How a New Youth Center Will Help Your Church Grow
It’s been debated in every church at some point in time. Pastors and church leaders discuss ways to increase their membership. They change their message, try to appeal to new people in the community, and advertise in their own way. But some churches fail to recognize the power of one group of people that are craving a sense of belonging. Those undervalued “consumers of faith” are our youth.
Yep, I’m talking about young people. Our future. Is your congregation properly accommodating the youth of your church? If not, it might be time to build a new youth center out of steel.
Younger children, and teens especially want the same type of religious environment that adults want. They just want it in a comfortable, relaxing environment. Young kids are just beginning their path to their own spirituality, and they’ll carry those values for the rest of their lives. Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” While I agree that children should be allowed to develop their own sense of religiousness, we shouldn’t just “grandfather them” into the church. We should have a system set up so they can establish and cultivate their own faith, on their own time, perhaps in a youth center that caters to them. My thought is to move away from the model that Sunday school is a time to just keep kids entertained while the parents worship. Provide a place for them to establish a spiritual identity.
So what goes into a new youth center, and what makes an enjoyable environment? Begin with a custom steel building. It’s the perfect place for kids to lounge and share in activities they mutually enjoy. But most importantly, your new youth center will be a setting where kids can learn about their religion. Plan out spaces for children of all ages. If you have enough youth in the program, they’ll want to hang out in a safe environment with other kids their own age.
Of course, every activity should focus around the foundation of religion, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be rooted in fun. Many youth centers have pool tables, Ping-Pong tables and an area with musical instruments so they can share the Gospel in song. But don’t get out of touch with your kids! ASK them what activities they want to do. Sometimes, just providing a youth center made out of steel is good enough. Kids just want a place to congregate in a safe and comfortable environment with like-minded youth. Give them slightly used couches if they want to lounge with their friends, but also include an inviting room to speak about divinity and faith.
Be sure to fully plan for your available space. Understand what activities will be happening in each room. Will you hold assemblies, talent shows, or dramatic plays based on the Bible? Recognize the amount of space you’ll need and how it will work together. Design an area for a speaker, and place chairs in an area to watch a demonstration or listen to a youth minister.
How will you pay for your new youth center? Most churches fundraise and start a church capital campaign. It’s usually the cornerstone to executing a successful metal building program. But you can also look into corporate or foundation grants. Churches that are in the process of building have a good chance to add a capital grant if they’re building a youth center connected to or adjacent to the church, and plan to use the new structure as a place for arts activities, social events or after-school programs. Check with a grantmakers association in your state for more information on the topic.
Don’t go overboard with stocking your new youth center with frivolous items. Buy from Goodwill or another local consignment shop. Use this as a teachable moment and only keep what you need. Live simply, just as Jesus did.
Your new youth center made of steel is a place to hang out after community service projects, or visits after a long day volunteering at soup kitchens, or at local shelters. It’s also an ideal place for lock-ins and sleepovers. View your youth center as an opportunity to bring any child of God, regardless of age, to experience a sense of community, separate from your church. When you harness the power of your youth, don’t be surprised to see your church grow.Photo courtesy: Jake Guild, Idibri, First Baptist Nashville