SMS: Multi-Group Events

  • Peanut Butter slathered on celery.
  • Nacho Cheese Doritos dipped in hot mustard.
  • French Fries dipped in a Wendy’s Frosty
  • Baptists, Nazarenes and Methodists dipped in a Covenant Church All-Nighter.

Odd combinations.  But ones that work really well for me.

Some churches and youth leaders are very open to doing cross-church and cross denominational events.  Others are not.  Some are open to it because they have experienced great success in the past.  I know plenty who are against the idea of doing events as a network because they’ve been burned, ignored or “had to do it all myself”  in the past.

Our Student Ministry Stuff (SMS) post today gives some practical advice on how and why larger group events/cross denominational events can work well.  In addition it should point out a few of the warning signs to avoid.

My perspective on this subject is somewhat shaped by my regional background.  In the northwest corner of the United States are a few of the most unchurched states.  We don’t do professional church very well. In my area a church is considered “big” if you have over 400 people in attendance.  A “mega” church in the northwest is a church over 1000.  Denominationalism does exists, but to a much lesser degree as I have seen it in the mountains, south and southwest. As a whole, the Youth Pastors I have dealt with in the NW are not overly concerned with theological i-dotting and t-crossing when it comes to reaching the lost students.  This is not always the case and certainly isn’t always the case when it comes to the rest of the church leadership (in other words, there are certainly some “boards” who tell their YP’s not to do events with that church because of specific stands and non-stands).

I am an advocate for teamwork, unity and multi-group/church effort, especially when it comes to reaching those who do not know Jesus.  I do believe we are better together; I’d like to see better efforts made together to reach our campuses, clubs, community and even our churches for Christ.  I really don’t care about the size of church (interesting of the “big church” often gets finger(s) pointed at them, sometimes rightfully so for thinking they have it together and sometimes wrongfully just because “they’re big).  I am simply an advocate for the Christian Community understand that we can be better together! Here’s how I think multi-church events can work better.

Relationship: I believe the best group events flow out of the relationships represented in the leadership.  Group events rarely work well when the the people leading them are not committed to each other first.  As humans (read: sinners) we’re prone to hide and blame (especially when things go wrong or difficulties arise).  When the cross-denominational leaders are first and foremost committed to the Lord and to each other and the long-term relationship it seems an agenda for an event flows out of their united hearts. As Youth Leaders get to know one another and acquaintance relationships move to Gospel-centric friendships the trust-level grows and the success level of a given event seems to rise up as well.  Bottom line: Look to do events with others as a result of the relationship not to forge a relationship.

Ownership: The best group events are the ones where ownership aspects are given to each participating group.  Recently while traveling I heard, “I don’t know why other churches don’t join us for our worship nights?  We have a great band, great sound and lighting equipment, our Youth Pastor knocked it out of the park with his message and the testimony from the homecoming queen, she goes to our church, was amazing.”  I have personally attended worship nights at other churches to check it out, at times it has felt like more of an effort to sheep-steal than “group worship night.”  I’ve seen camps, retreats, youth rally’s and worship nights work really well for group situations –the common denominator has always been “group ownership.”  I’ve seen many camps, retreats, missions, youth rally’s and worship nights fall flat as well; the common denominator in these settings has typically been single-church ownership. Take the “worship night” example.  Church A has the great worship band, equipment, setting, etc.–let them head up the event and host the event.  Church B can provide the person giving the testimony while Church C does the “upfront” skit, game or artwork.  Church D has a very talented keyboardist and soloist who provide the background music during an alter call?  Guess what, church E, which is much smaller, decided to participate by simply bringing the large Igloo containers full of Tang!  Well, we now had 5 churches participating and each had ownership. The same can be done with camps, rally’s or missions… transportation, speaking, worship, shirt-design, games, etc. can all be divided so that ownership is created!  Bottom line: You may have a GREAT event in mind but if you’re the only one who owns the event your group is probably the only group that will attend the event.

Simplicity: Know the primary purpose of any group setting and keep it simple and focussed. Understand that theological bents may prevent you from doing some events (dances, worship concerts where “tongues” is encouraged, even communion and baptism could be issues that bring theological division).  Doing an “overnighter” where the purpose is to bring unchurched friends into a setting where the unbeliever can see Christians have a lot fun together is a simple purpose.  In this setting the leadership should decide together if and who will be speaking and what the message will be (I will always suggest the Gospel be the focus).  I’ve seen groups get in trouble when they’ve tried to take on “training” events in cross-denominational settings.  Who is the speaker?  What theology will he or she bring?  What is their view on the end-times?  Keeping things simple and focussed with a single purpose of “outreach,” “encouragement,” “worship” or “service” has seemed to bring about more success than more complex purposes.  Bottom Line: If you’re aiming at nothing, you’re bound to hit it.  Know the primary purpose of a group event and be clear in communicating that purpose before, during and after.

Keeping group events simple, giving ownership to each group involved flowing out of already existing relationships of the leadership should lead to greater unity in the larger Christian community.  As I read 1 Corinthians 12 and see how the Lord has formed the body to work together I am greatly encouraged and see how we, even cross denominationally, can better glorify Jesus as we are freed up to do that which he has equipped and gifted us to do!




3 thoughts on “SMS: Multi-Group Events

  1. Excellent post Brian. I appreciate the comment of connecting as a result of relationship rather than forging relationships. My favorite retreats have been those where I’ve hooked our small church youth ministry up with another small church … whether it be same or multi-denominational. Definitely the attempts with my close colleagues have been much more successful than those where our group was invited but I didn’t have a leadership role and didn’t know the other leaders all that well.

    Sometimes though I suck up the non-involvement of myself to provide a new worship or service experience for the youth of our church. Sometimes when you are a small church youth ministry newbie in a denomination or area and you don’t have many, if any, relationships built you have to do the connecting simply to forge relationships and network. It isn’t easy though.

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