Youth Ministry Myths – Part 1: You Need An Incredible Facility

Today I begin a series of posts about youth ministry myths, their connotations, and the solutions to the myths. So, here we go…

Youth Ministry Myth Number One:  You need an incredible facility to minister effectively… 

In the time I have been in youth ministry, I find this myth to be one of the most distracting myths out there. Let’s be honest, we’ve all been to churches which have  brilliant youth facilities. If you are like me, you have often thought something like, “if only we had a great youth facility like this, we could do some incredible ministry”. However, as someone who has been a part of  a church plant with no facilities, I have discovered that healthy youth ministry is not dependent on an incredible youth room. Here’s a snapshot of some of the places I have done ministry:

  • The Basement of a Home: When I began at a church plant, we had 10 students, 3 leaders and a small basement. We grew to over 100 students in 3 years… Here’s some places we grew into…
  • Coffee Houses: I have seen some of the most relaxed and God inspired conversations happen in places where students feel comfortable. Coffee houses can be incredible places for God to move
  • Old Churches (I mean really old): I never thought that an old Salvation Army building could be transformed into youth room. (We had to set up and tear down twice a week with sound systems, lights and other equipment). It was incredible! Students were on a mission every week to make relationships the key focus. The sense of accomplishment was fantastic!
  • Parks: Some of the best outreach events have been at BBQ’s in the park. Simple, low cost, a loads to do!
  • Warehouse: My current church rents a warehouse for our student ministry. I’ll be honest, it’s a pretty sweet building and we have done a lot of work inside to make it student friendly. However, it is not attached to main campus of the church and can be challenging sometimes to direct students there. Nonetheless, we have seen some incredible growth and depth happen there.

With all this said, I want to make a bold statement: The less we focus on facilities, the greater our youth ministries can flourish!

Why? Here’s a few reasons:

1) We Can Focus More on Students: When we get focused on spaces, we forget to focus on the faces. The blessing of not having a dedicated space or not having an incredible youth room means we can actually invest more in students. In my last church, I had no full-time building to use until my last 6 months there. I found that I spent more time investing in students and less time managing a building or facility. As soon as we got into a building, it became the focus, not the students.

2) Students Can Focus More On Each Other: The same principle applies as above. In many youth rooms I have been in,  it’s easy to spend great amounts of money and time creating a space with video games, game rooms, ping pong tables, air hockey, etc etc. However, some of the best ministry happens when students don’t have these options and we are forced to engage each other. Programmatically, we are forced to create ice-breakers and connection games where students build community in some great ways. I know it can be awkward, but in the long-term, the pay-offs are huge.

3) It Can Involve Students More: Being in a church plant for nearly 4 years taught me a valuable lesson in ownership. You see, having no dedicated space meant that we had to set up and tear down every week. This included students in the process and meant that more of them were involved in key roles. If you don’t have a great facility, consider how students can be a part of the solution, and watch how they build community in the process.

4) It’s Not About Buildings… It’s About Students: I know, I know… We all know this right? But do we really? Take some time to take a gut check. Are we spending too much time wishing our facility was better? Are we looking at other churches thinking that their facility would solve our problems? Are we caught up in the myth of thinking that we need a great facility to do great ministry? Are our students losing our focus in favor of our facilities?

Phil <><

 

 

7 Responses to Youth Ministry Myths – Part 1: You Need An Incredible Facility

  1. Benjer McVeigh August 9, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    So true…some of my fondest memories of YM were my first year. Our high school group had 2-3 students on a regular basis, and we would meet at various coffee shops and restaurants on Sunday night. Some weeks, it would be three leaders and one student. Eventually we grew, they remodeled our building, and we had a room. But even then, many of us (students and leaders) would go to Starbucks after high school youth group on Sunday nights, and that’s where the “real” conversations would happen.

    Looking forward to the rest of the myths!

  2. Darren Sutton August 9, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    Furniture doesn’t make a house your home. Only the people who live there can do that!

  3. Phil Bell August 9, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    @Benjer! Awesome! I think those times are the ones that students look back on the most aren’t they. I also find that they are more open and relaxed when we are in other places such as coffee houses. I love the summer months since I get to have more of these times with students.

    @Darren our furniture is awful! The people are great!

  4. Jeremy Smith August 9, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    I’ve heard in the past where volunteers that are sold out for the ministry take on the “redesign” and maintenance of the building so that just as you say, we can focus on the teens.

  5. Ricky Hagenson August 9, 2011 at 9:41 pm #

    Have been involved with several churchs(pk) where a volley ball net a volley ball built very large youth ministries when people said “we just do not have any kids in the church” Games then leason then very active in the Sunday services. The youth need and must be a part of the church family not just there to collect dust, because they will leave.

  6. youthworktalk August 9, 2011 at 10:43 pm #

    @Ricky, I agree. In some ways if our youth facility is too incredible, it might keep students away from church. We should make every effort to ensure that good connections and relationships exist between our students and the church. Check out this post with some of my long-term goals in ministry which includes the importance of students being involved in church: http://youthworktalk.com/2011/02/08/a-long-term-view-of-student-ministry/

    @Jeremy, I used to feel bad for keep asking Deacons and families at our church to take care of facilities. However, it’s so important that I had off the practical in order that I can focus on the people…

  7. church ministry August 13, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    You’ve got great insights about church ministry, keep up the good work!

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