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A Teenager’s Plea: Don’t Suck

A Teenager’s Plea: Don’t Suck

November 28, 2011 by

There are some things that just get to me.

  • When I leave the Taco Bell drive through knowing, without even looking into the bag, that they have messed up my order.
  • I certainly don’t like it when I end up shaking hands and it was supposed to be a fist bump. That’s just awkward.

Those are little.

What seriously gets to me is when there is a lack in how the church talks to us. Especially as a teenager in high school, I couldn’t feel more neglected by the church at times.

I would walk into a service, and I would feel like I didn’t belong. The flag people weren’t even the biggest problem, it was the fact that the clip art used for announcement slides, the sermons had no branding, just some nice title like, “Giving the Givers’ Gift” in Arial (Helvetica’s ugly cousin). Really creative. Nothing was talking to me.

We (teens) are a group who want to belong. When we step into a church, the first thing that should happen is feeling targeted and having a genuine experience:

Targeted
It’s one thing to tell us we’re important, it’s another thing to show us. We can tell when you spend two minutes or two hours on an event flyer. Or if the design was by your secretary or by a real communicator/designer.

Side note: Everything matters: the colors you use, the layers you put on each other, the graphics you use or don’t use, and the way you give it to us. We can quickly tell how much you want us, by how hard you try.

If we don’t feel targeted, you lose us.

Experienced
I want to be able to go into a church and have a serious experience with God. Once you’ve targeted me into coming, I have to experience something in order to both be impacted and to have that compelling reason to return.

Everyone has an experience, it’s the churches’ goal to see that experience is a great one.

There have been some things that work:

  • When church logos have deeper meaning than just a picture.
  • The times when churches go all out on events, they hand out illustrations, give you an experience; for example I saw a picture of a youth group that not only did a “Game Day” theme but they put fake turf on the ground put up stage lights. It looked like the real deal.
  • When I’m not handed a bulletin but an illustration such as a movie ticket, 3D glasses, or anything someone can hold, and hold on to as a remembrance of what happened. I can tell you took it seriously so I take it seriously.
  • When I walk in church, there’s no seats, and you just worship the whole time.
  • Straight up, when you do church differently.

Side notes: Events are good, relationships are better. Anyone can have a concert, a blow up bounce house and free pizza. To be able to within that hour and a half service feel like I made friends, then you’ve got me. I’ve taken the bait.

OK, yes, I am the son of Michael Buckingham of Holy Cow Creative, so sure there are some biases, but you must understand me and my friends constantly got things in the mail that sucked and didn’t do the job well (by the way, we don’t read your emails or your postcards—send personal text messages). So please, on behalf of all teenagers, go get em’.

“Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.” -James 5:20

Shawn Allen
Post By:

Ty Buckingham


I am a student at The Oaks School of Leadership, going into the ministry to do ministry differently. I also do design work for Holy Cow Creative, you can follow me @TyBuckingham and seriously just want to see the church do what it's suppose to be doing.
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78 Responses to “A Teenager’s Plea: Don’t Suck”

  • Chilly
    November 28, 2011

    my youth ministries have always lived by the thought:
    “whatever it takes to get them, is what it takes to keep them”
    – so, if it’s big events, game systems or intelligent lighting … look out, the world will come along and offer something bigger & better.
    – but, if it’s the authentic love of Christ – BOOM! the world can NEVER compete with genuine encounters with the creator of the universe!

    great article Ty!


    • Craig Olson
      December 15, 2011

      Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought church was supposed to be about people’s eternal souls. I didn’t realize it was about performances and presentations. Call me old fashioned, but I thought the Apostles were more concerned about the quality of the witness of the saints and their love for one another as a church. I may be mistaken, but I believe most believers gathered in small groups in one anothers’ homes where they studied the Apostles’ teaching, shared meals and cared for one another so much that they were known throughout the ancient world for their love for one another. I don’t recall reading anything in the New Testament about bulletins or any other worship paraphernalia. Seems to me like the modern church has not only been sidetracked, but derailed.

      http://bookstore.crossbooks.com/Products/SKU-000487108/The-Casual-Christian.aspx


      • Michael Buckingham
        December 15, 2011

        From your own blog:

        “Church attendance is declining at the rate of 13% per year.”

        This isn’t about performances, this is about paying attention to HOW you are communicating the message of Christ. This is about looking at that 13% and asking ourselves what can we do different to change that trend.

        You don’t read anything in the bible about bulletins, etc. True. You also don’t read anything about blogs. Doesn’t mean you should shut them down, but we should use them in the best way possible. Same goes for Sunday morning.


  • jessica
    November 28, 2011

    Wow. This really makes you think about the importance of investing time in the teenagers…so they can invest time in people we may never meet. Wonderful!


  • JP
    November 28, 2011

    Ok, sorry, but I disagree with the idea of creating experiences. We are not called to create an experience for people. We are not called to entertain them. We are called to tell people about God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice. But you are right, we should not be spending 2 minutes creating a PowerPoint and winging it. God wants our BEST! We should be thrilled about doing our best for Him when we do anything in His name. For Christians, that should be all the time. If we aren’t doing our best work, it may be time for a break or to reevaluate priorities.

    It does seem that teenagers expect (demand?) more here in the US. All you have to do is go abroad to realize this is only the case in wealthy countries. Paul talked about adapting to the culture while holding true to his love for Jesus. People, not just teens are looking for truth. To reach any generation you have to go where they are, and teens are not in the same places their parents are… they never have been. But all age groups can tell when you haven’t put in any effort. Be passionate about what you do and it will show.


    • jack
      December 14, 2011

      I’m in a developing country some say we are (3rd world) but its the same here. The youth are even less predictable. You just can’t tell what they want.


  • Ryan Dock
    November 28, 2011

    Dece Article.


    • cp
      November 28, 2011

      I am an artist and a pastor. how disrespectful of those who can’t afford to be hip everyweek – preach the message of the cross first and foremost…add flare to appeal to people like you if I have time.


      • Ty Buckingham
        November 28, 2011

        There was no intention of being disrespectful, nor do I really think there was any hint of it in the post, the whole idea is just speaking our language.
        And nothing I said needs to, nor does cost that much money, I once was handed a rock as a sermon illustration, and you as an artist could do huge things. I would love to walk into a place and while you preach you paint a on a huge paper and tear off a piece of it at the end and give it to people. That would be amazing!

        Blessings.


      • Nick
        November 28, 2011

        And how judgmental and rude of you to state that (as it is for me to say this – despite only countering for validities sake). I think that it is easily understood by Ty, and by most of us on this site, that you can certainly at least try your best to appeal to people where they are at.

        The message of the Cross is always relevant. But the way that it is shown or told can be a tool for or against it being heard by the audience. I don’t use the King James version of the Bible because the syntax and verbiage is beyond what I can focus on. I use the NIV (’84) because I can relate to it. I understand it. And yet it is still full of the same truth as the KJ version. So isn’t it important for us to understand that we should try to meet the teenagers where they are (albeit with the same message of Hope and Grace found through Christ)?

        I don’t mean to bash you or demean you, but please don’t troll around on a website that asks for movement forward with the Gospel (notice I didn’t say ‘away’ from).


      • Steven Fogg
        November 29, 2011

        CP, I don’t think Ty was being disrespectful at all. I don’t think he was trying to say “add flare” to the message, he was simply trying to help us older folk speak in the same language as teenagers. If we connect on their level the gospel which never changes is still the same gospel.


