Culture | General Ministry
Leneita Fix

Leneita has been involved in youth or family ministry for over 24 years serving in rural, suburban and urban settings, camps, small and large churches and non-profits. She has authored or co-authored several youth ministry books, including Everybody’s Urban Understanding the Survival Mode of the Next Generation among others. Leneita is the ministry and training coordinator for BowDown Church, co-founded a coaching and training organization called Frontline Urban Resources (everybodysurban.org) and lives with her amazing husband John and four children in Florida.

Picture courtesty of Brothers' Pizza

Picture courtesty of Brothers’ Pizza

Recently my 7th grade son came up with what he felt would be a brilliant idea.  He is going to offer “Pizza Church.”  At the end of each service he will have and alter call. As he invites others into a relationship with Jesus there will be a Pizza down front.  If you come forward for prayer you get a slice or two.
While he was not serious, it did get me thinking about the “gimmicks” we use to get our students and their families to come to church.  Our answer is always another “program,” or “formula” to get people through the door.  We know it doesn’t keep them returning, yet we do it anyway.
So I thought I would offer other ways we can keep youth from NEVER coming back week after week:

Focus on “The Show”

By all means make the Pizza the star.  Kids like free food and that is the only reason why they would want to be a part of something bigger.  Make your youth environment one where they can slip in and out without being noticed.  Like any good concert or movie, make certain they are merely spectators.  After all if you have put on a good show then you feel  good about what you offered.

Avoid Authentic Relationships

There will always be the superstar student and the overtly needy student.  They will find us and we can go ahead and spend all of our time with them.  Never make time to get to know students, and of course avoid parents at all cost.  Assume all of your “good kids” are home schooled and all the “troubled” ones are unchurched.  Go ahead and even make time to see students in their latest sports endeavor or school activity.  Wave afterward or perhaps give them a high five, but never actually sit with anyone, find out their heart or ask them who they really are.

Make Assumptions

Never actually ask any of the families in your ministry what their needs are.   Do not under any circumstances ever hold a forum and brainstorm ways you can better serve your youth.  In a silo pick curriculum that reaches your student’s deepest issues.  It’s a media driven culture so they must want videos, movie clips or the latest and greatest idea.  You know what better yet they don’t even know what they want or need so you decide.

Lower the Bar

Our students are apathetic and lazy.  It’s best to not ask too much of them.  They couldn’t possibly want questions answered or to know the Bible in a deep way.  None of them even open up the Word at home so just push them to do less.  They don’t really want to be here anyway.  Make sure to never expect them to lead or do more,  this is very helpful.
As we laugh, how many of these do we do anyway?  How many has a “youth ministry culture” perpetuated even when we know they don’t work?  My 7th grader understands that “Pizza Church” might get them to the alter, but it doesn’t grow a deeper relationship with Christ.  Could we need to shift paradigms and learn to reach a generation that is genuinely hungering for more?
What are some ways we might ENGAGE youth and get them involved? What are YOU doing?

I would love to hear!

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  • Casey Malley says:

    Thank you for this light-hearted yet poignant article about youth group “gimmicks”. I am being voted on for a youth ministry position in a near-by church this weekend and this was a fun article to read before going down there. Helps to remind us all that it is not about us but about Him and His redemptive work in our hearts and communities! God bless

  • Christianprincess says:

    Great post! I find myself having to constantly fight the urge to put on “The Show” in the place of genuine ministry and discipleship.

    An environment of fierce, genuine love that does not end because of failure, missing attendance, or disagreement. This includes having authentic, consistent adults as leaders who care about, invest in, and disciple young people to live lives in the image of Christ.

    Discipline/challenge to live out the principles that we as Christians claim. (I know that this can sometimes dangerously look like behavior management, but creating an environment with healthy boundaries and behavioral expectations creates safety, especially for those who do not have that in other areas of their lives)

    Expectations and responsibilities – wanting more for them than they currently want for themselves and genuinely showing them that you believe they are capable of reaching those expectations, most importantly by giving them an opportunity to do so. They may not always live up to them, especially in the immediate future, but the belief that they can gives the desire and challenge to try.

    Most importantly, making the foundation of your ministry Christ, His redemptive work on the cross, and the Word of God as the guide for how all people (not just adults) should live their lives.

  • Tony Myles Tony Myles says:

    BRILLIANT catch, Leneita. And even more so that your kid caught it.

    I also like how you reversed this article on its head. We’re quick to look for ways to hook kids in, but I wonder the long-term harm that does. Someone much wiser than me once pointed out that whatever you attract students with is what you have to keep them with.

    For that reason, we’ve recently revamped how we’ll be doing student ministry this fall. One thing involves giving students a slot where each week they can share an offering of something – a poem, a song (be it professional or something they play), a video clip, etc. Whatever they find that they think will help the rest of their peers think and explore God better. We’ll see how it goes! 🙂

    • Leneita Fix Leneita Fix says:

      I love that idea Tony! Tell me how it goes. Sometimes we have the tendency to think we need to go more digital “Because that’s what kids today like.” Funny thing is media clips rarely work with my students, but when they choose to take the lead- everything is different. We gave our teens responsibility for the opening time of the children’s ministry and they have been really stepping up and taking this seriously and loving it!

  • Alex Cozzi says:

    I was very blessed by your insight. Thank you.

    • Leneita Fix Leneita Fix says:


      I could never have imagined that there was a real church out there called, Pizza Church. It seems that the heart behind your gathering is one of the closest heart to the Lord: come together, break bread and get to know Him. Thanks for doing what you do there!

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