Like everyone else, youth ministers devote time, talent and treasure to what we think is important and merits our investment. If we think something is vital for our ministry, we’ll spend tons of our time, talent and treasure to make it work. Judging by what I see youth ministers spend a lot of time and effort on, it seems we greatly value a youth group name, a youth group logo, exciting games, the perfect curriculum and, of course, an awesome youth room.
We spend so much time trying to come up with the perfect youth group name, creating an awesome logo, finding the best curriculum and starting youth group with the latest viral game in our awesome youth room. But the problem is those things…
Do. Not. Matter.
Teens don’t care about the youth group name! The lost and hurting students at your local schools aren’t all amped up to come to “ZORT” on Wednesday. They think your life-size game of Hungry Hungry Hippos looks dumb. Your logo is cool and all, but compared to the marketing they see every day, it’s frankly kind of lame. Your youth room with the pallet walls reminds them of their summer job stocking shelves at the local store.
Why are we wasting time on things that don’t matter? Stop it. The reason students aren’t coming to church has nothing to do with marketing and everything to do with not addressing their needs. They see church as a place that’s boring, worthless and unimportant. If they do show up, it’s not because of the youth group name or the awesome curriculum you wrote. More than likely, your perfectly amazing lesson bored them even more than they imagined.
These extras are nice, but in the end they don’t matter. No one in the history of the world has been saved because of a youth group name. It would be like going out and buying a $40,000 car because you love the shape of the cupholders. Cupholders are nice. Cupholders are, after a fashion, important. Personally, I love not spilling my Coke all over the car. But no one buys a car because of cupholders.
So what’s the answer? What matters to teens? Instead of a youth group name, here’s what teenagers in your community think are really important.
5 Things Kids Want (Cool Youth Group Name Optional!)
1. A place where they matter
Teens need to know they’re important, that they’re valuable. The church provides the place where they matter, because God loves them so much that he gave his Son for them. Kids matter to God. Ultimately, they can find their true worth only in Jesus.
2. A place where they belong
Teens need friends who genuinely care about them. They need people who love them. Our youth groups need to be places that are about belonging. Youth group should be the most loving place that students can find.
3. A place where they can make a difference
Teens have an intrinsic desire to change the world. We can give them that opportunity, both through service and through evangelism. If your students aren’t making a difference, they’re not being fulfilled and are only going through the motions of Christianity. If that’s the case, then they won’t think living out their faith is important.
4. A place that encourages them
The world tears teens down. The church should be the place that builds them up, not just another place where students are torn apart.
5. A place where people invest in them
Teens long for people to see something in them, to see a hidden spark that they themselves can’t see. Teens seek out this affirmation like a wanderer in the desert seeks out water. Your church can pour life into students, and they will respond.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not bad to have a cool youth group name or logo. A solid curriculum is important. Games are fun and build community. A youth room is cool for hanging out. These things aren’t sinful; they’re just not the most important things. Spend your time on the most important things, and then do the other stuff if you have time.
What’s most important to your ministry? Do you think it makes an eternal difference? We’d love to hear thoughts about your youth group name—and more—in the comments!