  • Michael
    November 28, 2011

    If you’ll reread the post it’s simply telling you, an adult pastor, how to get teens to connect to the message. Maybe what Christ meant when he said “don’t despise their youth”

    To farmers Christ spoke of farming, to fishermen of fish. To teens, he would speak their language.

    It has little to do with your budget and much to do with your desire. Speak their language or don’t expect them to understand.

    I don’t see disrespect in pleading to pastors to reach teens. We, the church, are doing a terrible job in that demographic and as soon as they hit college we lose them. It’s disrespectful to that demographic and even the gospel to present it in any less of a way.


  • Haleigh Archer
    November 28, 2011

    That was an awesome article! Love you bro!


  • Anita
    November 28, 2011

    Very interesting article and very good. I agree that we’re got to speak the language of the listeners. If it takes a little creativity then go for it… Whatever it takes to reach a person or a youth or youth group or an older person or older age group or children…do it!
    Right on, Ty!


  • Barnabas
    November 28, 2011

    The world is burning down and 150,000 Christians a year dying for their faith and this is what we care about: lousy clip art!

    What will you do when things get tough – really tough – in your country and you are forced to do something more than mock typefaces?

    How will you stand?


    • Steven Fogg
      November 29, 2011

      Barnabas,

      Don’t take the kid out of context. Seriously how do you connect the dots between Christians dying for their faith a teenagers attempt at helping a generation understand how to connect with another generation? Just wrong.

      Give him some respect and address the issue not some lame attempt at linking two issues.


    • pe
      December 26, 2011

      wow


  • Steven Fogg
    November 29, 2011

    Good on you Ty! I hear you *fistbump* yeah thats my lame attempt at being “contemporvant”

    I get what you are saying. Churches need to connect with teenagers that live in a media saturated world, where visual props and aids complement and enhance the message.

    Many teenagers where I’m from in Australia would really resonate with what you are saying about connecting.

    Something like…

    Relationship comes first. Once a community proves that they are willing to connect with me, I’ll be open to what you have to say.

    Stay opinionated.


  • [removed]
    November 29, 2011

    [comment removed at the request of the commenter]


  • Nicholas
    November 29, 2011

    Some of the other comments allude to this, but I think a greater point to pull from this is that a church that doesn’t do these things isn’t wrong (and I say this in my early 20s). That church does, however, need to understand and accept the fact that teenagers won’t be flocking to its doors.

    Is a church that doesn’t hold French-language services wrong? No. But a church that doesn’t hold French-language services probably shouldn’t advertise itself as “Francophone Friendly”, and definitely shouldn’t get frustrated when people who only speak French don’t return after checking out a single service.

    Your church will attract and retain people who speak the same language as your church. If you want to bring in different people, you need to start speaking a different language.


  • lt
    November 29, 2011

    Teens don’t speak a different language though. This is about consumerism. If the church doesn’t give me what I want, then I won’t listen. I will go find someone who will.

    When the rich young ruler pulled this on Jesus, Jesus let him walk away. Jesus didn’t go after with shiny new flyers and cool logos.

    This is a very Americanized culture coming through.

    The author says that teens want to belong. If so, then join up. Don’t look around for someone catering to your tastes and preferences. Church is not about your preferences. The truth is that you may want to belong, but not nearly so much as you want to be entertained and coddled.


    • AR
      November 29, 2011

      “Church is not about your preferences. The truth is that you may want to belong, but not nearly so much as you want to be entertained and coddled.”

      Thank you for this comment. I couldn’t agree more.


      • Michael Buckingham
        November 29, 2011

        Entertained and coddled? Where do you pull that out of? And honestly, if I have to pull out some entertainment to prime the pump for them to open up and learn about Christ and ultimately call Him Lord. Then light it up.

        Funny how you quickly brush this off as entertainment but jump at the bit to throw a potluck.

        So many of these comments point to exactly what Ty is trying say. A 19 year old takes the time to write an article to explain his, and other though not every teens, view of church and instead of trying to learn, explore and understand you try to shut him up.

        In that, you despise his youth and that is why the church doesn’t end up reaching them. But I would imagine that must be okay and you’re really only interested in reaching your own kind and teenagers are just a noisy irritant.

        I am grateful there are pastors out there truly called to be shepherds and to love their ENTIRE flock to make up for those that have other plans.


        • nick gill
          November 29, 2011

          Part of the challenge is about opportunity cost. Spending two hours on an event flyer that is gonna be balled up and thrown in the back seat with the last two years of oh-so-special handouts is a questionable use of the 2nd most valuable resource a minister has (after the Holy Spirit, time is the most valuable resource a minister possesses).

          Because the truth is, that is exactly what happens with stuff that people carry out of the church building. It gets tossed in the back seat of the car on the way to lunch.

          Most churches can’t find, much less afford, to hire a graphic designer who’s also versed in Christian ministry. When Ty says, “We can quickly tell how much you want us, by how hard you try. If we don’t feel targeted, you lose us,” that sounds like a manipulative threat – do it our way or we’ll find someone who does!

          And the fact remains that companies like Starbucks, movie production companies, music companies, etc. will *always* have “better” marketing than the church – because the church has to spend resources on ACTUAL soul care (the product itself), rather than being able to pump the majority of its resources into the packaging.

          Love is the best packaging we can present, and I think that’s where we need to focus. Love reaches all generations, and if I’m loving you like crazy and the font that I use still bugs you too much for you to hear what I am saying…


          • Michael Buckingham
            November 29, 2011

            This isn’t about fonts and clipart. How does someone feel loved if we are clearly ignoring them?

            Some of that is in how we are communicating (Gutenberg vs. Google), but also our viewpoints and stance towards teenagers. I’ve heard too many pastors talk about how much a pain teenagers are, with teenagers in the audience. I’ve seen too many Sunday mornings that don’t take the entire flock into consideration.

            Sorry, I’m just tired of hearing excuses that Starbucks will always do a better job at getting people to love coffee than we will. It’s a cop out. Do your best in all you do for the kingdom. That flyer that may get wadded up still finds a place in your conscience. If that flyer was great and you put time into it, it sends even a subconscious message that it’s worth something. If you throw it together, that reads too. If you don’t take it seriously, don’t expect anyone else to.


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          • nick gill
            November 29, 2011

            If this isn’t about fonts and clipart, then I’m really confused, because the first major point in the article says that if we don’t get the fonts and the clipart right, then we’ll lose most of a demographic group.

            And if you notice, I did not say that Starbucks will always do a better job at getting people to love coffee – I said that Starbucks will always have cooler packaging. Starbucks gets to focus its message on people willing to pay $4 for a cup of coffee.

            The church doesn’t have that option.

            Taking the entire flock into account is the exact opposite of targeting. A targeted message, by design, misses most of the people who hear it. A message that mentions “how much a pain teenagers are” is targeted at parents.

            I guess what I’m asking is, how can I take the whole flock into account and target a specific demographic at the same time?


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          • Nikki
            December 3, 2012

            So nick gill, how do you spend your time? Always wisely? Always with things that are the most effective?

            I’ve been a person in Ty’s situation that kept that 2-hour-to-make flyer or movie ticket, etc. I look at those things as an adult and remember the impact of the message they represented. Not everyone “throws them in the back seat.” What about the one who didn’t? Who viewed Christ in a different light because they actually remember something you said. Sometimes “soul care” IS attention to detail and attention to what’s important to people that are different than you or… what a concept – people who don’t know Jesus and don’t know any better. I have a super selfish brat background! And what was it that got my attention and helped save me from myself? Someone giving me the time of day; making what I thought was important, important to them.

