It’s a bracing truth: How people see you affects how they see Jesus. The same is true of a ministry. Our programs represent Jesus, but do they also reflect him? No ministry is perfect, of course, but when teenagers come and see your youth ministry, do they see Jesus?
Jesus was so interesting that people came from miles away to see this “God/man” in action. Jesus didn’t hate this; in fact, when he noticed the crowds, he had compassion on them (Mark 6:34). Jesus traveled through towns and villages teaching the good news of his Kingdom. He had a message for the world and wanted people to come and see what it was all about.
When people asked Jesus where he lived, he said, “Come and see” (John 1:39). When people invited their friends to get close to Jesus, they said, “Come and see” (John 1:46). In Luke 19:5, when Jesus meets a notorious tax collector in a tree, he doesn’t hammer him with the four spiritual laws. Instead, he says, “Come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Have no hesitation to come and see what I’m all about.”
By creating a “come and see” culture, Jesus gained a reputation of being a friend of sinners. I want that to be my reputation, too. I want that to be our youth ministry’s reputation with teenagers in our city.
A “come and see” youth ministry is:
A friendly, welcoming environment for everyone who enters. A “come and see” youth ministry helps teenagers connect to the group with more than a handshake or high-five. Young people will return to places where they’re connected to peers as well as to adults who care. That’s why it’s important to:
- Use student greeters to provide peer connections.
- Have a welcoming crew that stays with guests throughout the meeting or event.
- Communicate to kids, “You matter here!”
- Provide friendly, loving follow-up.
- Be genuine. Remember that you’re loving people, not projects.
A disarming environment that has a positive impact. If your meeting area isn’t what you want it to be, ask how you can break down barriers and create a place that communicates the value of “come and see.” Here are a few easy ways to enhance your environment:
- Food—This is a love language!
- Music—This can range from live music (a band or just one person) to iTunes and Spotify.
- Fun—A misunderstood element, fun can glue us to Jesus and other Christians.
- Friends—These are crucial in both one-on-one and group settings.
- Student art—Display paintings, enlarged photos, graphic design prints, and so on.
- Games—It’s easier to jump into a group activity than to start a conversation, so have a space where something is happening.
- A fresh coat of paint
- New carpet or rugs
A safe place for young people to talk about any issue, struggle, or feeling. Regardless of how uncomfortable we feel, we must let teenagers share from the heart and be real about their struggles. That’s why it’s important to:
- Recruit leaders who are great listeners.
- Have (and possibly create) resources for teenagers with tough questions.
- Know your limits. When you can’t help with certain issues, be ready to direct young people to people who can.
Dialed into both kinds of energy. Who will feel comfortable coming and seeing what you do: extroverts? introverts? How can you create a “come and see” ministry for both? Ask:
- Is there space where teenagers can just hang out?
- Is there a positive atmosphere filled with upbeat, real, loving people? This involves everyone from leaders mingling to teenagers greeting to people on stage leading worship and giving announcements.
- Do the “regulars” love being there? If not, the visitors who “come and see” probably won’t come back.
A “come and see” culture won’t look the same for every youth group. But these are just some of the things our ministry practices in an effort to change young lives. Many of these ideas came directly from teenagers in our ministry. Invite a handful of kids and committed youth leaders to provide input about how they can help create a “come and see” culture in your church.