We often use gimmicks to bring people into our ministry. (Bring a Friend Day, High Attendance Day, etc.) Those gimmicks are not sustainable and can actually become a hindrance to connection (people, especially youth can sense ulterior motives). Wanting to draw others in is a noble goal, but the only sustainable way to do it is to CRAFT a contagious culture. Here’s how:
- A community repeats what is celebrates. Give attention to the good things in your ministry, make sure to highlight (via videos, pictures, interviews, or testimonials) service projects, mission trips, camp experiences, small group highlights, etc. Find a way to remind everyone that God is at work in your community.
- The biggest indicator of contagious congregations is a personal connection. Put simply, people that don’t connect don’t stick around. Develop tools and processes that connect students to other students or leaders.
- The hallmark of any contagious community is vulnerability and authenticity. Students (and leaders) will follow your lead on appropriate authenticity. In a world full of athletic and academic expectations, providing your students a place to breathe will go a long way towards creating contagious community.
- Students will make mistakes. You will make mistakes. Students will fall short of your expectations. Allow students space to be students. Remind them they are loved. Don’t kick them to the curb when they disappoint you. (A reminder here, standards for behavior and certainly for leadership are still important! There is a significant difference between participating in the life of the church and serving in leadership.)
- Community does not happen haphazardly, it comes from intentional planning and participation. Often, we overfill our calendar mistaking activity for growth. Every program should serve a specific purpose to draw students closer to God and each other. If a program duplicates another or is consistently poorly attended, it is time to re-evaluate its role.
Most ministries strive to re-create the Acts 2 community. That community did not happen by accident. Rather, it was the result of a people, bathed in the Holy Spirit, who gave themselves to God and one another. That community was intentionally crafted by celebration, relationship, authenticity, forgiveness, and thoughtfulness. May yours be the as well.