There is an old saying that I recall hearing when I was young: “Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.” It was a reference to money, pennies being the smaller unit of currency and pounds the larger. Yet the saying was not about money. It meant that if you’re careful over the small things in life, then you will be successful in the big things too. Put into youth ministry programming terms we might reword this to mean, “If you take care in doing the small things well, then the end result – those things that will truly last – will be positive.”
Whether we are talking about planning fun social activities, retreats and camps, weekly Bible studies or worship services, we naturally focus on the major things that need planning. It is right that we do this, and do them well. But in the process of doing the big things well we can so easily overlook the little things. These “little things” are those aspects of the programme that may seem minor but are in fact hugely important. They are the things that create lasting impact and fruit in young peoples’ lives. The first of these is “participation”.
One of the biggest problems we face in encouraging young people to come to our programmes is their consumer mentality. They will want to know if it’s going to suit their needs and will be reluctant to commit in case a better opportunity comes along. A way to overcome this is to change them from being consumers into being participants – from having programmes organised for them to programmes organised by them.
Such participation is Biblical in that they too are members of the body of Christ and as such have gifts that can be used to contribute to building up the whole body.[i] But it is also motivational in that it gives them a sense of ownership as well as a sense of accomplishment when the programme is successfully completed.
This principle can be applied in a number of ways. We can include them on various teams in our ministry both on a regular basis or in one off situations. We can have them help with the occasional Bible study or assign them some responsibility in planning an activity for a limited time.
It may work like this. You are planning the year’s social programme for your young people so you gather them all together and they suggest ideas. The leaders note down who contributes various ideas and once a final list is agreed upon by them they approach the young people who suggested each activity and invite them to be a part of the organising team. Inevitably they are now motivated and are no longer a consumer. There is now no question that they will come, and they will likely encourage friends to come too.
[i] Ephesians 4:11-12