Pizza, Video Games and the Attractional Model

Student ministries don’t usually have trouble branding themselves. In fact, not many organizations do. The same could be said of creating a culture. They’re both something you do whether you realize it or not.

The question I want to pose is this: “What do people think about when they think about your youth ministry?”

In essence, branding is creating the idea that initially and involuntarily pops into someone’s head when they think about your organization. For a long time, student ministry branding has had a lot to do with pizza, edgy music, and events that start with the letter “X.” Can we all agree that this is lame, please?

The problem isn’t just in creating lame event titles (although that is a problem), it has more to do with the fact that Jesus didn’t die for pizza and video games. We hope that our students end up as fully devoted followers of Christ but I’m not sure our attractional model is working. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that if we simply presented truth, depth, and the life changes that people are experiencing, we’d see an awakening among our students.

Challenge: Take a couple hours this week and get away. Grab a cup of coffee and write down everything your student ministry promotes. I’m talking events, programs, ideas, small groups, and every single communication piece you send out. Do your best to step back, take off your youth pastor hat and make an honest, objective conclusion about how you’re building your student ministry.

And remember, branding isn’t the most important idea when you’re ideating and planning, but it is vital that you understand what people are thinking when they think about your church’s student ministry. It might be the difference-maker between a student plugging in for life and one that “graduates” from his faith when he graduates from high school.



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6 thoughts on “Pizza, Video Games and the Attractional Model

  1. Great article. To clarify some things "in the field," I think the attractional model as described is not working (as detailed in the post). However, if ANY ministry stops being attractional, it will cease to exist. All ministries need to be attractional and missional. We need to draw in and send out.

    • Great thoughts Alan! I think I harped on the attractional model a little too hard. I think I'm just afraid that we (as youth pastors, including myself) have relied far too heavily on the draw and not the truth/depth, and especially the sending. At least that's what I've been learning lately. 

  2. I've pretty much come to the conlusion that, as a student ministry, if we accomplish 4 things in students lives after they accept Christ; Spiritual Habits, Biblical Literacy, Biblical Worldview, & Missional Living; we are successful.

  3. We are allowed to say that the attractional model alone is wrong? Wow! I get woozy just typing it!

    It is not that attraction is wrong – rather, it is that attraction is incomplete, and often ill-directed. It is incomplete in that attracting someone without a means of making them want to stay is worthless, along the lines of a fly strip with no adhesive. The attractional model is ill-directed in that true attraction comes from love: the love for the lost, the love for the saved, the love for the ill, healthy, poor, rich, slave, and free. Pizza, games, and music might get them in the door, but lack of love or false love will send them right back out. Once the love helps people stay, they will be willing and, in fact, interested in finding the source of that love (salvation), understanding the source better (Bible study), and telling other people about the love (outreach).