I don’t want to Impress Christians with my Youth Ministry

Shocking as this may sound, I just came to this realization within the last few weeks.

I feel silly saying that, because my brain instantly jumps to the inverse, that if I just figured this out a few weeks ago, have I been spending time before then trying to impress Christians with my youth ministry?

Yes and No. For a long time, I’ve been jealous of other churches who have fancy printers and whole teams of graphic designers, and the Youth Pastors get to just sit in their offices doing Youth Ministry and not designing anything. Really, I don’t know why I was jealous, because I love designing things on my computer, I’d be bored out of my mind.

But I noticed that the more I used things these larger churches were doing as inspiration, the more my stuff became like theirs (not necessarily a bad thing), the more my language was starting to sound like theirs (is a bad thing) because they have a different context than we do. It was a bunch of great church talk, but I started thinking “If I didnt already go to church, this would mean nothing to me.”

Where I live, I don’t get the luxury of assuming people have stepped foot in a church building before. I’ve worked in the Bible Belt before, and it’s so much simpler there. You can use church talk and most people will know what you mean.

But out here, the only people who would get what I am saying with a piece I work on is other churches. And sure, they might look at it and be like “wow, check that out!” but ultimately, church talk does nothing for those outside of the church.

You’ve probably heard it said “We cant hold non-christians to christian standards,” and I’d say this is the same rule that should apply here. We can’t assume non-christians have any idea what we are talking about when we say “Our Small Groups really build a great community of fellowship.” I mean really think about that statement, hard and long, and imagine someone who doesn’t go to church hearing or reading that. Keep in mind I mean someone who really doesn’t go to church, not someone who grew up in the church and hasn’t been the last few months or years.

So that’s all culminated the last few weeks as I redesigned my church’s website and have done some re-branding of our Student Ministry mission statement and promotional materials. Which led to us making this brochure/postcard as our Youth Group information card:

youth group information packet

I heard from someone involved with church work how this doesnt communicate much about the Youth Group, what it does, and that parents need to know more. I look at it as saying exactly what we’re about, Jesus Christ, in a way that someone who doesn’t know what’s typical in Youth Group can understand.

Someone else can find the stats, but we who work in the church are all to familiar with the fact that a lot of “church growth” is simply families moving from one church to another. I want to make sure that when I design promotional materials, write blurbs on the website, craft tweets for the churches twitter, that I am not writing in a way that Impresses Christians from other churches, but in a way that communicates with our real audience and the ones we are going after.

Thoughts? What can I do change about this postcard to better communicate with Parents , whether Christian or not?

What are words we use too often in Youth Ministry Circles (or the church as a whole) that you think non-christians have no idea what they mean?

15 Comments

  1. I think you are dead on. As Bob Dylan wrote, "times are a changing". We can't assume people know our insider language and the nuance of our words. What's worked in the past isn't working any more. And when we copy we aren't giving the Holy Spirit the chance to create an amazing unique expression of the church in our context. Your post card is great follows the "keep it simple stupid" idea. The only thing I would wrestle with is using Jesus in stead of Christ. I heard someone say once that Christ is a title and Jesus is a person. In the church we use them interchangeably but do outside know what who you mean or are they left guessing?
    • Man that is truth, what worked in the past isnt working anymore. Thats why I love the article the other day about Samsung and the church, if we were forbidden from using other churches stuff, how many churches would need to shut their doors, and how many would be able to truly innovate? I think we'd see great things come from that, but to each his own. I actually went with Christ intentionally because of that. We don't want to just teach people about the good man that was Jesus, but make it known no, Jesus is the Christ, he is Lord, is above all things.
  2. I think you are dead on. As Bob Dylan wrote, "times are a changing". We can't assume people know our insider language and the nuance of our words. What's worked in the past isn't working any more. And when we copy we aren't giving the Holy Spirit the chance to create an amazing unique expression of the church in our context. Your post card is great follows the "keep it simple stupid" idea. The only thing I would wrestle with is using Jesus in stead of Christ. I heard someone say once that Christ is a title and Jesus is a person. In the church we use them interchangeably but do outside know what who you mean or are they left guessing?
    • Man that is truth, what worked in the past isnt working anymore. Thats why I love the article the other day about Samsung and the church, if we were forbidden from using other churches stuff, how many churches would need to shut their doors, and how many would be able to truly innovate? I think we'd see great things come from that, but to each his own. I actually went with Christ intentionally because of that. We don't want to just teach people about the good man that was Jesus, but make it known no, Jesus is the Christ, he is Lord, is above all things.
  3. That's a good challenge. Id have to really think about what words we use in our ministry that are foreign to non-church members.
  4. That's a good challenge. Id have to really think about what words we use in our ministry that are foreign to non-church members.
  5. This is a great discussion! I would also add that we should also look at our ministry process (from getting them in the door - fully devoted) to see if it is complicated and needs updating.
    • Agreed, we have to know what the entry points are and clarify them. Not every event or program or ministry in that sense is an entry point, but should it be? should it not be? I dont even know.
  6. This is a great discussion! I would also add that we should also look at our ministry process (from getting them in the door - fully devoted) to see if it is complicated and needs updating.
    • Agreed, we have to know what the entry points are and clarify them. Not every event or program or ministry in that sense is an entry point, but should it be? should it not be? I dont even know.
  7. Great reminder Ben! I actually looked at my fall calendar the other day before I printed it and thought, "this is not geared towards the non-believer" which is my primary audience. Appreciate the post
  8. Great reminder Ben! I actually looked at my fall calendar the other day before I printed it and thought, "this is not geared towards the non-believer" which is my primary audience. Appreciate the post

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