3 Thoughts on How to Create Electrifying Environments & Programs for Your Students
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Youth Ministry is full of excitement, energy, creativity, sights, sounds, cheap pizza, and odd smells! That’s why we love youth ministry, right? That’s who middle schoolers and high schoolers are and how they are wired. So, are your environments and programs electrifying the experience for your students?
For me, I think they should. I think they need to! If we are going to reach this generation, then we should be creating environments where students want to be and where they want to bring their friends.
As youth workers, you and I have the honor of thinking through the details and utilizing our creativity in order to make this happen. Believe it or not, it’s some extra planning, focusing on details, and turning up creativity volume that can lead to a more electrifying experience for your students. Here are three things for you to consider as you look to electrify your environments and programs. Maybe one of these might spark an idea or recharge your creative juices.
Electricity runs through wires that are connected together, transferring energy back and forth, thus creating an electrical current. Think about that in terms of your environment. To create an electrifying experience, whether you have a small or a large group of students, find ways to help your students connect with others. Many of us think about the things that are needed to pull off the programming from the start time to the end time, and that’s about as far as we get. But the opportunities for connection can start well before the programming starts, and we can be intentional about making room for elements within the programming to connect with one another in different ways.
One way to intentionally create opportunities for connection is to build a team of greeters! Whether it’s a team of adults, students, or some combination of the two, a team of greeters is a great way to help students feel seen and get connected. Make sure to train your greeters on how to identify new students, shy students, or students who look like they need help making connections and what to do when they see them in your environments.
Another way to create intentional opportunities for connection is to build a team for check-in (it’s best for this team to be adults), and place the check-in system at a strategic location. Placing your check-in systems at or within eyesight of the location where parents drop students off allows your check-in team to make connections outside of your programs, and it builds trust and confidence in your ministry with parents as well.
Games before or during your programming are another great way for students to connect with each other. The more students have opportunities to connect before your programming begins, the more the electricity will build. Be strategic when considering what games you make available for students to play. Try to focus on not providing games where students can play alone or zone out. Maybe avoid the gaming systems and instead go with things like four square, nine square in the air, Ga Ga Ball, Spikeball, etc. These are all great game ideas that require students to interact with one another. These intentional opportunities for relational connection help to build electricity, foster community among your students, and create strategic interaction points for your adult volunteers to engage.
Take a moment to think about your weekend or mid-week programming. Now, ask yourself these two questions:
- From the moment they walk in the door until the moment they leave the building, what kind of experience am I offering?
- Have I been intentional about creating places in my programming where it’s easy for them to get connected to others?”
2. Transfer The Electricity
The energy created during your moments of intentional connection needs to transfer into your programming. To help the electricity flow, put some real thought and effort into how you transition students from the pre-service connection time into your actual programming. You’ll also want to put the same thought and effort (maybe a little more) into the flow of your service -- AKA how you transition students from one portion of your program to the next.
Videos can be your best friend. A video can help transfer energy from one point to another; they can also be used to control the crowd and bring down the energy in the room when needed. You can use countdown videos, series bumper videos, funny videos, promotional videos, student highlight or testimony videos, and countless other digital options as a wire that transfers energy from one segment of your programming to another. Don’t let the energy that you worked so hard to create die off due to lack of preparation or attention to detail. Deadtime in your ministry programming and environments is an electricity killer!
Transitions can make or break the flow of your environment. A smooth well-placed transition is one that goes almost unnoticed. On the other hand, a bad transition is one where everyone notices, so much so that it’s a distraction (this includes deadtime). As you are building out your service, spend some time thinking through all possible transitions and crafting a service with multiple elements that are connected like train cars and flow from one into the next.
3. Keep The Current Flowing
When your environment is electric, the current is flowing. Everyone knows it and feels it. It becomes exciting and almost irresistible. This is the time to maximize that experience!
A great way to keep the current of your environment flowing, even when your programming ends, is utilizing social media. For good or for bad, Gen Z and Gen Alpha are digital natives and therefore are heavy users of social media. You can choose to either fight against reality OR you can leverage (redeem) social media for God’s Glory.
One way to leverage social media is to celebrate what the Lord is doing in your ministry. Utilize free resources like canva.com or others to create and share your upcoming series, events, or your teaching points from the message. Take photos and short videos of your Sunday or mid-week programming. Or, better yet, equip and empower some of your students to capture and post photos/vids to your ministry’s social media channels. Your ministry can take photos or create graphics to share later.
When students give their seal of approval to something your ministry has created for them, they will take it and share it. This allows them to utilize their digital native language of social media and share with their friends (even their unchurched friends) about their experience, which allows the current to flow farther than your program and become part of their world.
Don’t let these thoughts on electrifying your environments and programming overwhelm you or cause you to give up before you even begin. You can do this! Start small. Try new things. Let yourself dream and imagine “what if.” I promise you that a little extra planning, some extra focusing on details, and turning up creativity volume even a little bit can lead to a more electrifying experience for your students. And when your environments are electrifying, your students will look forward to these experiences, talk about these experiences with their friends, and even be more open to bringing their friends to experience it with them.
Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:
- What could electrifying the experience look like in your ministry?
- How are you connecting students with each other, with your leaders, and with your ministry? Let’s hear your ideas!
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