Depth vs Fun

Do you need to sacrifice one for the other?

I will often hear youth workers talking about and critiquing their ministry or another one. They often use the words depth and fun. It will go something like, “Ya, that youth ministry has lots of students but all they do is fun and games, there is no depth”. The other thing I will hear is, “In fact our numbers are down but there is depth to our youth ministry. We are just trying to dig deep with these students.”

In the important youth ministry book, Sticky Faith they make the case from extensive research that students want time for deep conversations and not more games (pg. 141-142). As I was reading this section in Sticky Faith I found myself agreeing but only to a point.

My question is why does it have to be depth or fun, why can’t it be both? Leonard Sweet called this approach to learning “edutainment”. I think that our efforts need to focus on discipleship that is engaging and yes, even entertaining.

Here are some ways this can be accomplished.

1. Listen just don’t talk

When I first started off in youth ministry I was insecure (let’s be honest I still am) and so I wanted to show everyone what an amazing communicator I was. I wanted to be the next (insert hot preacher name here). Over time I started to care less about being the next big preacher and more about the students “getting it”. One of the best ways for students to engage and enjoy delving into the Bible is if they can ask questions and interact. I now work this into most of my talks. Either they are breaking up into small groups and discussing a point I just made or I open it to the entire group and ask them a question.

2. Interaction is a must

You need to learn from your Children’s Pastor. Interaction is a must! Any time you can pull up a student or get them in groups to do something that reinforces your point, do it. Go to Amazon and buy any good object lesson book you can find. I know you are thinking that this is childish and the students won’t like it. I disagree. Not only is interaction fun but it reinforces the lesson you are trying to communicate. I say do games but they must reinforce the lesson and are not just done for fun sake.

3. Laugh often and mostly at yourself

Please do not take yourself too seriously. Don’t get me wrong, strive for excellence and be a good steward of your resources but remember to laugh often and poke fun at yourself. Nothing is more freeing and invites students to ask tough questions than when they see that their leader will to make a mistake and laugh about it.

4. If you are not having fun digging deep no one will

This is the simplest leadership lesson, LEAD BY EXAMPLE. If students do not see you having fun as you delve deep into the things of God, why would they? Following Jesus is serious business but it should be the most life giving, enjoyable and fun thing we could ever commit our lives to.  So live that way!

 How do you manage the tension between fun and depth?

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Tyson Howells

Tyson is the associate youth ministry director for Vanguard Youth Ministry Institute. He has been a youth pastor for many years in Winnipeg as well as in Edmonton. Tyson is passionate in seeing relational youth ministry that results in youth that are passionate about following Jesus. He still leads a small group at the youth group in his home church.