1. Dumb down the gospel. Employ attractive phrases, such as, “Since I’ve known Jesus, I’m happier, getting better grades and captain of the football team!” Even better, reduce the complexity of the gospel into group cheers (e.g., “Give me a J!”) or simple worship choruses, such as, “God is so good…blah blah blah.” Or even better, try out some hip slang (e.g., God is “phat”; Jesus is a “hottie”).
2. Count. Constantly make everyone aware of your group’s attendance figures and the increases in attendance. Make numbers an issue by setting attendance goals for each activity and reward the group for reaching those goals. Spend lots of time throwing pies at the leaders if goals are reached.
3. Put your students on display. As soon as kids become Christians, rededicate their lives or show real growth, put them in front of the group and have them share their testimoniesâ€”especially if they’re physically attractive. Let young people talk about their faith as much as possible and don’t worry about the fact that most young people have no clue how complicated and rough the real world is, with or without Jesus.
4. Don’t allow down time. Hey, kids today are MRV kids! Silence, solitude, prayer, meditation, fasting? All totally lame in the eyes of this generation! Nope, keep ’em busy, active, noisy and shuttling from one Christian rock concert to another. Fill every moment of your program with something to do. Otherwise, you’ll lose their attention.
5. Stay on the technological cutting edge. What would Jesus do? Are you kidding? Jesus would have the best sound system you ever heard, along with a DVD player, the Internet, instant messaging, the coolest Web site and a digital TV. Show your kids that when it comes to the latest technology, Christians are right there!
6. Create celebrities. Make sure your young people get an earful and an eyeful of the latest Christian music stars, video stars and NFL players who profess their faith in Jesus on national television. Encourage them to worship, idolize and live under the illusion that these people are somehow better, deeper, more Christian, more together and more dedicated than they are.
7. Let youth group take the place of church. Oh sure, encourage your kids to attend the contemporary serviceâ€”even though you know most of them never will because church is “boring,” filled with “dull, old people,” and the music “sucks.” Whatever you do, though, don’t suggest that worshiping with people they don’t like and connecting with people who are older and wiser just might help them when their adolescent view of the world is shattered.
8. Don’t make waves. Whatever you do, don’t cause friction with parents by suggesting to their kids that grades, SAT scores, financial security, college degrees and scholarships matter. Just accept the fact that most parents want their children to attend youth group as long as it doesn’t interfere with hockey, football, ice-skating, tennis, ballet or baseball practice. Furthermore, don’t suggest that students resist their parents’ attempts to smother the call of God on their lives. After all, you could get fired!
9. Ignore the arts. Never encourage painting, dance, sculpture, writing, poetry, ballet or trips to the museum, symphony and opera. Stick with activities that rock! The WWF rules!
10. Live in the now. Verify the success of your ministry by visible, measurable, observable results you can access now. Don’t waste your time worrying about lasting results. Who can wait?! Go for the instant return. Hey, once your kids leave youth group, you aren’t responsible for what happens to them anyway, right?
Now go get ’em!
The late MIKE YACONELLI was a founder of Youth Specialties and YouthWorker Journal. This article was adapted with permission from Getting Fired for the Glory of God (Zondervan/Youth Specialties), which features articles Mike wrote for YouthWorker Journal, talks he gave to various groups and more.