You are a consumer. A consumer is an individual who uses goods and services. When you buy or eat something, you are a consumer. Consumers are “me” focused. You know what you like and don’t like. You choose to purchase one type of coffee instead of another. You choose one brand of clothing over another. Generally speaking, if you can afford it, you choose the best product, best food, best house, and best car. When something you own is out of fashion or no longer shiny and new – you discard it and replace it with something newer and better. Why? Because as a consumer, you are driven to seek health, wealth, and entertainment that benefits you. This is all fine and good for a free market economy, but it’s a selfish way to live. And unfortunately, you and I bring this way of thinking into the church.
When students have a consumer mindset about church and ministry they focus only on their wants and desires. “I hope they sing my favorite worship song this week.” “We better play a game I like.” “How are you going to impress me today!”
The opposite of a consumer is a contributor. A contributor focuses on giving rather than receiving. A contributor sees the church as a place to serve Christ and make disciples. In youth ministry we need to move students from consumers to contributors. This means leading teenagers to transition from a mindset that says, “I love my youth group” to “I serve Christ at my church.” Consider these three suggestions for leading students to be contributors.
First, focus on developing relationships between teenagers and church members. True discipleship can only take place in the context of relationships. So help teenagers develop godly relationships with adults outside your youth ministry. From young adults to senior adults, young people need dependable people in their lives.
Second, provide service opportunities in the church and community. In our Youth Ministry Arenas research, we found that ministry service was the number one way leaders helped students develop connections to the church. Create ways for teenagers and adults to serve together. For instance, you might consider reorganizing an upcoming ministry/missions project into an intergenerational service opportunity.
Finally, develop a youth ministry strategy that clearly presents a path for congregational connection – from a focus on the youth group to a focus on serving. Help your church organize youth ministry around three steps: a sense of belonging in the youth group, value and love for the church, and serving God in the church and community.
For a detailed overview of our Youth Ministry Arenas research, visit ymarenas.com. You can take a free assessment and then download a free 17-page report with suggestions on improving your youth ministry strategy.
David Odom, Ph.D is Associate Professor of Student Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Director of the Youth Ministry Institute. He holds a B.A. from Liberty University along with an MARE and Ph.D. from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Before joining faculty, Dr. Odom served as Youth Minister in churches in Texas and Alabama. He has a heart for young people and training the next generation of youth leaders.