Last night, our Jr. High Ministry had one of the most fun events I have done in 10 years of ministry. We gave a talk at the end that wrapped up our last summer series and gave the gospel, but outside of those 20 minutes, it was just a time of fun. We had triple the attendance from the end of last year with 11 first-time guests, and I got to hear incredible stories from parents afterwards of students leading other students to Christ through our challenge.
But I still have this small voice way down low repeating a conversation I had with a parent earlier this week about not bringing their student to just play games.
I see hope for Youth Ministry that fewer and fewer Youth Ministries are operating under the assumption that you have to play games to be a successful Youth Ministry. That notion may have been popular in the past, but I believe, thanks in part to the awesome members of the YouthMin.org Facebook community, that more and more Youth Pastors are viewing fun and games differently. Regardless of how Youth Pastors view fun and games, there will always be those around us who view what we do as a waste of time because of games and “silly” aspects of our ministry.
I recently read somewhere that the average student is involved with 5 extracurricular activities. That boggled my mind. In fact, it stayed in my thoughts so much I asked our students that week, “Raise your hand if you are involved in an extra curricular activity right now? How about more than 1? More than 3? More than 4?”
I’ve got students in FCA, Choir,Sports, Student Council, and working 15 hours a week. I’ve got students who now have practice on Sunday to make up for the missed practice on game days. I’ve got students who are taking several AP classes and going to the local community college for a class in order to get ahead.
And you do, too. Maybe not these exact scenarios, but the bottom line is that our students are busy.
What burdens me is that in all that busyness, in all this striving to get ahead for college, students miss out on the fact that they are still teenagers. I know we like to call them students and not kids, but it’s ok to sometimes remind them, despite all the maturing they are going through and all the extra responsibility they are taking on, they are still kids.
So we play games. We block out time to be intentional and say “There’s no homework here, there’s no task to get done. Just relax and rest and just be a teenager, if even for a few minutes.”
That’s why we have fun in Youth Ministry.
As an aside, last night’s event nearly got cancelled. A few miles from church, a police officer was killed, sparking an intense manhunt for 3 men. Every nearby school was on lockdown for the entirety of the day, and we had Small Group Leaders who couldn’t leave homes all day as their town was put on lockdown. It was a stressful, intense, scary day. Having our fun event and playing blacklight dodgeball was one of the best distractions from the darkness around us we could have done, and I’m so appreciative to have received that encouragement from parents and leaders after the event. Pray for the city of Fox Lake, IL and surrounding communities, and for the family of this officer who had made an impact on so many lives.