Too often churches want to treat the youth program as if it’s a continuation of Sunday school—the curriculum is merely an extension of what the students learned in grades one through six. But when a person becomes a teenager, his or her brain begins to produce certain chemicals. When these chemicals kick in, the human brain begins to process things at amazingly high levels. Having your students sit around a table and work through the teen version of what the kindergarten class is also learning won’t cut it. Youth ministry must be about the experience if it’s to be effective.
Youth ministry is extraordinarily loud, ordinarily annoying, completely messy, universally unglamorous, customarily disgusting, repeatedly boisterous, routinely disorderly, often smelly, frequently vulgar, seldom peaceful, and—every now and then—downright dangerous. (FYI: When the MythBusters say, “Don’t try this at home,” you should take them seriously.)
Allow for this. Allow your program to be messy. Allow your teens’ faith to be messy. Don’t try to force your program into a box. (Unless it’s a box like one of those noisemaker thingies where you push the clay into the little plastic pail and it makes that glorious FRAAAAAAAAAAAPPP sound.)
ALLOW FOR THE GROSS.
ALLOW FOR THE MESS.
ALLOW FOR THE SEMI-SACRILEGIOUS.
ALLOW FOR THE LOUD.
Churches that understand this will see how much a program can grow when the students are given permission to be what and who they are. If they’re accepted for who they are, and if they understand that your church, your youth room, and your community are sanctuaries, then they will be much more likely to open up and let you into their lives. If they feel safe, they’ll be more likely to let God into their lives. If they feel they can be themselves, they’re more likely to be who God called them to be.