Creating New Rhythms


By Brad Hauge

creating-new-rhythmsAhhh, yes. Fall. Apples, football, new episodes of TV shows and so, so, so many pumpkin-flavored things. A season that also speaks simultaneously of new beginnings and re-acquired rhythms that is especially true for those of us in the youth ministry world. We watch kids go back to school, begin planning Sunday school lessons for bleary-eyed youth, and try (sometimes way too hard) to create a youth group kickoff event that will somehow find a foothold in a teen’s world where entertainment exists around every corner.

Fall forces us to experience that dichotomous feeling of both the new and the ordinary. We have the names of incoming students to learn, newly recruited leaders to train, and slightly intimidating parents to get to know. But we also have returning teenagers and calendars and events that feel as familiar as the pair of sweatpants you just put on for the first time since summer started.

One familiar rhythm for many of us is the 30 Hour Famine season. Or the mission trip season. The season where promotions and fundraising and parent questions and kids flaking out and fund raising and big event planning and creativity and fund raising and sleeplessness and fund raising take up nearly every waking minute. A season and rhythm that can be both incredibly draining and all things beautiful. However, for better or for worse, it is a season that usually lasts a couple months, if not just a few weeks.

But what if the rhythm of these seasons, minus all (well, at least most) the stress and anxiety and sleep deprivation, lasted all year long? Lasting transformation rarely happens within a 30 hour time period, let alone a week. It sure could, and certainly does on occasion, but what if you took the heart and purpose of the event and made it part of your ministry’s rhythm all year, every year?

I know blog posts don’t lend themselves well to interaction. Mainly because you are looking at a screen of some sort and not actually communicating with me, or anyone really, at the moment you are reading this. But let’s give it a try:

Grab a pen and paper, or pull up a blank document on your computer/tablet/phone, and write down as many reasons as you can think of as to why your group does, or is thinking about doing, The 30 Hour Famine, or mission trip, etc.

Seriously. Do it.

Ok, good job. Thanks for playing along.

Now take a look at your list. Most likely there are responses such as, “raising money to help provide food for those without,” “creating empathy within our youth toward those who survive with so much less,” and “capitalizing on serving side-by-side to help create greater community within our group” or something similar to be found on your paper.

Those are good reasons! Those are worthy goals! They are the things of Jesus! So let us not limit those reasons and goals to one season, to one weekend, to one event? Let’s change our rhythms.

Events are important. They build a critical mass of momentum and presence and awareness. But as we experience over and over, the energy and passion created from even the best events can quickly fade in the world of a teenager. So why not take a spectacular event and allow its DNA to usher in a new rhythm that becomes part of your group’s DNA.

A worthy event can lead to a new rhythm, but it takes intentionality. You have to do it on purpose- you have to make the decision to prioritize it as a goal worth fighting for. You may even have to put some parts of your current rhythm to bed so there is space for the new. So, what might that look like?

Here are four simple ways I could imagine it working in your ministry. Though, keep in mind those of you reading this each have entirely different contexts from each other. This is not a one-sized-fits-all situation. However it is a you all can do something situation.

  • Take something you probably already do (fall kickoff event, Christmas party, Halloween bash, etc) and add a “cover charge.” It doesn’t have to be a steep price or anything prohibitive. But if the reason for the cover charge is well communicated and explained, I’m certain you will have little to no pushback on the idea.
  • Tithe. Seriously. Simply take a collection each time your youth group meets, allow it to become part of the rhythm of your time together. Make it fun- pass around KFC buckets or cereal boxes to serve as a reminder that you have endless food options and opportunities compared to those who you are collecting money for.
  • Make use of the great resources organizations like World Vision have curated over the years. You don’t even need to plan a entire night or series around poverty and hunger. When it’s a part of your rhythm you can simply watch a short video, hear a story of hope and health from those who receive the funds to remind your youth the needs of others didn’t disappear when your event ended.
  • Advocacy. This is a big one, and it couldn’t be simpler. World Vision has begun highlighting both how important, and how easy, it is for youth use their voice to advocate for a better world. In fact, World Vision has even created a website for students to help them (and your group) do just that. Please take a few moments and poke around here and see how advocacy can be a simple part of your youth group’s rhythm.

My hope is that as you reach the end of this post you don’t feel any added burden to what your program calendar looks like. This is not about running more programs at the level that you run The 30 Hour Famine or a mission trip. This is about taking what is good, what is right, and what is beautiful about those events and allowing them to become a new rhythm throughout the year that breathes life into both your youth group and those benefiting from the raised funds and awareness around the world. Trust me, they’ll take donations any day of the year.