Youthful Thinking: Taking Youth Into Account

By Mark Smith, June 23, 2015

Young people are our future—that’s why many faith-based groups have a youth component to their organization. Often, adult leadership is responsible for programming, and the youth program is patterned after the adult program. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Ultimately, the adult leadership should approve the program, but input from young participants is imperative. I learned this when helping to plan the Gospel Music Workshop of America’s annual convention years ago. Our team of adults quickly realized soliciting the ideas of the youth department’s leadership for programming was essential to the success of the events. For years we gave the kids a scaled-down version of the adult program and didn’t have a clue that younger people held the key to attracting and retaining attendance for their events.

Younger generations now expect their opinions to be considered in decisions that pertain to them. I found using their ideas for programming and entertainment, while remaining within the parameters of what is permissible by the organization, was crucial. Here are a few more items not to overlook in planning for adolescents:

1. Design the program for specific age groups. Organizations typically use a liberal definition in determining youth, with ages often ranging from preschool-age to late 20s or early 30s. Developing programming for smaller, targeted groups should be the goal.

2. Accept that logistics will differ from adult programs. Date, time, location and cost are key components. Does the day and time make sense for the age group? Will the location provide accessibility while being cost-effective? Additionally, there will be varying needs of adult supervision depending on the age group. Will hired security and security measures (like a sign-in/sign-out log) need to be implemented? Don’t forget participation waivers releasing the organization from liability and injury, as well as proper insurance coverage.

3. Market the event to each audience. Young people communicate differently than adults, so we must reach them in the manner they are most comfortable with to not only get their attention, but also motivate them to attend the event.

Mark Smith, CMP is a meetings manager for Rejuvenate Marketplace, produced by Collinson Media & Events. Read more of his columns here.

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