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KurtJohnston

Kurt Johnston has been a youth pastor since 1988 and currently leads the student ministries team at Saddleback Church in Southern California. Widely regarded as one of the most trusted voices in youth ministry, Kurt loves to encourage other youth workers and has written and created over 50 books and resources with that goal in mind. In his free time, Kurt enjoys surfing and riding dirt bikes in the desert with his wife and two children.

Fun has taken a beating lately. 

When it comes to youth ministry, I’ve heard all of the following comments:

“Fun makes for shallow youth ministry”. 

Possible translation: “I love deep stuff and wish more teenagers would, too.”

“Teenagers don’t like fun and games any more.” 

Possible translation: “I don’t like fun and games, so I assume they don’t

either.”

“Too much fun in youth group is why students end up leaving…they want something deeper.”

Possible translation: “I’m not willing to make the effort to combine the two.”

 

The truth is that fun is the universal language of teenagers…churched and un-churched alike.  Frankly, I’m dumbfounded by folks who somehow see fun as a non-essential piece of ministering to students.

I suppose it’s true that not every teenager likes wild and crazy games; that not every high school guys loves dodge ball, or that every junior high girl wants to put a whip-cream pie in the face of an adult leader.  But when did those become the standard for “fun”?  Perhaps we’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water?  What if we re-defined fun?  What if fun didn’t have to include funny, crazy, zany, and wacky?  In our ministry, “fun” has four R’s:

 

A Fun Youth Ministry is REAL

  • Authenticity is celebrated and expected.
  • Students don’t have to “perform” spiritually.
  • Students don’t have to “perform” socially (they can be who they are).
  • Doubts, fears, and questions are freely expressed.

 

A Fun Youth Ministry is RELATIONAL

  • Adult leaders invest in the lives of students.
  • Some sort of small group structure is in place.
  • Relational time is built into virtually every program.

 

A Fun Youth Ministry is RELAXED

  • Youth leaders are well-prepared ahead of time.
  • When something goes wrong, it isn’t the end of the world.
  • Perfectionism and performance don’t matter.

A Fun Youth Ministry is RELEVANT

  • It’s obvious the youth ministry understands youth!
  • Lessons include “action steps” that are age appropriate.
  • The atmosphere created is “for students” not “what the adults prefer.”

 

You don’t have to play crazy games to have fun. You don’t have to be funny to have fun. You don’t have to have a big youth room with fog machines and lights to have fun.  In fact, a real, relational, relaxed, and relevant youth ministry doesn’t rely on any of those factors!

I spell fun with four R’s. How about you?

Kurt / @kurtjohnston

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