I got a the chance to guest post for my friends over at Stoked On Youth Ministry. Here is the post I did for them:
I had someone ask me why we plan such big events sometimes and what the philosophy behind it is. The person was saying they are more drawn to “deeper” more theological discussion based philosophy of ministry, which is great, there is nothing wrong with it, I like it too. I like it because I’m almost 30 and although some students like and are capable to think this too, fun is the universal language of students. The philosophy of having fun events is pretty simple really.
Students enjoy having fun, so we are going to plan fun things.
I don’t believe church should be boring (even for adults). Sometimes we can get caught in the trap of planning events we (as pastors) think are fun not what we think students actually think is fun. This is why we do the lock-ins. This is why we do the over-nighters. This is why we do the crazy things we do because even though we don’t think they are fun, our students do, and we can joy in seeing our students have fun…and sometimes we end up having more fun than our students!
Fun events should always be a part of our programs and here is why:
Fun breaks down walls. When students have fun, they usually are not thinking of the things they are holding them down. When we as leaders get to have fun with our students, in the down times of the event there are some great conversations that happen that normally wouldn’t if you were just sitting at coffee. Fun allows students to be who they are at the core. Kids.
Students are drawn to it. I feel like in many places, fun is discouraged. At school, work (for some), at home even. Fun is the universal language of students and when we plan things in which they are excited about, they are drawn to it like moths to a flame. It is our goal to provide an atmosphere where students are allowed to have fun while they are with us a few hours a week.
They talk to each other. Next event you have, just take a second and look at the interaction going on. Fun opens up opportunities for students who do not usually interact to actually interact. The big jock talks to the timid kid. The upper classmen talk to the new freshmen. It is awesome. It is what we want.
Their friends like to have fun. When students have fun, they want their friends to join them. I don’t know if you know this (and I’m guessing you do) but students tend to travel in packs. You know you are planning the right type of events when they are willing to invite a friend from the outside to come in.
When leaders have fun, students notice. We don’t think they notice, but they do. Students can see if the staff and volunteers like each other and when they see us having fun with each other their energy immediately goes up. Fun is contagious.
But here is the kicker….
Fun opens the door for teaching and learning. Fun opens the door for some students to actually listen and be open to the life changing Gospel of Jesus. Fun by itself will work for a bit. Fun with rue discipleship and Biblical teaching is a killer conmbo. Students are more open to hear what you have to say and allow the Holy Spirit to move. A great combo.
I think having fun just to have it is cool, but it’s not effective. Having fun and walking the line of having a blast with intentionality of allowing the pastor to preach and have them listen, opening an opportunity for leaders to interact with students who’s walls are now let down so they can speak life into them and them actually wanting to be there and wanting to their friends to be there too is not only worth it, but something that should be a necessity.
People who say you can’t have fun while going for depth:
1) Don’t understand it’s never an either/or situation but it’s a both/and
2) Probably don’t understand how to be strategic or intentional
3) Are probably boring
So how do you balance having fun but still pursue learning?
If you are intentional, you can make both happen and make both happen well.
Justin Knowles is the Lead Next Gen Pastor and oversees the jr high, high school and college ministries at Christ’s Church of the Valley in San Dimas, CA. He loves working with students, is passionate about small groups, and loves talking student ministry and leadership. Justin is a regular contributor at Downloadyouthministry.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @justinknowles3