            Most everyone’s negative comments have been saying that basic presentation is not important. WRONG. If you suck, than so does everything you say. It doesn’t matter what it is that you say. Ever heard the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words?” or how about this one: “Your actions are speaking so loud that I can’t hear what you’re saying.” I get that you can’t please everyone (having a selfish brat background, I know), but if you don’t even try… well then… why are you even on this website?


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        • lt
          November 29, 2011

          I get that from twenty years spent trying to reach people like this young man, and finding out what they want. I didn’t say anything about potlucks, but now that you bring it up, search the Scriptures for food and search for logos and graphics and see which finds a place in the NT description of a church.

          Paul addresses this very kind of idea (that if we just have better methods we could reach more people) in 1 Cor 1:18-2:16, and 2 Corinthians 4. In both places, he disavows the mindset presented here as being a compromise of the gospel.

          Entertainment, by its very nature, is not a valid tool for people coming to Jesus as Lord. Entertainment, by definition, is about consumerism. That’s why entertainers have market studies, focus groups. It’s why they get canned when their show no longer draws people.

          The gospel is not about “make me laugh and feel good.” It’s about “come and die.”

          Entertainment teaches us one and not the other.

          We are seeing the fruit of thirty or so years of the approach and attitude in this article. And it’s not good.

          Fortunately, this writer is young and there is still time for him to learn.

          I am not against logos or flyers. I am not against good communication. I am not in favor of clip art (I think it is cheesy).

          I am for the NT and the gospel. You can talk all day long about reaching people for Jesus but the proof is in the pudding. And it’s not a pretty site. It looks like something else in the pudding.


          • lt
            November 29, 2011

            This was a reply to Michael Buckingham above. (Any relation??)


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          • Brandon Robbins
            November 30, 2011

            You asked if there was a relation between Ty & Michael. Real quick, if you read the whole article (I assume that you have considering your number of comments), you will notice that toward the end it does say “OK, yes, I am the son of Michael Buckingham.” That should clear some things up in the conversation.


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          • Michael Buckingham
            November 30, 2011

            Yep…proud papa of Ty (which he mentioned in the post)


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        • Darlene
          December 27, 2011

          Well said. Many of the comments on this post disappoint me. What Ty is saying comes across clear and to the point. I think some of the negative responses may have a lot to do with an unwillingness to do things differently or acknowledge that just maybe as those older than Ty we could possibly be wrong about something and if not wrong, at least have room to grow in our attempts to reach all types of people.

          One of the key things that stand out for me is the concept of language. The Bible was written in a particular culture and time also and Jesus is seen throughout the NT using items that were familiar to his listeners (water/a well, flowers in the field, etc) and using those as tools to communicate his message. In Acts, when the Holy Spirit was poured out, the wonderful works of God was spoken in a variety of languages so that the people who were present in the area from a variety of cultures could comprehend the message of God.

          That being said, I think the “how” of the “what” is important. If the message we proclaim is nearly as important as we say it is, it makes sense to me that we would take whatever resources at our fingertips to convey that message to those we are aiming to reach.

          Everything that we do lines up with “someone’s” preference (whether we acknowledge it or not); If cheesy presentations and outdated methodologies create a barrier for people hearing our oh so important message of Christ, whey wouldn’t we try to remove those barriers?

          Why is low quality and half-baked effort acceptable in the church?

          Financial resources or the lack thereof are not able to stand in the way. I learned early in ministry (as a Pastor of Children’s Ministry) that a lack of resources is what can push us into offering our creative best. An attitude of do whatever it takes to reach the folks we are trying to reach is something that I have found to be honored by God and appreciated by those whom we try to reach.

          How we communicate and the effort we put into trying to learn about the folks we aim to reach will show how much we authentically care about them. I believe that everything we do (visuals, environment, preached/taught word, graphics, etc) communicates/conveys a message.

          I believe that what is most important is that we never become complacent and satisfied with how we do what we do, to the extent that we appear to be those who fell asleep in 1990 and woke up to find out it was 2011 but we just continue to do things the way they were done when it was 1990 and we were younger.


    • Michael Buckingham
      November 29, 2011

      Yep, the teens should be looking for ways to connect. But that doesn’t let the church off. Arguments like this and the above are veiled attempts at skirting the issue and doing church the way you’ve always done it and then wonder why teenagers aren’t connecting to the church and ultimately to faith and up as lost sheep (I seem to remember a story about a lost sheep).

      Christ went to the people. He went to where they were, he didn’t sit behind a pulpit and wait for people to figure it out.

      Stop looking for excuses to pass along mediocrity and to ignore people that aren’t like you.


      • lt
        November 30, 2011

        Thanks Michael. I remember the line about the relationship now.

        First, you talk of “doing things the way you have always done it.” I have probably moved the church which I pastor farther than you have. So I am not in any sense a fan of doing like we have always done it. We have made major serious changes and taken some heat for it. It’s okay. But I am not opposed to change.

        Second, you talk of Christ going to them. I think that is absolutely right. And he didn’t take logos or clip art. He didn’t expect them to come to him. He went to them, he built relationships, he loved them, he confronted them in their sin, and he gave them hope. And when some followed him because of food, he drove them off by ramping up the teaching. Can you imagine if someone today built a youth group to 10,000 people and drove all but 12 away? There would be a cry for his head on a platter, and a search for someone who could do better. But why did they leave? Because they only liked the cool stuff. They weren’t in it for Jesus. None of that is to down numbers. My point is that much of what we call ‘growth’ is actually swelling. It’s bigger than it was, but it is not healthy. It’s like turning your ankle. It gets bigger, but it isn’t actual growth.

        The key line in the whole article is about relationships. If you have relationships with people, the rest of it won’t matter much. As one poster alluded to, you can show Hollywood blockbusters and have all kinds of special effects, and teens will sit there and text and facebook through it. Friends bring friends.

        I am convinced that if we take time to build relationships and rely on the simple Bible teaching and the Holy Spirit, growth will be slower, but it will probably be real growth as opposed to people who just come for a time and then drift away (cf. John 6).

        Last thing that Jonathan hits on, and that is his comment about creating parallel worlds in the church. This goes back to my original comment. If teens want to get involved and be a part, then be a part. There is a church body, made up of believers. Join up, sing, pray, talk to them, build intergenerational friendships. There is nothing stopping you from doing that except your preferences for a different kind of graphics.

        However, I would love to see Ty do some work in 1 Cor 1-2 and 2 Cor 4. I think this is a great conversation that too often just gets pushed away without much biblical interaction.


    • Nicholas
      November 29, 2011

      “Teens don’t speak a different language though. This is about consumerism.”

      I think it should be apparent that many groups of people speak different (metaphoric) languages. I know of “rock” and heavy metal churches that are very different from traditional services, but still brings people to the Lord. I suspect that you’d find these services a little off-putting, but that’s not consumerism..it’s just you “speaking a different language.”

      However, I will agree that there can be a fine line here, and it’s something I often struggle with. E.g., how much effort do I need to put in to attract people vs just going letting the Holy Spirit work in people’s lives.

      It’s completely possible to go overboard in the use of fancy lights, hip logos, and pop culture references, and at the end of the day, it’s all about presenting the Gospel, and no amount of catering will change someone’s heart.

      But if I can be “all things to all people” (or at least of few things to a few people) to get someone in the door, I think it’s worth some effort.


      • lt
        November 29, 2011

        Two things:

        (1) Metaphorical languages aren’t really helpful because they are issues of education and preference. They are fads. If you have served in a place where they actually speak another language, you will see how nonsensical the “other language” line is.

