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The Reason for a Large Group

The core reason to have a large group experience is community. Through the large group you are creating opportunity for a student to become connected to a community. This should be your main goal.

Now ask yourself what are we connecting students to in that community. Are you connecting them to the tradition of the event? “Make sure you there tonight! You won’t want to miss this!” Why? What happens if they come? What happens after they are gone? Did you have something important to say that they just “had” to hear? Why is that night the only way to say it? Just ask these questions. Chase down the core thing that is actually happening. The tradition of “attending” is not community. You don’t experience Biblical community in a large group. You can talk about what it looks like and get people excited about it but you’re not really doing “church” because you don’t “do” church. The church is not an event or a time slot, or a place. Students need to come to large group to get a taste of people being the bride, pursuing Jesus, loving each other well. They should see it, hear it, watch it, and be given opportunity to engage it. What students see and experience in an hour over that event should continue to be seen even after it’s over.

There was a string of three weeks were the leaders at the Uprising were besting each other on facebook in verbal claims about coming to Wednesday. “Tonight at the Uprising Andy is going to wrestle seven chickens while driving with his feet around the parking lot in a golf cart.” “Come see Chad dive off the roof of the church into a pit of red jello!” Students were laughing and then chimed in before group with claims of their own. We also went for an eight week run without a series, series graphic, or direction for conversation. We just met that week and said, “what should we talk about?” I know that sounds chaotic but in that 8 week run we discovered how little the group was effected by the absence of “the series.”

This gives you permission to change and create large group experiences for the community to discover in their togetherness who Jesus is, how he loves, and what he looks like through your core, caring adults, and expressions. You can change the music, if you do music. You can change the conversation or talk, if you have those. You can do games or not. You can be indoors, outdoors, on campus, off campus, in homes, backyards, parks… it really doesn’t matter.

I know you all know this but let it sink in… your message in lecture form is the most ineffective way to create life change. You’re a good speaker too. I mean you’re really good… but truthfully effective life change happens thru relational ministry.

Think of it like this… If I could line up 52 of the world’s most powerful youth speakers to come to your group and speak to your students over a year what would be the affect? Yes, they would hear great teaching. Yes they would have a lot of great knowledge but who is there in their everyday moments to wrestle with questions, problems, pain, and situations where the application is played out. Without caring adults do you really want them to show up to the community? Are you resigning yourself to say, “this is the best we can do?” Are you perpetuating a myth to kids that as long as they just show up it’s enough? Why would you be frustrated to see students not applying what you teach and say if you don’t have adults with them in their life? You’re practicing a form of “church” modeled after the factory thinking that came out of the industrial revolution. You’re kids are not an assembly line. You need to have a conversation with your senior leadership to change that maddening paradigm.

Do you remember even 50% of what the senior pastor said just four days ago in the main service? How much do you think your kids remember of you? Have the large group experience but make sure it points to relationships and not back to itself. Showing up to show up is really ridiculous when you think about it. It’s kind of like idolatry of a tradition for tradition’s sake.

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Chad Swanzy has served in youth ministry for 15 years and currently works as the student ministry director at Gateway Community Church in Austin, Texas. Learn more from Chad and ask him your questions at ChadSwanzy.com.