Prioritizing Relationships Over Flash



By Bobby Benavides 

One of the key pieces of many youth ministries is event planning. Youth workers are often trying to figure out how to create a program that will draw in the crowd and, potentially, grow the group. We pour our time and energy into the environment, program, playlist, social media tags, the perfect Instagram image, and much more. We hope all of this is what our kids will remember.

And they might remember the event, at least for a little while. They will remember the activities and messy games. They will remember the great music. We hope they will remember the message we tried to convey before the nerf war begins, but we know we have to keep the illustrations on point, so those are perfectly planned too.

Great job!

However, what if we poured just as much energy into giving our students our personal connection, like we pour into our program planning?

Please, follow me on this: I’m not saying planning events is wrong, nor am I saying holding special programs needs to stop. Every element of student ministry is vital.

Yet, the most important piece of student ministry is you (well, it’s Jesus, of course – but teenagers often experience Jesus through you). You will most often be what the students remember. The time they had with you sharing your failures and successes. Discussing your faith journey, and encouraging them in theirs, is so valuable and essential for their future connection with Christ and the church. Yet we tend to push those to the side as we focus on planning the next big thing, whatever that may be.

For many of you, your budget and time is limited as it is. You hear of complex and impressive programs other churches host and you can only dream of having enough volunteers to hold a 2-hour special event, let alone an all-nighter. So, for you, what better way to leave a lasting impression than being connected with your students deeply, so they find more value in you, than your event.

It can be nice to plan cool events and trips. Strobe lights and fog machines aren’t inherently evil. But those bells and whistles aren’t what change lives. Jesus most often changes lives in the context of relationships. So we need to be even more intentional about our discipling relationships with our kids than we are with the planning of our EXTREME NERF WAR MESSY GAME OLYMP-EXTRAVAGANZA (not a real event, but could be?).

The future of your students’ spiritual growth depends on your relationships with them, not the playlist you picked.

Focus on relationships. Focus on discipleship. Take the time to pour into the lives of the students you have, and plan well, so more students can enter into your life for closer and deeper relationships.