        (2) Being “all things to all people” was actually a limiting constraint for Paul in the passage. This is a very frequently misused passage. Paul had all freedom, but he was willing to limit that for the sake of the people who he was trying to reach.


    • jack
      December 14, 2011

      which is very wrong imo


  • Trev
    November 29, 2011

    What on your budget does say something about your ministry

    Ty, you’re right you don’t need a big budget, all you need is the true support from your church and people who are willing to give their best of their selves to God.

    I had an advisor at a Bible college I currenty attend say to our class, “You wanna find out what’s important to a church, look at their budget.” This statement alone led me to leave the church I had been attending for 7 yrs because I saw things that had no business getting that budget they were getting versus the Youth Ministry which got very little, but it was talked about like it a big deal.


  • Sheb Hunt
    November 29, 2011

    As some one who loves graphics and is the head of my church’s media department (and by department I mean me, myself, and i) I understand where the author is coming from. A big part of what I try to do is to slowly improve the visual aspects of our church. All this to say, it is something that should be secondary.

    My church does not advertise, still has many things that do not look that amazing (not to say the people who made it didn’t try, it’s just that none of them are designers) and yet has been growing non stop. We are not seeker friendly, our pastor does not sugar coat, and yet more people come. This includes teens, in fact our youth group has been growing every year.

    We don’t have cool lighting, in fact the chapel that our youth group and college group meet is probably one of the plainest rooms I’ve ever seen. I guess it’s just what you value, we are big on trying to make sure the number one thing we spend our time and money is ministry and everything else is secondary. If something does not serve to minister to the church then it gets pushed aside.

    I loved the article, and totally agree as I too catch a lot of those “design” choices. Do I naturally get drawn by a great brochure and a cool stage set? You bet I do but do you know why I still love my church over the most contemporary well designed church? Because watching God’s power is better than any slide.

    One last note, I 100% agree it is about relationships. In fact, our church office is usually packed, and not just by our staff. How amazing it is that we have members who are willing to come and hang out. This is all ages too, I often am interrupted by a hello from a junior higher or high schooler. What better way to see the body truly act like that, a body.


  • Marc Aune
    November 29, 2011

    I’ll admit to feeling hurt the first time I read this. The time spent on trying to reach youth at our church is not always reflected in the final product, but I know firsthand it is not for lack of trying. Still, I understand the crux of what Ty is saying: the church can no longer take the youth’s church involvement for granted. When I was young, I went to church because my mom took me and that is what we did. Period. Parents don’t hold the same sway and youth are given plenty of options—other churches, sports, sleep— for Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. We need to step up our game.

    The surprising omission in this article was youth involvement in church ministries. We are blessed to have so many youth involved in ministries at the church. Our summer VBS, for example, relies heavily on youth volunteers. We believe that youth want to get involved in serving others as much as anything else in the church. They want to make a difference.

    I’d like to hear Ty’s thoughts on getting youth involved in service and where that fits into reaching them.


  • Craig
    November 29, 2011

    I work in a Marketing Department. I work on SEO for our company website. I have a degree in communications with an emphasis in management & sales. I also have my Bible Minor. And I’ve got to admit: Church marketing is always something that I’ve struggled with, even when I WAS a teenager.

    I totally, TOTALLY understand where you’re coming from Ty, and to a point agree. Much of the church doesn’t try to speak the same language as a teenager.

    However, when it comes to things like fonts, branding or clipart…I’m concerned that things like that are what would ultimately “draw you in” or “make you feel like you belong.”

    I struggle with balancing communicating well in order to be understood, and also looking at how Jesus and the Apostles drew people in. It seems like we’re so concerned as a Church to use “the world’s” methods of drawing people in (and that’s what you’re describing is…because it’s what I deal with in an actual Marketing department), that we’ve forgotten the things that actually DID draw people in.

    The things that drew people to Christ:
    1) He took time with people…He ate with sinners…with those different from Him.
    2) By the power of the Holy Spirit, He performed miracles that reached people where they had need the most (healing, provision, etc…)
    3) He taught “as one with authority.”

    Slick marketing employs none of the above. We don’t see “marketing methods” employed in the early church. We see the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit, the agape love of Christ and an uncompromising message preached.

    Should we do our best to make ourselves understood to the culture around us? Yes. But more importantly, we need to once again seek the power of the Spirit, and develop deep, intimate, REAL relationships with those around us as did the early Church.

    Honestly, I’ve seen some churches do an INCREDIBLE job with their marketing and presentation, only to lose me because there was no power in the message, and little to no time taken to build any sort of real relationship with me. Many church are just too darn big for their own good. The early church met in homes. It wasn’t fancy. It was just…real.

    And I think “real” is what teens want ultimately…isn’t it?

    One marketer to another…

    (NOT meant to criticize. This is a GREAT discussion and again, I can totally appreciate where you’re coming from. Just something different to chew on? Keep pursuing Him man! Love that younger people still are after Christ!)


  • lt
    November 29, 2011

    No church should ignore anyone. But we have to be willing to let people walk away if they are not persuaded by the gospel.

    I think this discussion is a good one. But it seems one that is taken for granted. There is very little interaction with the Bible on this. We assume that because there were no computers and printers and logos in the first century that we have free reign to do what we want.

    I think we need a serious interaction with 1 Cor 1:18-2:16 and 2 Corinthians 4. I wonder if this young author has ever even considered how those passages might apply here. I would encourage you, Ty, to do some serious exegetical work in those passages and write an article about how what Paul says applies to the ideas you have. Let’s get some biblical interaction here.


  • lt
    November 29, 2011

    I think this is a good discussion. It just lacks biblical interaction.

    Ty, why don’t you do a serious study of 1 Cor 1:18-2:16 and 2 Cor 4:1-6 and write an article about how that applies. I would be interested to read your interaction on that. I think that would be helpful in that it would anchor the discussion to the Scriptures. In those passages Paul was very concerned with what he used to reach people. He explicitly says he was not willing to use “whatever works.”


  • Eva
    November 29, 2011

    I am also a teenager and I must admit, I do not agree with Ty’s opinions. The things that make me feel like I am important to a church and that they really care is when people welcome me into a church. If I walk into a new church and absolutely no one says anything to me (which has never happened and I doubt this ever happens in a church), then yes I would definately feel like nobody cared about whether I was there or not. Another thing that makes me feel important is when people invite me to join a group or just invite me to somthing as simple as youth group. Making conversation with people and really listening to them makes them feel important. I feel important when people take the time to ask me how I am doing and then follow up on something I may have said. The love and compassion that you show is much more important to me than clip art, fonts and other marketing media. If you simply take time to show interest in me, I don’t care if you hand me a rock or not.


  • Phillip
    November 29, 2011

    So are we really arguing about teenagers and their taste for design? I’m a youth pastor and a teacher. I can show my students a big budget Hollywood blockbuster with all the eye-popping graphics and carefully composed shots that you could ever dream of, and they MIGHT watch it all the way through. With the same group, I can throw up a series of poorly shot, horribly edited YouTube clips, and they are absolutely enthralled. I don’t think design counts as much as we might WANT to think.

    Ty, I’m a PK, and I used to think design was the end-all-be-all, but I realized a long time ago that if the graphics have to be smooth, the fonts have to be crisp, and the colors have to align just perfectly with the season and phase of the moon for you to attend my church regularly, then you don’t really love Jesus. Don’t get me wrong: bad design does bother me. A LOT. But what bothers me more is when we make the medium the message: We care so we design. My student who hasn’t seen her father for six months because he’s in jail doesn’t care how slick my designs are. My student who carved the word “WORTHLESS” into her leg didn’t use Helvetica or Arial, and she didn’t care if I did either.

