When I first came on staff with Mars Hill | Ballard we didn’t have a whole lot of students coming to the youth group. Most of the people at our church were 20-somethings or young families which meant there simply weren’t a lot of teenagers around. So, I had to go out and bring them in.
We already had a rhythm of throwing an outreach-type event every month, so I kept that going. But to be honest, for me, it wasn’t big enough. We would have a few new people at the most and, if we were lucky, one would come back for our Wednesday night gathering. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing small about a few new students showing up. But, I felt that God wanted me to cast the net out a little further.
So, I quit inviting them to our events and started inviting them to their own show.
I got the idea from a ministry Mars Hill did years before I got there called the Paradox theater. Basically, they ran a music venue in order to create a presence within the community.
All I did was go to the high school down the street about 15 minutes before the end of the day and handed out half sheets of paper that said, “If you’re in a band and want to play a show, email me.” I made these flyers on Microsoft Word. They were not impressive. But, for the students in my area, the message on them was more exciting than a college scholarship.
My email box filled up. If I remember right, I booked three bands before 48 hours had passed.
In no way were these Christian bands, but that was cool with me because I wasn’t trying to reach Christian kids. In fact, all I was trying to do, my entire goal, was just to get 100 people to show up and shake all of their hands. I wanted them to know that we were actually nice people, and we had a safe place for them to go.
So, I started planning the show. And started freaking out. I found out there are a lot of things to think of when throwing a show!
Two things in particular are sound and security.
Somehow show-sound is different than worship-sound, especially in the multipurpose room we were using. I didn’t get the sound stuff figured out until the night before the show when, by a miracle of God, the sound volunteer showed up at the same time Mars Hill was packing a van with audio equipment. The van and the volunteer mixed for the weekend, and we had a good, quality sound. Lesson learned: Don’t plan on a miracle happening for this one, plan ahead, and make sure you’re set up for good sound.
The bands that were coming were metal bands. Metal means moshing. Moshing means liability. Top that off with pot, alcohol, and kids sneaking off into other parts of the church. So, I had to get some extra eyes on the situation. I got three guys to do security. Their job was to foresee dangerous situations and keep them from happening and to create a presence of authority so that kids knew it wasn’t a consequence-free zone. In addition, I had every door besides the door to the actual room locked and barricaded. I included the rules on the Facebook event, including the fact that we’d kick out anyone at the sight of drugs, alcohol, or violence. We had to ask a few students to leave because of intoxication, but by God’s grace, there was no violence.
Besides this, there were all the other logistics that go into any event.
Well, when it came time for the actual show, I was shocked. We had about 150 kids show up. What was weird was that only about nine of them were actually from our church. The rest of them were brand new.
Of course, I had about 70% of my volunteer team there. As the place started to pack we made sure to say hi to everyone that we could. I had several good, fun conversations with students, inviting all of them to check out our Facebook page and come to youth group.
The show was great. The bands were actually pretty good for high school bands. I made friends with all the band kids and their friends by giving them a back stage area packed with energy drinks and food. Before the night was up, the band kids and I made plans to do dinner and talk about the Seattle music scene.
After everyone went home, it was time to clean up and follow up. Both of which took some time and effort.
I went on Facebook and started looking around. I saw a ton of students posting positive comments about the event. The news hit the rest of the school. In fact, it was mentioned in the school paper that goes out to all the students and parents.
The best part of all, I got to develop deep relationships with four of the kids I met at the show. By God’s grace I led all four them to Christ and baptized one of them myself.
Also, whenever I went to the high school a ton of kids knew my name, came up and talked to me, and I became a lot more well known than I was before the show.
We ended up throwing a second show at the end of the summer and had great success there as well. It truly was a great way for us to meet students, grow our influence and share the gospel. I hope you’ll consider it and if its appropriate for your ministry, give it a shot.
Mitch Miller is a youth and young adult speaker based out of Seattle. Feel free to contact him through twitter, facebook or email. You can find all his info at www.mitchmiller.me