feeling and response. And this is where storytelling, spoken word, music, art, discussion, response, and other forms aid in your weekly preaching and teaching.
Think of it as thematic.
Let everything that is planned for the YTH Service lead to 1 theme each evening. If it doesn't fit, quit it. Leave it on the cutting floor as they say. The students can only handle one thought direction each week. And all of this should lead to that theme. Remember, the YTH Service doesn't have to be filled with words. But it should lead to 1 theme.
Everything in the YTH Service should speak to that theme - the pre-event, the mixer (if you do one), the music, the flow and bumpers, the message, and the response. Anything outside of the theme should be left out of the evening.
Think of it as atmosphere
The communication of Theology and the Word to this generation can be a blast. Try changing the setting. I know that most Churches do not have a slick YTH room or center. So get creative with decor and setup and lighting and music to lead students where you want to go. Create space for worship and response. How can you use the outdoor space?
You can also use leadership - student and adult leadership. When leaders are taught how to shape the evening, it is much easier to get the crowd going where you want and thinking how you want them too. From greeting and outdoor reception, to indoor hosting, and even involvement in the YTH Service, leaders can influence the entire evening.
Think of it as mystery
Most students are in public school for 6-7 hours daily. They are moved from classroom to classroom and from lecture to lecture. Throw in a lunch or practical class such as gym or study hour and most students see structure for about 35-40 hours a week in education. Then add the homework and assignments to this and our teens are putting in 45+ hours.
Do you think that students want to show up at midweek YTH Service at Church and sit through another 2 hours of lecture and fill in the blanks? Mystery can shake things up. Theatre and creativity can break boredom and create anticipation.
For most students there are not many opportunities to be in a corporate spiritual setting that is charged with a sudden move of the Spirit. An emotional and spiritual moment. So, a well-planned YTH Service can be a dynamic atmosphere where students can sing, pray, move, and interact with God and their friends. Mostly unlike the educational setting at school.
A YTH Service should be a setting where the Spirit and the gifts operate. And everyone has time to connect with God in their own way. A setting that is not distracted by poorly run games or mixers. A setting that is creative and uses theatre to accent the knowledge of God. Do everything you can to get students out of a classroom mentality for the YTH Service. Get them standing, moving, singing, laughing, responding, and relating with each other through the entire flow of the evening.
Think of it as modeling
Personal spiritual preparation in the YTH Leader breeds hunger and excitement in the crowd. A YTH Leader who is on fire for God will be an attraction for young people. People love to follow fire trucks to see what's going on. Where's the smoke? Maybe you should light yourself on fire and people will come and watch YOU burn.
The student and adult leaders must also be spiritually prepared. We cannot afford to raise another generation in the Church who are ignorant of Theology and the Bible and the presence of the Spirit in the YTH setting. It simply must be a non-negotiable. And we as leaders are the catalyst for this passion for God.
Please spend less time on games and ice-breakers. And more time on the content of the YTH Service. Remember, faith comes by hearing the Word, not by playing the games. If you give ample priority to 'pray' in your own life and in the YTH Service setting, you will find that it is easier to build disciples.
Think of it as a kaleidoscope
Collaboration can bring many of these elements to building a YTH Ministry. Someone on your team is great at flow or hosting the YTH Service. Give them freedom. You have musicians who can handle the setting also. Use the creatives for social media or audio visual needs. Some students or leaders would love the opportunity to research the internet for sermon illustrations or a bumper video or video announcements or to create a spotlight of a student story each week.
This collaboration saves the YTH Leader time and places greater ownership of the YTH Ministry on the students and leaders. It also broadens language, approaches, and even personality when you use a variety of people. When a YTH Ministry uses a kaleidoscope of people and ideas in their YTH Service, the results are dynamic.
Develop a Creative Team: here's what that should look like: recruit a male and female student in each age group (junior high, high school, college or university aged), a young adult, and an adult leader. Use as many creatives on this team as possible. The make-up of that team will assure you creative impact, cultural reference, many ideas, tribe or clique buy-in, and Biblical accuracy.
Finally, Pray Before Play
I know that young people love to play. And so do I. But, it is very difficult to do both effectively in 75-90 minutes in the YTH Service setting. Create another setting for games, events, and activities so that you can use that setting as an avenue for building relationships or for outreach.
Remember, the one thing we can't afford to lose in YTH Ministry is prayer. That is what sets the Church apart from every other organization. We cannot compete against Hollywood or Steven Spielberg, and we cannot outspend MTV and Nickelodeon to attract students. But, we are very attractive to teens when we promote the presence of God.
One final thought - to assure a dynamic YTH Service, organize a weekly or monthly prayer meeting in your YTH Ministry. It doesn't matter how many come. Stay with it and you will see the attendance increase.
Here's how you can make this happen - set up a study or theme each month for prayer, use music, get to a comfortable setting with space, snacks, and no distractions or outdoor noise. But stay with it!
Prayer meetings will ensure that you will be healthy and that you will produce healthy young people and adults in your YTH Ministry. And a by-product of healthy students and leaders will be dynamic YTH Services.