I love youth group shirts. I low-key dream of a time where my entire wardrobe is just different student ministry shirts. We have all seen really bad youth group shirts. We also all have been at one time or another slightly envious of the youth group that has a killer shirt. From designing and screen printing my own shirts to outsourcing it all, I want to give you a few tips on creating and distributing great youth group shirts.
Have a great (simple) design.
Don’t overthink shirts. If you have a good logo for your youth group, slap that on a shirt! You don’t have to have complicated designs with gradients and lots of colors. The more colors you have, the more screens you will need to print your shirt, which means the more expensive it will be to print them. I try to never go over two colors on a shirt. A good logo will look good in just black and white, so going with one color and then maybe adding one other color to make it shine is more than enough to make a good youth group shirt.
Get students involved. Ask some of the students who feel like they have a heartbeat on what is in fashion and ask them to send you five t-shirts they think look really cool. You will be surprised by how simple the designs are. I also love browsing dribbble and just looking at all the different shirt designs from great designers around the world. A clean simple design will save you money and make your youth groups name front and center for everyone to see.
Get shirts kids actually want to wear.
We tend to look at shirts very pragmatically. We just want everyone to wear the same thing with our logo on it for our event, camp, whatever. I remember serving at a lock-in for another youth pastor and he joked about finding the cheapest shirts ever and that they will probably “disintegrate in the first wash.” I laughed, but I didn’t get why he was proud of this. I know we are all looking out for our bottom line and trying to save a dollar here and there. But there is no point in even spending the money for shirts if the kids are only going to wear them once. The problem with these cheaper shirts is that they wash weird and end up not looking or feeling good after a while.
Fashion Tees are softer, cut better, and last longer under normal washing. The most popular brand is American Apparel. If you own a band shirt from the past 10 years there is a good chance it is an AA shirt. I know many youth groups who print with this brand because it is super trendy and the fact that it is made in America is encouraging for many. However, American Apparel has had its fair share controversy that many churches and youth groups specifically ask printers to not use the brand. Some shops refuse to print on it.
I love Canvas, great shirts that feel great and look great. My students loved the camp shirts and they keep wearing them, The down side is that some colors only go up to XXL so if you are looking for bigger sizes you will have to get another brand or color. They also tend to be a slightly slimmer fit. Another great brand is Alternative Apparel and Bayside.
Have your students wear it.
Your students are your best ambassadors. So have them wear the shirts and have them wear them often. Do competitions where they have to take a selfie with the shirt on when they are out. When students travel for vacation, tell them to pack the shirt and wear it. Accumulate a bunch of photos and then you can do a slide show or a fun video of all the places your students have been while wearing the shirt.
Students wearing the shirts creates exposure for the ministry and ownership for the students. Good youth group shirts are a win! Bad youth group shirts at the end of the day are a waste of funds and can make the ministry look bad.
I know the natural next question is, “where do I print the shirts?”
Local is always the best. You can make a relationship with that business and they can work out deals with you and really help you make some awesome shirts. If you don’t have any local places, some great online printing companies many of us at YouthMin have used are: Customink.com, ooShirts.com, and amb3r.com.
Make sure you are in the YouthMin Facebook community to see what others are doing with their youth shirts and find out tips and tricks from over 6,000 youth pastors from around the world.