    What you wrote about personal experience and relationship is dead-on, but you cloud it with your introduction which is design-focused. It’s not the same issue. Design is about representing a church, a movement, an organization. Personal relationships, building experiences, straining creativity to reach out to just one more kid is about representing Christ. Design can be used to increase His glory, but it’s only one tool in the box, not


    • jack
      December 14, 2011

      Pastor Philip I don’t think Ty was speaking for himself. I think he was speaking for the youth in general(both believers and non-believers alike). If you accuse him of not really loving Jesus then it is partly true since he is speaking for non-believers as well. I think your judgment is just not fair. I’m glad that as a PK i got out of being a very judgmental person. This article was written with concern for today’s youth. I even have a lot of concern for those youth who have no Jesus at all. We can’t go to them and tell them ‘no you cant belong to my church cuz you don’t love Jesus much’ I think its a given. But I believe in putting effort in getting to them. Effort that works. Do some research or something about what they really are into.


  • Brandon Robbins
    November 29, 2011

    Great thoughts here, Ty! Thanks for sharing this. You are a man of great insight. Glad to have gotten to know you these last few months!


  • Brandon Robbins
    November 29, 2011

    Reading through some of the comments here, it’s obvious that some people commenting have misunderstood the post. Knowing Ty personally, I know where he is coming from. Additionally, in the past few years I’ve made a transition from one of those “teenagers” to a pastoral ministry leader, so I’ve been on both sides of the issue. With that in mind, here is basically what Ty is getting at–

    -“If we don’t feel targeted, you lose us.” : You have to make us a priority. You have to make us feel valued. When you don’t, nothing else matters. Teenagers need to be a priority. They need to be valued. When you skip this or ignore it, it’s like saying “who cares” and blowing us off. Ouch.

    -“We can quickly tell how much you want us, by how hard you try.” : It’s not about having a huge budget or having the best design & fonts. It’s about giving it your best. Any fairly intelligent person can tell how much effort you put into something. It’s about performance based upon your resources. When you consistently function below your potential as a ministry or leadership team, it tells us that you don’t care & that we aren’t valued & aren’t wanted. Ouch again.

    -“Events are good, relationships are better” : There are so many youth pastors & leaders that are stuck in the mindset of “It’s all about the event. Make it happen. Make it big. Make it loud.” That’s all good and nice, but if that’s your focus & you forget to interact with, invest in, and give attention to the people the event is supposed to be for on a semi-individual level, you lose our interest & fail to meet our need. Youth like events, but they need relationship. It’s beyond time for some ministries to move past the event mindset and into the relationship building mindset.

    Bottom line: You may not like what has been stated above, but that’s how much of the young generation feels about the ministry in front of them. You can choose to take heed & adapt, or ignore it and fail to effectively reach a generation. Take your pick.

    In love,
    A young ministry leader


  • Jason Field
    November 29, 2011

    Unfortunately there are some very angry and bitter comments to this article.
    First off, kudos to Ty for speaking up. (visualize your personal thumbs-up here, Ty) Don’t be cowed into silence by those who don’t agree. But, don’t take for granted that those who have gone before you are stupid (though I struggle with it!)…
    Second, while I agree with many of the thoughts in the “negative” comments it would seem that most were given with a foreshortened supply of love and mercy. We ought, all of us, to be speaking the truth in love to each other.
    The main issue I take with this whole discussion, as a volunteer youth director, is that the core fault of the church in reaching teens (or really anyone at all) lies in *OUR* sincere and misguided (read: lazy and self absorbed) attempts to bring people in the doors of our churches. I brokenheartedly include myself in this group of sinning Christians. Clearly the instructions left for us by Christ Jesus are explicitly clear:

    “LOVE GOD, LOVE OTHERS, MAKE DISCIPLES”

    Matthew 22:36-40 ‘“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”’
    Matthew 28:18-20 ‘And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them i the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

    It would seem the only message we have for teens is, “Come and be wowed” or “Come and be ignored.” The message ought to be, “I will seek you and love you by the power (Holy Spirit) and message (Gospel) of Christ. In the way He sought me, relentlessly.”
    PEOPLE don’t need fancy graphics so much as they need us to rip our own chests open laying bare our hearts. Preach truth with love and passion in our lives and our sermons.
    p.s. – I am linking to this blog from my page, Ty. :)


  • jonathan
    November 30, 2011

    Give a child something to grow into, not out of. This is the greatest problem facing the church with her “youth” (whatever that is, really). Ty is right, our look and design (typically) is not targeted towards youth. It fits on either side of them: small children and just under middle aged. But these are the people that “run” the church (well, the older people, not the small children, at least not directly). We tell kids they’re too young to participate, and place them in a “Youth Room” with some programing and events for them to “do” while the big people do “church.” Churches must get youth involved in some of this stuff. Have them make all the fliers, posters, etc…they want. It’s not the “stuff” that’s going to connect teenagers, it’s the creating and doing that will. Namely, with someone who cares for them. As they work and take ownership in the church, not only will they feel like they belong, but they will, actually, and fully, belong to the church. It will be “their’ church too. I don’t get the feeling Ty wants to be someone who just belongs and consumes, by writing this article he’s shown he wants to be a part of what the church does. He wants to be a leader.


  • Kitty
    November 30, 2011

    Great challenging article Ty. It was brave and you’ve evidently touched upon an area that lies near to our hearts,

    There are some great mysteries about our God. Jesus is fully God and fully human. The Bible is the Word of God and the word of man. Humans are responsible for their actions and God is completely sovereign.

    In this particular case, God calls us to be countercultural whilst being “all things to all people”, both of which He will use to attract some to the gospel. No wonder why there’s tension over this issue!

    May God give us all wisdom to encourage young men and women to be counter-cultural “salt and light”, as well as “being all things to all people” in order that some may be saved.

    Praying God will grant the Church creativity, humility and other-person-centredness to do what’s best for teens and any other people group, culture or subculture in this world.


  • Ryan
    November 30, 2011

    This almost seems like nothing more than a plug for your Daddy’s website.


    • Steven Fogg
      November 30, 2011

      Seriously Ryan. You actually have to think before you write. C’mon.


    • Kevin D. Hendricks
      December 1, 2011

      Yeah, sure. A 581-word plug of “daddy’s website” that doesn’t link to it until the 525th word. Uh-huh.

      There are much easier ways to give shameless plugs to Holy Cow Creative.

      But the fact is that Michael Buckingham and Holy Cow don’t need shameless plugs because they’ve volunteered time and time again to help churches communicate better. Michael has been a great leader, a volunteer and an asset to the church communications community in general and specifically to Church Marketing Sucks and our nonprofit parent the Center for Church Communication. The Church Marketing Lab in particular wouldn’t be here today without Michael’s tireless leadership.

      So let’s drop the baseless allegations. That’s not cool.


  • Brandon Halliburton
    November 30, 2011

    Mr. Ty, I understand what your saying sir. Most churches are still decades behind doing the same things that worked back then, but not now. It is sad that people are still stuck in the 60’s, 70’s and even the 80’s. What I have learned is that the some youth want to feel like they are a part of something. They basically want something to do! Now others, of course, just don’t want to be there. They are there because mom and dad or grandma and grandpa made them go. I think its all about developing a culture that incorporates youth involvement. How do you do that? I am still trying to figure that out. I have learned so far that it has to do with the parents. If the parents aren’t motivated, the children are not going to be motivated.

