This is it. The moment you’ve been waiting for. School’s back in session, and that means your youth are about to start arriving for youth group again, with some maybe coming for the very first time. If you’re like me, your mind has been focused on making sure your kickoff is ready, getting all the nitty gritty details hammered out, not to mention stressing over everyone registering on time before opening night. Supplies are bought, invites sent out. Before you know it, the clock’s counting down. And then it crosses your mind: What about our youth room? What is it supposed to look like? And there probably are a hundred other questions tacked on related to your church’s available space. When I first started in ministry, intentionally creating the space for our youth group sessions was on the bottom of the list. There were so many other needs I had to take care of to make the program go smoothly! But over the years I’ve found that creating an environment for encounter for my youth needs to be a priority.
You may or may not have a designated space just for your youth group, but regardless of what your limits are, you’ve still got to have a space at church to meet with a lot (or maybe a smaller group) of youth. No matter what your circumstances, you can always ask one simple, yet important question: how do your youth feel in the youth group environment you’ve provided and does it help them encounter Christ?
Environment is a vital part of a lot of life’s daily experiences. For example, you know it’s not just any day when you walk into a room filled with balloons and music—the environment tells you it’s a special occasion. Or when you’re out to eat and waiting on your meal, consider where your eyes wander across the restaurant and what catches your eyes the most. Where do your thoughts go from taking in the atmosphere? Or when you arrive home after a long day, what part of the house do you settle in and why? Is it that big comfy chair in the living room with a candle lit or lamp on to help you unwind from the day in a relaxing place? No matter what the occasion, an environment plays a vital part in how we respond to events taking place. So how are your youth going to respond to the environment of your youth room?
For the most part, your youth have been going to school sitting in classrooms all week behind a desk. When they get home after school and sports or other after-school activities, they most likely head straight to their bedroom to begin homework or unwind before eating dinner and getting ready for the next day. And while their classrooms will all seem the same to them, when they get home their room is all their own. Signs of their personality are everywhere: posters of their favorite band, music playing, their favorite color or some comfortable pillows or throw blankets. I recently had a teen share with me her newly decorated room, boho themed with her favorite colors and bright tapestries for her YouTube backdrop. To each their own! It’s a special environment that reflects their interests and makes them feel at home, where they know they can have some peace, comfort, and safety. With this in mind, what does your youth room or area look like? Does it resemble your youth’s classrooms at school, their bedroom at home, or maybe something in between? The question we need to ask now is: how do my youth feel when they enter into this space?
If you don’t want your youth to feel like they’re just in another class at school, but more “at-home” with their style and comfort, then you’ve got to make sure that your youth room environment reflects that. It’s also important to make sure the environment portrays something special, something different than the other areas your youth encounter throughout the week. You want them to feel comfortable, suited for learning something new about their faith, yet understanding that they’re there to encounter Christ in a new way. It may feel challenging trying to incorporate these key elements, but I promise it’s not impossible.
By taking this challenge head-on and making your youth room space a priority, you’re providing an environment for your youth to encounter community and Christ in a new and powerful way. For more ideas on how create this environment with decoration tips for your space that’s either permanent or temporary, check out part two of this series
written by: Ashley Svoboda