"For Those Who Are Passionate About Reaching The Younger Generation"

Youth Ministry Topics Building Friendliness and Community

A Sure Way To Find Out The Truth

Todd Stiles

When it comes to welcoming new students and bringing others into the "youth
group loop," how can you really find out if your group is doing its job or
not? What's a sure-fire way to evaluate this area? Simple -- send them a
visitor!

Sure, you can have them fill out evaluation forms and check little boxes
about what they think they would do and should do when new people show up.
But nothing gets to the heart of the issue like a real-life situation, an
in-the-flesh human to test how they really respond to guests.

Better yet -- make sure your guest is one of those "on-the-edge" types that
will create an uncomfortable squirm in your kids. Don't go overboard, but
push the boundaries.

If you're really ready to know the cold, hard truth about your group's open
or closed arms, here's a simple plan to pull off this too-true-to-life
evaluation.

1. Select a guest. Ideally, make it someone they know, then disguise them in
such a way no one would ever realize their true identity. Remember -- the
weirder the better! Make sure you do something different with the hair
(i.e., wig, etc.), for you'll need that element later when you reveal who
the person is.

2. Send them to the event/meeting. It doesn't matter if it's a special
get-together or your weekly session; just make sure they get "dropped off"
right in the middle of the frenzy.

3. You can be present if you wish, but try and act as you always do to
visitors.
Don't do anything special that you wouldn't normally do to guests.
Sometimes it helps to be "late" to this event so as not to affect the
results too much.

4. Let the event/meeting go as planned, making mental notes about reactions,
encounters, experiences, etc.
Go about your normal routines, but watch your
guest closely but covertly. You'll need these reflections later.

5. As you go to close the meeting, have your "guest" interrupt you, making a
statement about his visit.
He should sound perturbed and confused,
unsure as to why all these "Christian kids act as if they got it all under
control yet never try and become my friend!"
Have him raise the level of
tension by asking pointed questions, but don't allow him to accuse.
Simply let your guest point out the obvious hypocrisies with questions.

6. Go towards the guest and interrupt him, putting an arm around him.
Quietly ask him to join you up front for prayer, and generically apologize
for the group keeping him/her at a distance (if that happened). Right before
you pray, ask your guest if he wants to say anything. At that point the
guest reveals who he really is -- prepare for a shock! Of course, for
the best impact, make sure your guest becomes even more animated and
frustrated right before the revelation.

7. While the shock is wearing off and you're attempting to re-gain control,
field questions and comments.
They WILL have something to say, and now is
the best time. Don't preach right now; let them talk about what just
happened. After 10-12 minutes of discussion, bring things to a close by
sharing some devotional thoughts on outreach and love, or allowing your
guest to do this. Or, break them into smaller groups for Bible investigation
and discussion on these same topics.

A footnote -- when we tried this in our Jr. High youth group several years
back, it was a 100% success! Not only did their best leader (a college
student named Mike) disguise himself as a drugged-out eighth grader who had
been held back twice, but no one ever caught on till the moment of truth!
And did it ever drive home the point! As he removed his wig of matted, black
hair, black sunglasses and ball cap (which topped off a dirty, tattooed face
sporting an almost-vulgar t-shirt) and revealed his true identity, our kids
were speechless...and not in a way that was shameful or full of false guilt.
No, they realized exactly how they had been treating needy people. It was a
better than the best talk I could have ever given on the subject. And things
were never the same!

Author

Todd Stiles publishes the e-letter LeadershipLINK through the Youth Leader Connection of Ankeny, Iowa, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help revitalize youth ministries through Scripture, structure, and support.  Youth Leader Connection, P.O. Box 854, Ankeny, IA. For more information on YLC products and services, call 1-877-595-4YLC, or visit their website at www.youthleader.org. Copyright 2001 Youth Leader Connection.