    I think its important to note that most ministries do not have to technology to have slideshows, LCD screens with events and even the best camera to record services. You can have the best graphics, but if souls are not being saved then it is all for nothing. I don’t believe we should discredit smaller churches for not have these things. I believe the word of God is the highlight of the service mainly because it is was is feeding God’s people to go out and tell people about Jesus. Honestly, I don’t believe we need smoking lights and dynamic backgrounds to market a sermon. The Word is inspiration in its own self

    Since you have such a zeal for church marketing, advertising, and the overall church experience, why not start it up yourself? With your leaders OK of course. Are these things that are currently going on at your church or were speaking in general?

    I am blessed to have pastors who are innovative and are all about winning souls for Christ. If you feel that way, you should go try to get things like this going in your church (if that’s the place your referring to).


  • jonathan
    November 30, 2011

    I replied earlier, but I thought of something I wanted to add.

    Running separate programs and events for “youth” creates a youth-mindset that they are not part of the church. When Ty says “us” he’s showing how we have segregated them from the church. People make mention of youth as “the future of the church” and all that stuff. But it’s not true. They are the church right now! At least in my Lutheran tradition, when you are confirmed, you are a voting member of the church. At this point you take on all the responsibilities of being a part of the church. And yet, we still sequester them in youth room with youth events and youth retreats with youth food and youth pastors. Why aren’t we letting them be a part of it? “Train up a child in the way he should do; even when he is old he will not depart for it.” Why aren’t we training them?


    • Kevin D. Hendricks
      December 1, 2011

      Reminds me of an article we tweeted recently exploring how youth ministry spawned the emerging church movement.


    • Brandon Halliburton
      December 1, 2011

      Very well said.


    • Michael Buckingham
      December 1, 2011

      What a great reply Jonathan. This is the kind of thinking I hope Ty has sparked in churches and with pastors. Let them be a part of it, invite them to be a part of it, make it easy (cuz it is SCARY for a 16 year old to put his neck out…heck look at this thread started by a 19 year old.)

      Especially boys. Sadly, fathers have disappeared or at best simply “provide”. They need roll models, mentors, pastors that open their arms up. See, Ty isn’t your typical teen in church. He loves the Lord, and while his journey isn’t holy and perfect, he has not deviated from proclaiming Christ. And even he desires to be a part of the church family more.

      Thank you Jonathan for taking his words to a new level with pastors.


  • Kristen LaValley
    November 30, 2011

    As a youth pastor AND creative design director I have a few thoughts. This article is VERY well written and clear. I am thoroughly impressed at how well you communicated your ideas and I’m impressed that you actually care about these things enough to voice them. However, I am perplexed because the majority of the time we design something awesome for our student ministry, we get criticized by the teenagers and no matter how much time we spend on it, no matter how many changes we make, it’s never good enough. So I agree with everything you’re saying, but I know that no matter what, there will still be some criticism from the adolescent front. You can’t deny it. :) Teenagers tend to think they know better than adults but in this case I would say we need to listen more to them than our own ideas of what works and what doesn’t. The crux of ministering to teenagers is LISTENING. All these comments about how we need to invest more time in soul winning then clip art are just simplistic and slightly ignorant. This IS investing in “soul winning”, as you say. How will you reach them if you don’t know where they are? How will you communicate the Gospel if you can’t even start a conversation with them? Good design is the communication starter. You’re saying, “Hey. I care about you enough to impress you with an awesome presentation.” And then they are more apt to listen to what you have to say. To all the nay-sayers, (and I say this in love) get over yourself. I honestly don’t think that every student looks at a design and says, “Wow. Comic Sans? Really? I’m not having anything do to with that prehistoric church.” But if you can’t grasp their attention, you will lose them. The way we communicate the Gospel has to change as the recipients of the Gospel change. And that is all. Good thoughts, Ty.


  • Joel Natalie
    November 30, 2011

    As the dad of two boys (1 in college, 1 a HS senior) I know I’ve received a much greater negative reaction from them regarding derivative, over-the-top, “rip-off” designs out of churches than something deemed too simplistic. They especially can’t stand those fake TV show designs!
    Whether reaching youth, boomers, or kids, values like authenticity, beauty, and simplicity have always been the best course.
    Thanks for sharing with us all, Ty!


  • Ty Buckingham
    December 4, 2011

    Wow. I love the comments and the conversations starting and going on here. Honestly, didn’t know if anyone would even pay attention to this post.

    The biggest thing is to do something. Be conscience of teenagers. Ok, you may not have a great budget, you may not have any budget, but where your budget lacks your character must excel. I’ve seen small churches do things with HUGE impact. It’s not a money issue unless you make it one.

    As for clipart and whatever, I’m just saying pay attention to it. We can tell when you’ve cared enough to put time and thought into it. We can tell if you’re trying to communicate with us. Are your graphics, video clips, jokes, stories geared only to the older generation or have we been taken into consideration too. I mean this blog is called “Church Marketing Sucks” for a reason. I think we all are here because we want to be better. That’s why I love all the comments, I hope it’s started something.

    Everyone can do something, as long as you engage the students. Yes, they should just fall in love with Jesus and start getting involved. But we’re teenagers, we’re figuring so much out. We are looking, even if we don’t admit it, for someone to lead us. If that’s not you, If you don’t learn to speak their language someone else is already waiting for them, but they are not waiting to tell them about God; they are waiting to tell them about everything else.

    Be honest with us.

    Be real with us.


  • Josh Veach
    December 5, 2011

    Ty, thank you for taking the time and courage to share your thoughts. While I may not agree with 100% of your statements, I know that the church of today needs you to continue take ownership and offer your input if there is going to be a church of tomorrow.

    I’m saddened by some of the critical comments I’ve read. If this is how we respond to a teenager (who wants to see the Gospel change the lives of his peers) sharing his opinion, how are we capable of responding in love to teenagers who are lost and hurting?

    Our senior pastor just finished up a series called “Generation to Generation” (sfnchurch.com/generation). It was a great reminder that we must make room for each other, each generation and recognize that each brings great value to the body of Christ. And everything we do as a church should recognize the importance of each generation.

    What we communicate and how we communicate matters. While I believe every communication piece should be thoughtfully and creatively designed, it’s not about clip art vs. well designed pieces.

    Does what you’re doing distract from or enhance you’re ability to share the Gospel to the group you’re trying to reach? I believe that when we are mission driven, when we truly care about what Jesus cares about, we’ll do whatever it takes.


  • Craig
    December 6, 2011

    I wanted to wait before replying. Let me join the others in congratulations on a great post. While I too can see both sides, I agree that more must be done to engage our teens. Our church has a youth group for 13 & up. Our youth pastor is a great guy and the kids(teens) all seem to love him. That being said, every Sunday I turn and look at the teens and see blank stares or vacant faces. They’re simply not engaging/being engaged. Something needs to be done to make them feel like they belong. The sermons, music and all seem geared more towards the adults. It’s a definite balancing act to reach all people. I also know that by trying to reach everyone you will normally fall short somewhere.
    Keep up the great work Ty and God Bless.


  • Hank
    December 8, 2011

    2 Things:

    1. Loved the article! Absolutely true about making sure to communicate clearly that “WE CARE!!” Not only about worship but also about the worshiper.

    2. Seriously? Where is the “share this article” button? I was going to share this on facebook. Oh well, looks like I’ll have to copy and paste the URL.


  • Sarah R
    December 9, 2011

    Ty, I agree with you 100% and I’m 46 years old. I have had your experience for many, many years, basically since I left college. And yet I keep looking for the church that will engage me AND create a relationship with me, not to mention WANT to create a relationship with me. Complacency is rampant.

