|© Photographer: Nikolay Turkin |
We’ve been raised to “Not To Judge A Book By It’s Cover” but then again we all do it. Let’s face it we live a world where there are a lot of pretty book covers. We are drawn to certain images, that’s why commercialism is such an art. They first inspire you to invest in them through their book covers. That’s why we buy the newest shoe, the hottest car or the coolest ifillintheblank. We are sometimes drawn into something good or bad for superficial reasons…but is that such a bad thing?
If it weren’t for certain book covers would you ever have read that story? If it weren’t for a certain movie trailer would you have seen that film? It’s not the subplot, backstory or hidden meanings that draws you in because you haven’t experienced that yet. Those attributes get us fully invested, but the first impression and superficial experiences are what draw us in.
When it comes to your ministry many parents and teens judge it’s cover. And many of us play to this by giving our youth ministry a compelling name like Uprising or Xtreme Faith. I know I’m guilty of it; however, again is that such a bad thing? Is it really that bad to create a cover for your ministry that draws teens in telling them, “I’m relevant and will radically change your lives?” Is it so bad to worry about the image of your ministry because you want people to come, you want them to be engaged, you want them to hear the wonderful content that you’ve spent hours carefully crafting?
If you want a teen to come back after their first visit or if you want a parent to inquire about the ministry you need to have GREAT CONTENT THAT’S NOT DOWNPLAYED BY THE CONTEXT. What that means is that your:
- Ministry Is Accessible: Ever walked up to a locked building you’ve never been to before? It’s intimidating. For some of these teenagers this is the first time they are coming to your ministry and to be greeted by a locked door, or to mess up the starting time can make them feel like a fool. And when they’re walking in, that’s the last thing they want to look like. Plus, parents are probably rearranging their schedule to get their teen their, so that you can save them, if they can’t find the time or the place, then you’ve put a dent in the trust bank. Our youth ministries need to be accesible, that doesn’t mean they should lack challenging content, but if someone is new to the church or even their faith you want to make sure the path is clear on how to they can physically join the community.
- Environments Are Clean: When someone comes over to your house, you clean. When you go out on a date you shower. People like clean because it signifies organization, commitment and the fact that you care about whether or not they feel comfortable. If your church, or youth space looks dirty it’s going to serve a lot of distractions and force a lot of people to not feel comfortable. If you don’t believe me eat your lunch in a dirty street alley…it’s nasty. Your space doesn’t have to have awesome set designs, with crazy posters and streamers hanging from the rafters, it just needs a little polishing, dusting and a good ole vacuum. Clean environments are the first steps to engaging ones.
- Positive First Impressions: If you came into my house and I slapped you on the face, you would turn around crying while I would laugh hysterically. Okay, that would be ridiculous; however, when your teens are walking in the door is someone there to say, “Hey, so glad you made it.” or are backs turned to them and are they being ignored. I know ministry is about deep relationships; however, the first time you sat down with your best friend you probably asked something like, “Do you like stuff.” It was superficial; however, it gave the impression, “This person is interested in me.” Even if it’s just one person greeting teens as they walk in the door, it’s sending the message that you want them there and that’s powerful.
Ministry is not about the hype, it’s not about the crazy icebreakers, the youth pastor’s hair gel or the band’s cover of Joureny’s Don’t Stop Believing. In the end if you have no depth to your messages and relationships people will leave, we can’t stop at the surface. However, we still need to spend significant time on our first impressions by asking ourselves, “What’s the first thing a teen see when he walks in the door?”
What are your thoughts? How much time should we spend on the image of our youth ministry?