It’s More Than a Pretty Bulletin Board...or Power Point Presentation
When I was in college, I took a class on "Selling your student ministry." That wasn’t really the name of it, but it essentially taught us about bulletin boards, newsletters, promotional fliers—Youth Ministry Marketing 101. My perfectionistic tendencies went into overdrive in that class! We talked about maintaining upper and lower margins that would create a straight line of text across the bottom of the newsletter—even though there might be several article columns. We learned how to apply white-out to our pasted-on clip art to minimize copy shadows. We learned about different type wheels so fonts could be changed. (I know this seems like a foreign language to some of you—think pre-Apple.)
Somewhere in that class, I subconsciously decided that pretty bulletin boards and crafty newsletters made good youth ministry. I was the king of typewriter wheel changes and lining up the staples on my bulletin board letters so they seemed to disappear into the background. I truly thought that ministry was strengthened by having a great presentation.
You can imagine my excitement when I first learned how to use my computer to create PowerPoint® presentations and Publisher® flyers. And now, with ProPresenter® and Photoshop®…wow. We’ve come a long way, baby!
And I’ve learned a few things along the way about youth ministry through the strengths (or weaknesses) of my presentations.
1. Good visuals are a bonus. A great presentation or the perfect flier might make a good first impression. But it’s usually not the only impression—or even the most formidable one. The way I greet students, recognize their friends, know their names, their schedules, their families…that makes the difference in the long run.
2. Youth ministry changes. Technology has ended the reign of mimeographs, VHS, and typewriters—and most of the change has been great, even though the process was challenging. Youth ministry "the-same-old-way" may not be what you need to reach the kids you have. Keep it fresh. Keep it changing. You know, I’m not even sure if my current church owns a bulletin board. I’ve had to grow, adapt, and try new things—it’s been challenging, but it’s made a better ministry over the long-haul.
3. Old doesn’t mean irrelevant. Age is a state of mind. I’ve had people think I was too old for youth ministry at 30—and people who thought 30 was too young! As long as you have a heart to love God by loving students and their families you can overcome your "age-disability!" If I can make the jump from an overhead projector to a handheld computer that runs my ProPresenter software, I can surely find a way to relate to and love on millennial students and their families.
4. The devil really is in the details. Because I have this thread of perfectionism running through my veins, I’ve had to fight this detail issue my entire career. I know it’s incumbent upon me to work as unto the Lord, not as unto man. I need to have a strong work ethic and exercise it liberally. But it's wrong of me to get stuck on one bulletin board all day long trying to get the staples to line up perfectly (sad, but true in my younger days.) I shouldn’t get caught up in any presentation that long! I miss a billion opportunities for relationship with students when I get bogged down in those kinds of peripheral details. Surely someone else can line up my staples…if that even matters!
5. Methods change, but the message is timeless. I may not be spending days on archaic bulletin boards and ghetto newsletters these days. And certainly, modern technology has expedited the way I "market" my ministry. But I'm communicating the same message today that I was communicating 22 years ago.
There’s hope beyond the visuals that students see coming out of my office—and I know Him! And I don’t need a cool bulletin board, an amazing slideshow, an edited video, or a 4G network to introduce kids to the life-changing love of Jesus.
Darren is a veteran youth pastor in Corpus Christi, TX, and the co-founder of Millennial Influence (www.minfluence.com).