“No you can’t go to that youth group event because…
– Their theology’s dodgy!
– Their kids will beat you up!
– Their guitarist is rubbish!
– They’re just trying to make money!
– They smell funny!”
AKA – “We think you’ll like it better there and ditch our group for theirs!”
What on Earth is wrong with us and why don’t we encourage our youth groups to mix!?!
Getting youth groups to mix is hard work at the best of times, even without our discouragement and fear. Teenagers themselves can be possessive and territorial about their own spaces and friends. You even see it at large crowd events that draw lots of youth groups together – You get your hand-holding, holy-huddle and clique-gripping as much as anywhere else!
Then you throw the number-obsessed youth leaders into it and you’ve got yourself mini-empires that don’t go anywhere, do anything or meet anybody. Successful discipleship & mission? I think not!
Unity is important. Showing young people they’re not alone is important. Finding ways to recognize Christians in school corridors from other groups is important. Getting these groups together is important.
If we take our heads out of our own… shoes… then we’ll think of the well being of our young people first rather than being driven by fear. Let’s be confident, push out the boat and strive for some unity!
So how do we do it? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Play nice as youth leaders
Meet up with other youth leaders! Coffee dates, meals, bowling, training events, networking days, babysitting swaps – I don’t care how you do it but find a way! If the youth leaders accept their responsibility to Gospel partnership by cultivating good relationships then their young people will follow. More than this, it is far easier to work together on joint ideas if there are pre-established relationships.
2. Safari Youth Group
Visit other youth groups with your youth group as a whole – and encourage other groups to return the favour. Be good hosts when they come, and please don’t try to ‘outperform’ the other groups. Don’t advertise your own stuff on those nights but share the space and activities. Don’t ‘debrief’ the week after… i.e. don’t shred what you saw in the other group to pieces! Celebrate it and encourage unity.
3. Coordinate events
Rather than planning a youth event and inviting other groups to it, start earlier and invite the other groups to be part of the planning process – including date and location. Find where to share responsibility and share credit. Not only will this boost motivation and numbers, but it will spread responsibility and weight, build motivation, open up new avenues of creativity and it will be an epic force of unity.
4. Community driven events
When planning together events, rather than going for the classic ‘gig’ approach, do something that encourages mixing… for instance:
– Local cleanup missions
– Prayer walks
– Big meals
– Game tournaments
5. Add Competition
There’s nothing like healthy competition to get youth groups (and youth leaders!) involved. Coming to compete, done properly, always ends with quality mixing and loads of fun with other groups – especially if there’s food involved somewhere! Here’s a few ideas:
– 5 a side football
– 4 Square tounaments
– Bake offs
– Giant human monopoly
– Round town scavenger hunts
So there are just a few ways to support unity with other youth clubs. It all starts with our attitudes and letting go of fear! If you’ve got any more ideas please comment and let us know!