I don't think that my experience in youth ministry is anything unique. In fact, I know it's not, because I've asked. We have five to ten (on a good day) of the most dedicated teens I know who come together faithfully on Sunday evenings at our praise center for a game that's supposed to make a point, a devotion and bible study, a few announcements for events that may or may not happen, maybe a bag of chex mix and some dew, and then... well, that's about it.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with this. It centers us on the Word of God. It encourages us to form godly relationships with our friends. It provides a safe place to be honest with questions and challenges. It challenges us to live with a higher purpose and to see faith as our leading principle. I mean, at least that's what I published as the goals of this teen ministry.
There's just more that could be right with it. There are two obstacles that I see which are keeping us from being what we want to be.
Our church has 40 members who are between the ages of 13 - 18. 8-15 of them engage in some way with our youth ministry. I praise God for the 8-15 that I am able to serve through youth ministry. I want to serve a larger percentage of that group.
Okay, problem #2 is really just what's behind problem #1.
I picture the trend in our youth ministry as a self-defeating cycle. We don't get many new students beyond our core who come to youth group because there aren't a lot of students [like them] who come, and those potential students [like them] who might come and make a larger student body base don't come because there aren't a lot of students [like them] who come. To put it another way, one aspect that might attract students is a larger student base that carries a more diverse demographic thereby suggesting that there will be someone like me that I can connect with. But for that larger student base to exist, we'd have to first attract those new students. Yet those new students are primarily going to be attracted by a larger student base.
So here's the issue I've been sizing up for a while: how do we build a larger student base when we lack one of the major components for building that?
With the help of 6 other youth pastors in the area, I think we've finally settled on a pretty good solution: we cheat.
Enter the ave.