Unfortunately, “relevance” has become an overused buzzword in student ministry. As youth leaders, we often think of relevance on a surface-level only.
We’ll invest all of our time and money in making something look good or packaging it in just the right way. You design sharp tickets and flyers promoting that you’re going to be giving away the latest game system or Apple product. That’s all well and good, but are your deliverables relevant to a student and to your goal? Relevance is more about substance than it is about style.
You don’t have to water down the faith you represent in order to “connect”. God is already relevant. What could be more relevant to lost humanity than the fact that God wants a relationship with us and He’s gone to incredible lengths to make that possible? We’re talking about kids who come from broken families. Don’t you think God’s power to free someone from an addiction is well-suited to the student who finds himself addicted to meth? Your choice of a secular music clip at the beginning of your message doesn’t come close to the relevance of that reality.
As you do identify ways you can truly connect with a teenager, I would encourage you to think practically. It’s great if your room is appealing, it should be, but if everything it represents doesn’t work to reach a student, you’re missing it. If everything looks great on paper, but it doesn’t work within the context of your congregation or community, it is not relevant.
Don’t feel pressured to look like the youth pastor with the big national ministry. His game plan won’t work where you’re going. Whatever you do, make sure your strategy is appropriate for your destination.