Anyone who promises to boost attendance as a hook is making promises they can’t necessarily keep. Experiences like Nazarene Youth Conference (NYC) have been a part of the DNA of healthy student ministries for decades, and this ever-evolving event has proven to be one of the most versatile and life-shaping events for Nazarene youth for decades. As you are considering taking students to NYC, you might have quite a few questions about how NYC will impact your local church.
Will sending a group of students to NYC boost your church’s attendance?
Do students who feel connected to a larger narrative within a global community of faith pursue a deeper faith?
Does a group of students who pursue a deeper faith make a student ministry healthier?
Does a healthy student ministry lead to an attractive culture?
Put simply, when students see the big picture, it changes their perspective. They see what we hoped they would see — God is bigger than they thought before — and they will want to share that discovery with others. This is what many of us have spent our whole lives learning. We learn that God is bigger, more faithful, more grace-filled, more promise keeping than we thought possible. NYC allows students to tangibly see the church in action and allows them to gain new understanding about God, their community, and themselves.
You can be sure of this — students who are not invited into a larger narrative within a global community of faith will live into a smaller one — not because they want to but because it is all they know. If their imagination is limited to an experience of God filled only with the familiar, saturated with safe solutions, and packed with predictability, the ceiling of what’s possible in their minds gets lower and lower. Without seeing more, they can’t dream of more for themselves, or more for the church. The more they participate in a connective experience like NYC, the more they can imagine a larger connection to a bigger God and a bigger family they didn’t know they had.
Will supporting students in your church who are going to NYC make your congregation bigger?
I’m not sure about that.
Will the students who go to NYC in your congregation see themselves as part of a bigger church?
So, will your congregation grow numerically?
What is more probable is your congregation’s students will return with a picture of a bigger God, a connection to a larger narrative, and an imagination ready to see the bigger picture of what God can do in them and in the world. They will see the possibility of more for your church.
The question is, how will we respond to their challenge?
Will we dream with them?
Will empower their imagination?
Will we give them room to fail AND room to succeed?
The better question is this:
Will your church support students who return from NYC with hearts and imaginations filled with God’s dreams for the church, the lonely, and the lost?