The *New* Youth Room

Let’s be honest; you may currently have one of the following items in your youth room or your designated space that you meet each week: Donated couches or furniture, outdated (and yes also donated) tv’s or other electronics, creepy pictures of Saints, something that makes known that the Knights of Columbus meet in that same area, street signs, Pope Francis bobblehead, mini-lights strung across the ceiling, foosball or pool table, and of course a framed scripture quote that you recently purchased from Hobby Lobby. As you gaze upon the layers of dust that may have collected on some of these items over the past several years, they’re the items that at one time served a purpose of creating a welcoming environment, adding character and personality, or even had a specific function that was utilized.

Youth Rooms have become an integral part of any parish campus. Not only do they function as a designated area to hold weekly Life Nights and Edge Nights, but they also serve as a common meeting area, especially for those teens who seem to stop by daily. As our ministry approach is ever-changing, especially during this past year, the environment in which we minister should also be changing. Perhaps this is a time for you to recreate or redesign your youth room. As a side note, if you do not currently have a specific area at your parish exclusively used for youth ministry, then maybe now is that time that you make this request to your pastor.

Our youth rooms should be intentional places that enhance and assist in the way that we do ministry. The following is a list of hopefully new suggestions of things that could be in your youth rooms. They are divided up into three specific categories, environment, functionality, and personality.

  1. Environment:
    • Designated presentation area (aka stage). Having an area as a central point of focus creates a place where intentional presentations can occur. This can be an elevated platform, a stage, or even some main area surrounded by seating. Some youth rooms even institute an amphitheater-style format. Session talks, praise and worship, and even prayer experiences can be led from this area.
    • Side studio or secondary presentation area. This area may be close to the stage where additional elements of the night can occur. Think about the setup that most late-night talk shows utilize. This area can be where skits or dramas occur, interviews happen, or even worship on a smaller scale can be led. Secondary presentations areas add a variety and versatility to any Life Night or Edge Night.
    • LED Lighting System. It is incredible the difference that a few LED lights can make in your environment. LED lighting can change the entire mood or feeling of the night so much more than the ultra-white office overhead lights that are typically found in most buildings. LED lights are not only inexpensive but can be controlled by software downloaded to your computer. If this is out of your wheelhouse of gifts, ask any of your teens if they would be happy to set up, and run, a lighting system for you.
  2. Functionality:
    • Streaming Studio. Over this past year, most parishes were meeting through a digital format for teens to participate weekly. While we may hopefully be seeing an end to coronavirus in the coming future, the use of digital platforms is here to stay. Whether you record a lot of videos or stream them through Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, or even Zoom, there are a few things you may want to invest in to help you. This could include an Atem Mini (video switcher system), a good studio microphone, a few tripods for cameras and phones, and a ring light to provide simple studio-quality lighting.
    • Informal gathering area. While many of our updates and advances in our youth rooms may focus on utilizing technology, at the heart of what we do is relational ministry. Having a place to meet with teens, in small groups, or even one-on-one is very beneficial as they provide teens with a safe environment to meet. This space can even be used for Bible studies, small group breakouts, or even after school gatherings.
    • Phone charging station. One of the most common questions that I am asked when teens walk through the door of our youth room…’ do you have a phone charger?’ While there is this phenomenon of teens walking around with 5% left on their phones, we can help in this matter. Collect all the phone chargers you have at home from your past eight versions of the iPhone, plug them into a power strip, and you have yourself a charging station.
  3. Personality:
    • Theme art. Each year Life Teen takes an opportunity to focus on a specific theme. This theme can be utilized and referred back to throughout the year. Having custom-made art based on the theme can help you do this. While theme banners are nice, custom-made adaptations of that theme are even better.
    • Teen-created art pieces. There are some fantastic artists in your youth groups. Ask your artistic teens to create a painting and allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised at the result. Better yet, have them do the painting during a session while someone is speaking or even during praise and worship. Display these paintings and allow the collection to grow over the years.
    • Spiritual focus. Ultimately, all of our youth rooms need a focal point that reminds us who we are, whose we are, why we do what we do, and how we are being called to respond. This, of course, can be done utilizing a cross or crucifix, a tapestry, or even a painting (see #7).
    • Novelty machine. Yes, we still need to have fun, so feel free to add a popcorn maker, a coffee and espresso machine, a cotton candy maker, or even a snow-cone machine. Whatever it is, put it in a place that is accessible as it will become something to gather around every week.

As we take these next couple of months to refocus, regroup, and renew our ministries, give a little love, time, and attention to your youth rooms. These rooms, of course, are the places in which teens have the opportunity to encounter Christ, and they should be as memorable as that very moment in their faith!

Photo by Jesus Loves Austin on Unsplash