Cool Stuff Here

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While on vacation, I saw this sign, an advertisement attempting to lure passerby's into a shop because of it's “cool stuff”. Each time I passed this shop, I was struck by how much this shop's advertisement mirrors the way we so often do youth ministry.

How often do we fall prey to believing that what attracts middle school and high school students is “cool stuff”?

I know I have. Like the store attempting to attract passerby's, I, too, have dangled my ministry's “cool stuff” in front of my students, using fun events to attract kids to my church's youth ministry.

The problem is, more often than not, this approach to ministry simply doesn't work.

Sure, sometimes, our cool, fun stuff attracts kids. Yet, rarely does it make them stick.

If “cool” is what students are looking for, the church loses. Every time. We simply cannot compete (monetarily or otherwise) with the “cool” factor of other organizations, nor, I believe, should we try to do so.

Now don't get me wrong. Fun is not bad. In fact, I hope and pray that my church's youth ministry is fun. I value laughter. I value relaxation. I even value fun. I believe each of these things glorifies God.

I simply don't believe we need to use these things as bait to lure anyone into our ministries. After all, “cool stuff” is not what actually attracts students to our ministries, nor is it what gets them to stick.

Jesus does.

Genuine, caring and welcoming communities do.

Relationships do.

Deep conversations do.

These are things that in today's fast-paced world, many students lack. As a result, they crave and long for them, something that should come as no surprise to us. As people created in the image of God, we were, after all, made for these things.

That's why, as I begin planning my ministry's fall calendar, I'm spending less time trying to make our ministry look cool, and more time doing all I can to facilitate building community, relationships, and good conversations, believing that through these things, students will genuinely encounter Jesus.

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

More about Jen

Jen's Books

Now Available!

A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Now Available!

Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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The Jesus Gap

What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

Based on National Research

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