It's possible that I'm about to commit youth ministry heresy today, but I'm good with that.
Two weeks ago, I laid out the case for doing away with youth group standard messy games...
...but today I'm touching on an even more hallowed ground in some of our ministries.
Taco Bell. Steak 'n Shake. Starbucks.
For as long as I can remember, those were the things we did when we spent one-on-one time with students.
But not anymore.
You can build relationships outside of fast food restaurants, and it's better for you, your students, and your budget.
I've had plenty of students in my career who enjoyed spending time with me at Dairy Queen or McDonald's or the Pizza Hut lunch buffet.
And while those things aren't evil or sinful, I can't help but feel there's got to be a better way.
Because in ten years of ministry, I've never had a student come back a year later and talk about all the Frappucinos we used to grab together.
But I've had literally hundreds who remembered hiking, cycling, throwing Frisbees, or playing basketball for an hour in their driveway.
As an added bonus, those things are almost always universally free and are a dozen times healthier then spending my week ordering meals-by-number.
But as much as I like to keep myself trim (and my budget trimmer), that's not what it's all about. It's about building relationships and doing youth ministry as effectively as I can.
And if that's your goal too, then this whole thing is worth your consideration.
When you're building relationships with students, meals are good, but adventures are even better.
Before I continue, I should say that I haven't abolished grabbing food with students altogether. Meals are still a great choice when you're needing to have a serious conversation with a student about a life issue.
But for building relationships and getting to know students? Meals don't work as well, and here's a quick list of reasons why.
Meals are too quick.
Have you ever seen a teenager eat a taco? How much ministry are you going to really get done in those forty-seven seconds?
Awkward silences are amplified.
I'm not always the best conversationalist, so when I'm sitting in a restaurant with an eighth-grade boy and a pile of empty taco wrappers; these moments tend to drag on forever.
It's not in the conversational comfort zone for a lot of dudes.
My experience has been that I can have more meaningful conversations with a lot of the guys in my ministry while we're huffing and puffing around the water fountain between basketball games than I can in thirty minutes while we sip on teenager coffee at a coffee shop.
It's rarely a memorable experience.
Which one seems more likely to build a stronger bond? Eating burgers next to the ball pit while you talk about school? Or that time you got lost on your hike and it started to rain?
If relationships are really the sum of shared quality experiences, then we can do better than eating boring food in boring places.
Now, while I'm only an amateur financial guru, and I'm certainly not a dietitian, the larger ramifications are pretty significant, aren't they?
If the money you spent at those places was drastically decreased and the calories you consumed at those places was drastically decreased...
Tell me - what are the best ways that you've found to build relationships, and is food really the best way to pull that off?
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