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Friendship Factor

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CBN.comA recent Gallup survey found that those who attend church with a best friend are more likely to be spiritually committed and satisfied with their church body. What does this “Friendship Factor” mean for youth ministry?

Survey results found that those who have a best friend in their congregation had better attendance, felt closer to and personally cared for by their pastor and other church members, and spent more time in worship and prayer everyday. It’s common knowledge that this generation places a very high priority on friendships. Therefore Gallup’s findings must be even more true for teenagers!

Studies show that 80 percent of Christians came to Christ through a friend. Relationships are the most effective form of evangelism and are vitally important to teens. Group Magazine reported that a friendly atmosphere was the #1 deciding factor in choosing a youth group. Having high tech equipment was #9.

It is important to provide an environment in your youth ministry where deep friendships can easily be formed. What practical steps can you take to see this happen and keep young people coming back?

Create opportunities for fellowship by providing fun, gateway activities.
When people of like interests get together to do what they love, common bonds are formed and solid friendships are quickly built. All it takes is an activity and a date. It’s easier than you think—if you’re not an expert on the activity, just work with someone else who is!

After determining dates and details, be sure to publicize the event as a “gateway activity” and cast the vision to your youth to use it as an outreach. Encourage them to invite new people, not just the same old kids that are at your meetings every week. Some ideas you could try include BBQs or free pizza dinners, scrap-booking parties, ski trips, working on cars, hiking, bowling, going to amusement parks or organizing sports tournaments.

Make visitors feel like part of the family by warmly greeting them as they arrive.
First impressions are vitally important. Within 11 minutes of entering a building, people generally decide if they will ever come back again. That means we have 11 minutes to sweep them off their feet!

Visiting a new youth group can be very intimidating, but you can ease the awkwardness with a greeting team. Select a group of outgoing and energetic teens to stay by the door and welcome people as they arrive with big smiles and lots of enthusiasm.

The key is to not just to greet newcomers, but to start a relationship with them. Train your youth leadership team to remember names, sit by new people, ask questions, and encourage everyone to invite the people they meet to hang out after the meeting.

Another way to bless newcomers is to give away special gifts such as free snacks or merchandise. Also, try adding a “meet someone new” break during your meetings.

If you and your teens will make a conscious effort to notice, appreciate, value, and love the people who come to your church, visitors will notice—and come back..

Help strong friendships develop by breaking into small groups.
On a regular basis, break your group into small groups to go over discussion questions prepared ahead of time. This provides a less intimidating environment for people to open up and be real with each other. This also prevents visitors from slipping through the cracks. Many youth ministries also form “cell groups” or small group Bible studies on various nights of the week for continued discipleship.

Get everyone involved!
It’s the youth pastor’s job to provide opportunities, but it’s the teens’ job to take the initiative and build solid friendships. Train your teens to constantly be on the look out for new people and to sit by them, welcome them, and invite them to hang out after youth group events. If your youth’s focus is making new people feel loved and comfortable, no one will ever leave unnoticed.

By strategically providing gateway activities, going out of the way to bless newcomers, providing opportunities for small group fellowship, and getting your youth involved, your ministry will thrive as personal relationships flourish. Strangers will develop into friends and your teens will become more committed to a passionate pursuit of God.

When making plans for this upcoming school year, don’t forget “The Friendship Factor.”

Read youth culture news, youth ministry articles, and join the fight for America’s young people at Article reprinted with permission.

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