    To say that the overall experience of worship doesn’t matter and we should just be enthralled by the message is bull. All of us want to hear the message and learn, but there’s a lot more to it than that when you’re talking about a relationship. Heck, these days I can go online and I have a choice of messages to hear. So what brings me to church? I want to be engaged, not just by the message, but by the entire experience. That does NOT mean I want to be entertained. It means I want to be brought in to feel and connect to God through the experience of worship.

    The thing I see is that pastors and church leaders hate that it takes more and more to make that connection and feel that they shouldn’t have to do ‘worldly’ things to get us there. That isn’t realistic. If you want to engage me, then you have to connect to my world, today’s world, not the world of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s or even 2000. Today’s world. The one where images are high gloss, consumers prevail and businesses offer me a better experience just walking through the door. Are you hearing it? Everyone else engages me. Why aren’t you?


  • climbingwithjc
    December 11, 2011

    I am really struggling on how to reply, how to share the truth in love. This article deeply concerns me about the state of the church, and I feel that Ty, although I slightly misguided, really wants to see His generation consumed with the love God.

    First, to Ty, I greatly appreciate your concern about the state of the church. It is sadly uncommon for someone of young age to hold strong concern about how the church operates. I imagine you never expected some of the responses you have gotten, but you have brought up important ideas (whether valid or not) about a very important topic. I pray that you would continue to grow in the knowledge of the truth and that just as you want to see the church reach out to your generation, you would seek out God even more! I sincerely wish I knew of more younger Christian brothers who cared more about the church.

    Second, to everyone, I am glad we recognize the importance of this topic. I can see that the current state of the church is of much concern to you as it is to me. I am weary though of some ideas brought up in this article and discussion that has thus ensued. I pray that each of you would be rooted in the Word and have God’s instructions written on your hearts. May we be consumed with God’s love and let it overflow onto those around us.

    Thirdly, here are my concerns. We cannot put anything before God, He is God and we are not. This article, whether intentionally or not, brought up the trend of the church serving us (ie with entertainment and other creative faucets). I feel that responder “It”, did a better job responding than I could, and anchored his response in Scriptural Truth, so I would like to echo the Truths he points out. When did the Church become about serving us? Are we not called to serve the Church? (Matthew 28:18-20 , Act:1:8)

    Finally, I pray for all of us that this discussion leads to more than a few heart felt replies. For no man nor his words holds any authority over the instructions of Scripture. I pray that this discussion would lead to all of us diving into the scriptures and binding what God said about his church to our hearts; that we would mourn over the state of the Church, the World, and ourselves; and finally that our response be led by the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Be encouraged my brothers for I am also a student and young adult in the Church, and I, like Ty, love and care about the Church!


  • Michael Buckingham
    December 12, 2011

    The church shouldn’t have a servant’s heart? I’m just not following. If the church isn’t to serve the people what are we left with?

    This doesn’t mean giving to every whim and trend, but it absolutely means considering the people God called you to SERVE, not the people God called to serve YOU.

    I understand that change is hard and that it is the natural tendency to want to do what we’ve always done, but look around us. It’s not working.

    This isn’t about “entertainment”, it’s about proclaiming to gospel to its fullest and with everything God has given us; not just words.

    Look at how Christ shared the message, he spent time with people, he got to know them so that they could get to know him, he spoke with terms they understood, he told stories to speak of salvation and redemption.

    Let’s follow that example.


  • Richard Brashear
    December 19, 2011

    Ty-First time reader, first time poster, enjoyed your article!

    I agree, as some posters have indicated, the real mission is to proclaim the Gospel of Christ and, in my opinion, there are different “audiences” in the church. Whether we like it or not, the people that come through the doors of our churches have different perspectives, whether a result of upbringing, backgrounds or age.

    And each comes with different expectations.

    To me, it’s about engaging your “audience” in a relationship. For example, if I am working with an outreach mission to unbelievers, I’m not going to use “church speak” to convey the message–been there, tried that, doesn’t work.

    At the end of the day, I am going to need to talk in terms they understand and share the love of Christ with them.

    While I do believe there is only one Gospel, one Truth, and One Way, I don’t think there’s a limit on “how” we share, communicate, convey, preach, teach, or reach others with the Gospel.

    I am not, in any way, suggesting the dilution of the Gospel but rather suggesting that we need to understand that not all people learn or hear the same way.

    Thank you for your boldness to share and spark discussion. Blessings.


  • Darlene
    December 27, 2011

    Many of the comments on this post disappoint me. Ty, what you are saying comes across clear and to the point. Could some of the negative responses have a lot to do with an unwillingness to do things differently or acknowledge that just maybe as those older than Ty we could possibly be wrong about something and if not wrong, at least have room to grow in our attempts to reach all types of people.

    One of the key things that stand out for me is the concept of language. The Bible was written in a particular culture and time also and Jesus is seen throughout the NT using items that were familiar to his listeners (water/a well, flowers in the field, etc) and using those as tools to communicate his message. In Acts, when the Holy Spirit was poured out, the wonderful works of God was spoken in a variety of languages so that the people who were present in the area from a variety of cultures could comprehend the message of God.

    That being said, I think the “how” of the “what” is important. If the message we proclaim is nearly as important as we say it is, it makes sense to me that we would take whatever resources at our fingertips to convey that message to those we are aiming to reach.

    Everything that we do lines up with “someone’s” preference (whether we acknowledge it or not); If cheesy presentations and outdated methodologies create a barrier for people hearing our oh so important message of Christ, whey wouldn’t we try to remove those barriers?

    Why is low quality and half-baked effort acceptable in the church? Should we not do the best we can with whatever we have?

    Financial resources or the lack thereof are not able to stand in the way. I learned early in ministry (as a Pastor of Children’s Ministry) that a lack of resources is what can push us into offering our creative best. An attitude of do whatever it takes to reach the folks we are trying to reach is something that I have found to be honored by God and appreciated by those whom we try to reach.

    How we communicate and the effort we put into trying to learn about the folks we aim to reach will show how much we authentically care about them. I believe that everything we do (visuals, environment, preached/taught word, graphics, etc) communicates/conveys a message.

    I believe that what is most important is that we never become complacent and satisfied with how we do what we do, to the extent that we appear to be those who fell asleep in 1990 and woke up to find out it was 2011 but we just continue to do things the way they were done when it was 1990 and we were younger.


  • TreadWeary
    January 2, 2012

    The issue I see, and I don’t have time to read every comment here, but it seems you remember the turf and the lights. The theme or the souvenir, rather than what is said. I am not going to say that is necessarily a bad thing, but often I have found that the kitschy things done by the church tend to displace the message. You have pastor’s doing “3D Easter”, when the message of Easter is way better than anything we can see in 3D. The 3D then becomes the message, even if it is supposed to be the medium. Church needs to be different than, not the same as, the culture. I am ELCA Lutheran, and when I come to church I like the smells and bells stuff because I can’t see that on a Saturday night in the city. It is different…sacred. It is not some show or experience that you can find taking place in Vegas on any given day.


  • Joey
    January 19, 2012

    Wow, this is sickening!!!! This isn’t an some debatable dialogue that needs to be discussed amongst church leaders. People are dying and going to hell…. TO HELL!!!
    If a vide game or a moving light or a graphic design will get them interested enough to open their eyes, so they will open their ears and give just enough space for god to prick their hearts
    then we should be doing whatever we can… The christian church”s motto should be ” whatever it takes” because that’s what is required of us. The bible says “go out and make disciples” not preach the word and good for them if they like and shame on them if they don’t!!!
    The bigger picture here is about love…. Do you love them enough to do whatever it takes or is what u have always done all your willing to do and if it isn’t excepted then, oh well????
    Please before your quick to type your witty response just think about it.
    It’s really is pretty straight forward!!!


