So now that I have given both positive (good) and negative (not so good) opinions, let me attempt providing some alternatives.
But before I do, let me reminisce a bit about my days at youth rallies and coffee bars. I remember days at Silvertown, Athlone, Battswood, Grassypark, Westridge Baptist Churches and Presby Bridgetown, Docks Mission in Belgravia and so many other churches that evades me right now, with fond memories. Many of my Facebook friends are a lifetime of these very people who I have met at these events. It was filled with fun and excitement and yes there was coffee and doughnuts. What is a youth event without coffee and doughnuts? I remember the WABY song festivals and people like Colin Johnson, Ron Lomax, Linzay Rinquest, Johnny Cyster, Rodney Readon and this list can just go on and on. It was great events, it changed me in so many ways. I was a believer of youth rallies. And it was extremely effective, bringing so many youth groups together from different walks of life and denominations. And many young people came to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through such events.
But the question remains, is this the most effective means of getting youth groups together? I do suppose it rests upon the purpose of the event hey? But let’s stick to youth rallies here.
- The purpose: I suppose apart from presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ to young people and with this I might suggest bringing the devotion (the 10 min sermon) as close to the beginning as possible – someone who may have never heard the gospel before might be in need of that and if relegated to the end we might miss that opportunity completely. Furthermore I would imagine that the event would be to allow young people to expand their friendship base and foster relationships, both new and old ones. So let’s give more time to relationship building and networking. Lets end the evening earlier and offer coffee and whatever has replaced doughnuts, let’s help young people develop the ability to grow socially.
- The event and items on the programs should be kept to a minimum (note point 1), preferably for an hour, so that maximum time can be given to young people to meet others. With regard to “items” done on the program, as much as possible try to screen what is to be done. We don’t want to send a message that is contradictory to what we would want to accomplish. Yet, let’s not miss the opportunity to showcase the talents that our youth may posses, it may be the only platform available to them to show the world what they have (reality is that many won’t make it to idols).
- More adult supervision. It’s quite sad and disconcerting to see so few adults at theses events. Either the adults are afraid of being in the same vicinity with the youth or they are just not interested. It may help adults to better understand a part of youth culture. It is also at such events that we can challenge the whole generational theories that might be out there. Young people need adult supervision and input in their lives, so let’s take every opportunity that exists.
- The venue? While it is understandable for the venue to be a church, as it is usually the church’s youth group that is hosting the event, i think a more neutral venue should be used so that we could attract youth that are unchurched as well. In this case, I would want to even encourage for a combined effort of more than one youth group when hosting the event. If we could network and combine our resources, we could reach so many more young people and be so much more effective. (I think the days of solo youth ministry has passed and if we continue down this track we might even become more obsolete than we already are.)
- Youth Participation is important and while they may love music and being entertained, I think that them being involved would be a more valuable experience than just sitting in the pews and sponging things in. I think we need to create events that allows for more interacting and crowd participation. This generation is wanting to give what they have and we should help them do exactly that, if we will not utilise them and their gifts and talents in church circles then we can be rest assured that they will use it elsewhere. Why not allow them to live for something worth living for.
So, the question at the end of it all, if we are wanting such results, should we look at alternative models? Should coffee bars have a come back? Will there be a place for it?
After all is said and done, I think that there should be a rehash of what coffee bars were and what it should be to meet the current generations needs. I think the name youth rally should be completely dropped and be replaced by something sexier 🙂 and more relevant in terms of getting the message and purpose across of what we are wanting to say. But beyond everything I think our aim at such events should be to foster a community experience in which all or most of those attending would be able to give in terms of their talents and gifting.