$80,000 a Second
By: Chris Mejia, Youth Contributor

Advertising is one of today’s largest industries; with companies around the world spending billions of dollars on it each year. A 30-second spot during last year’s Super Bowl cost 2.4 million dollars. That’s $80,000 a second.  In many cases, advertising costs more than actual manufacturing, accounting for a substantial percentage of the overall product cost.  In some respects, advertising is almost as important as the product itself. Your congregation probably doesn’t have 2.4 million dollars to place an ad for a ministry program, but there are many inexpensive, and even free methods for “advertising”–or let’s say, communicating–your program.

Whether or not we appreciate the word “advertising,” communicating about program is indispensable for introducing a youth ministry program. Creating awareness about the program not only helps to bring in and inform potential members, but also keeps current members attending. Building awareness helps a congregation see the youth program as meaningful, beyond just a social get-together for teens.

There are two different focuses of advertising (awareness building) that apply to youth ministry: promotional and informational. Promotional pieces focus on encouraging new participants to join youth ministry programs. Informational pieces serve youth and the rest of the congregation by highlighting information about upcoming events and programs.

Promotion is the more challenging of the two. Encouraging someone who has never been to a youth event to attend is hard to do using a single poster. Building awareness and “promoting” a program hinges on creating a relationship with a new person. In youth ministry, relationships are one of the best ways to promote, or really to encourage, someone to give an event a chance.

Certain types of communication are better suited for different purposes. Posters, which can be very effective for promotion and information purposes, are inexpensive and easy to make. Posters can also be used to display dates of upcoming events and can be placed in your church to remind youth and parents of these times. Also consider getting permission to place posters in other places your youth frequent, such as schools, coffee houses, and business. Another great way to encourage youth to connect with an event is to create “buzz” among them. Consider equipping youth with information about upcoming events (this could be a postcard to share) that they can talk about and share with other youth at school, work, or in social places. A youth-to-youth encouragemtn often creates the best “endorsement” or “ad” any youth program needs.

Other types of communication are well suited for informational purposes. E-mail newsletters, church bulletins, and youth ministry Web sites fit these categories. Church bulletins are best suited for an upcoming events schedule and can contain other important youth announcements. E-mail newsletters, in addition to including schedules, are great places to share devotions and bible verses for use by youth. Sending these newsletters out once a month is a good interval.

A Web site dedicated to a youth ministry program can be both a blessing and a huge hassle. Before starting a youth Web site, make sure that someone has the time to keep it updated. If information is out of date, people (especially teenagers) will begin to think it is never updated and will stop visiting the site. Web sites can be effective outreach tools, but they are usually aimed toward those who are already members of the youth program. Unless you have the means to share your Web address with those outside of your congregation, most people who use the site will be congregation members.  Decide what primary purpose you want your Web site to communicate.

Aside from basic information about upcoming events and programs, a Web site can have a variety of other things such as: music, movie, and video game reviews or links to places with these reviews (such as thESource!), photo pages from a Servant Event or other event can be viewed, even message boards can be used to connect youth members. Message boards and forums can be challenging. Although they can encourage discussion among youth, if you want to keep them clean, you have to read every post! Unless someone has the time, don’t put a message board on your youth site. Overall, Web sites are a great way to get out information to youth, parents, and other members of the congregation, but make sure you understand the obligations and limitations of them before you start yours.  For more information about resources that can help your congregation build a Web site, contact us at thESource!

No amount of communication will work well with teens if it’s executed poorly. When sharing a new program or piece of information, remember that the presentation is important, too. Good places to look for ad styles that catch the attention of youth can include teen fashion magazines and even television ads geared toward teens. Using contemporary styling helps to draw a teenager’s attention to the youth program, and differentiates it from other church programs. Keep the style consistent throughout all of your publications by using the same colors, fonts and graphics.  Remember that often, less is more!  Simply using a sans serif font or color that connects for youth can catch teenagers’ eyes and connect them to information they might usually overlook.

“Advertising” for youth ministry doesn’t have to be anything incredibly elaborate or expensive. It can be as simple as creating a monthly newsletter and displaying posters that share important details. Once you’ve gotten the attention of youth, encouraging them to stay involved is a whole other story.  Keeping a teen’s interest can be more challenging than getting him or her to attend a youth meeting. The most important element to always share is relationship: between teens, between youth leaders and teens, and most importantly between teens and Jesus.  That’s the only approach that gets the “results” that really matter.
Published October 2005