What I learned from the Veritas Kickoff:

Everybody's back to school except for me! So this year, I'm going to work through a series of blog posts meant to show how some of the youth ministry events we've hosted have informed my own faith journey. Who knows, maybe they'll inform yours too!

A few years ago when I first got to Westminster, the habit was to have a big party for the Veritas Kickoff. And by big, I mean ridiculous. We would spend anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 dollars on bringing in a relatively big name band, having a battle of the bands before hand, food, drinks, movies we produced. We went crazy! My predecessors had started it, and I figured that was what you did in a big church, so we kept it up for two years.

After the second mega kickoff, we realized that we were achieving absolutely zero goals. We were bringing in 175 kids to these events, which is a big number, but not the kind of number you're hoping for with a $5,000 price tag. Worse still, none of those kids stuck around throughout the year. They weren't there because our youth ministry was awesome. They weren't there because we were doing a great job of sharing the love of Jesus Christ. They were there because we brought in a great band.

So two years ago we switched our model. Rather than spend thousands of dollars, we opted to try to raise some money for people in need. We do that every year with a bowl-a-thon, followed by our normal weekly program. This year we had 15 people come on the bowl-a-thon portion. Most of the bigger youth ministries in our area would laugh at that kind of a number, but I think it set the tone for the year. At least it did for me.

Instead of jumping into a hype machine, instead of being focused on making sure whatever band we hired had what they needed, instead of making ends meet financially, my youth ministry year kicked off with me hanging out with students. If you haven't figured this out, bowling is a wonderful relational experience, because absolutely no one is good at it. You all get to make fun of each other.

As I'm sitting around today reflecting on what I learned on Wednesday, I'm realizing that ministry doesn't happen in big events and excellent plans. I mean it can, but those things aren't the most effective fuels for ministry. What I'm learning is the most effective fuel for ministry is being relational with people. This works for youth pastors, but I think it also works for people in general. This is why I run and hide when people try to evangelize with signs, or when I'm asked how I would share Jesus in two minutes or less. People aren't looking for a next big thing any more. They're looking for Jesus, and he's asked us to relate to people for him.

So get out there this week, and be relational. Whether you work in a church setting or not, it's what Jesus has commanded us to do!