    • jonathan
      January 26, 2012

      The bible says “go out and make disciples” not preach the word and good for them if they like and shame on them if they don’t!!!

      Actually, that’s (almost) exactly what it says. Read John 6. Jesus calls people out for their attention to the miracles but their lack of faith. “He who has ears let him hear!” It’s not up to us. Anything we do is simply trying to dress up the Gospel as if the medium is what makes the message take. The wind blows where it will. Seed falls on the soil and only some of it will produce the fruit of faith. We need to focus longterm discipleship of each kid rather than short term numerical gains in the “youth demographic.”


  • Mark
    January 30, 2012

    I read every single comment posted above, because the outcry against the article struck an incredibly deep chord within me.

    I am a 26 year old graphic designer for a church, and I love my job. But when I read some of the above comments, my heart absolutely sank. I felt as if the skills that God gave me, and the passions that he placed within my heart for aesthetics, was diluting his message. That I was an instrumental piece in defying scripture. My soul cried out. I dove into the scriptures that were listed above. Namely 1 Cor 1-2 and 2 Cor 4. And my heart sank even more. Is my craft “lofty speech and wisdom?” (1 Cor 2:1) Is my passion for design actually a “disgraceful underhanded way?” (2 Cor 4:2). Is my deep desire to bring people to the church through thoughtful design a sin?

    The answer is… yep. It could be.

    If I pridefully believe that my designs are better than other churches designs, and because of this look down upon the work other churches are doing, it’s no good. If I for one second believe that because of better design, God can use my church more, then it’s no good. I struggle greatly with pride, and exploring this issue was painful and revealing. Because it revealed how much pride we can put into highly produced presentation. And how often I personally put aesthetics ahead of the gospel. But I kept reading, I kept exploring. And as he always does, God comforted me.

    Later in 1 Corinthians (9:19-23), Paul talks about how he became a servant to all. “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews…” He tailored his delivery to appeal to those who were listening! Phew! But what about design being manipulative? Are they just coming for the special effects? In 2 Corinthians 5:11 he writes, “Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we PERSUADE others…” He uses the word “peitho” which I also looked into, and is defined as “to induce one by words (or pictures?) to believe.” But immediately, Paul gets to the important part, “…what we are is known to God.” 1 Corinthians 9:23 says “I do it all for the sake of the Gospel.” God knows if we’re putting our presentation ahead of the gospel. God knows whether or not we’re using design to glorify ourselves, or Him. And I refuse to let some commenters on here “peithos” me to believe that God created me with these talents and passions for design and I am sinning by using them for his glory!

    As designers of the church of Jesus Christ, we must all be very mindful not to put the presentation before the message. But we should also not be afraid of the presentation! God created me to design, and when I do, I feel his pleasure (paraphrasing Eric Little from Chariots of Fire). I love marketing! I love well designed brochures. I love clean, smart logos. I love well designed worship. And God knit these loves into my very soul. And I am going to use it for him. I need to be humble and NEVER think that God NEEDS our marketing, but that he can use all things to bring people to him, and he will do the work.

    Our job is do it all for Him. And if God hasn’t made design a big part of your church, and you’re seeking Him, He’s at work! If God has called you (a LOT of us reading this site) to make design a big part of your church, and you’re seeking Him, He’s at work!

    So let’s keep striving for excellence for His glory in all that we do. For some of us, that just so happens to mean designing a better bulletin.


  • Mark Yeargin
    April 3, 2012

    A Baby Boomer’s plea.
    Am I the only one offended right off the bat by the word used in the title “Suck”? I’m sure in the author’s mind there’s nothing wrong with the word, it only means poor performance, he’s simply using slang.
    Are you all so naive or innocent that you actually don’t understand or remember the terms origin? Are we all so concerned with being accepted that vulgarity is now OK ?
    Will we turn a deaf ear to offensive language or overlook rude behaviour if it means the kids will bless us with their presence?
    Stay on this track and next spring F this and that, will be ok. It’s just the way kids talk these days, don’t be such a prude.
    Sometimes “whatever it takes” is sincere dedication, sometimes it’s just a cop out for fearful leadership. Sometimes “whatever it takes” involves taking the focus off the teen’s concerns for graphics and interior design and actually focusing on the word and how that applies to the teen.
    Proverbs 8:13 “To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.”


  • Kelly Finke
    April 4, 2012

    There are so many things in this post that raise questions within me. I am not sure that the failure to reach teens is really the fault of the font, the flyer, or the title of the message, as much as it may be in the content of the message and the heart of the hearer. Jesus did not need any outside advertising to draw people to Him. His popularity was spread simply by word of mouth. The power of his message was not in the packaging but in the content. Those who flocked to him were hungry for something. If they received what they were hungry for, they would return. If, on the other hand, they were told a hard thing that they were not ready to accept, they walked away disheartened. His purpose was to offer the good news of the availability of reconciliation with God the Father. His motives were pure and his intent was clear. I am afraid that oftentimes the motives of those of us working in the church are a bit lacking in these two areas. If our motives are pure, we will absolutely want to use whatever means are necessary to make sure that people hear the message. If our intent is clear, we will know what that message is and to whom it belongs. Our responsibility in delivering that message is to hear and know the Lord. If we have spent time in His presence, seeking His direction and allowing Him to speak to our hearts there will be an added element to the situation that can surpass and ignite our human efforts. If we have not spent time with the Lord, all other efforts are vain and will be fruitless. They may draw a crowd, they may satisfy the eyes of those looking to be impressed or wooed, but the arena of the heart and soul, which should be the target area no matter the age of the person, will remain closed and unaffected.

    And the message of Jesus Christ never caters to selfishness or demand for privilege. I agree that the older generations could help the cause of Christ by not allowing themselves to be freeze-framed into the social cliché’s of their own generation. If they look down upon or refuse to communicate with those of the next generation there is a stop in the flow of love between the two. We must know one another to properly love one another. And that knowing cannot take place when one or both are hardening their heart in mocking and rejecting the other. The younger generation has a part in this communication as well. The younger generation would gain a lot of ground in this process by respecting the culture of the older. There are always two sides to communication. I would love to see the young man who wrote this post call on the teens to do some creative work as well in reaching other teens. Teens will listen to their peers far more readily than their elders. Teens who truly have a desire to see other teens know the Lord and have chosen to be involved in the process of reaching other teens hold one of the most important keys in the effectiveness of ministering effectively to their own age group.

    The thing that both generations have in common is the desire to be a body united and a desire to be an usher on behalf of Jesus Christ in bringing more people into His kingdom. It may help if we can agree on those two points and work outward from there. If the font on the flyer prevents the young people from seeing the event as relevant, then it is not serving the purpose for which it was created. Lets get some input from the young people and change it. But as for the fist pumping, lets show some respect for the times and the culture of the older generation. Maybe shake their hand first and then teach them a fist pump. Walk away from the interaction having shared with one another rather than with scorn or mocking in our hearts.

    This whole thing is not about flyers and fist-pumping but about a willingness to work together for
    the health and growth of the body of Christ. No group within the body should be shunned and no
    group should be favored. We all need to not hide behind a group, but be open and honest about our needs and also to be aware and concerned with the needs of those around us. But most importantly, that we keep the Lord in the loop of everything that we undertake to do in His name.

    Act 11:21
    (21) And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.



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