It started out simple enough. My second daughter was turning 5, and loved playing with her “My Little Pony” toys. She also really enjoyed riding horses, but that had only happened once or twice at a fair or a church lawn fete. When her grandparents asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she responded “A pony!” She meant a “My Little Pony.” But my parents want so much to spoil and make a huge deal out of their grandchildren, that that wasn’t good enough.
There was a bit of awkwardness at the birthday party for Faith, which was being held at her grandparents’ house. The party, which was being held in the backyard, began at 1PM and by 2:30 we were being ushered inside. My father kept looking down the street and trying to get everyone inside – something was definitely up. Up pulled a trailer with a bunch of animals, and out came a pony!
My parents literally brought a pony to their house for their granddaughter’s birthday. (Note: she didn’t get to keep it, but she and her sisters got to all take turns riding on it.) This happened 4 years ago, and it is still talked about today at family events – it was a moment that my parents decided to think outside the norm, think a little bigger, and make a real memory.
That opportunity lays before us at our parishes all the time – but too often we are stuck in routines, or afraid to take the risk. We’re afraid of spending a little more than we planned for that kick-off or that Christmas break all-nighter-of-awesomeness . . . but maybe if we got a little more creative and were willing to go big – Go big or go home! – (and tighten the belt on the pizza budget maybe?) we can make that kick-off or that all-nighter or that retreat first night activity the talked of the year – where grads are still talking about the awesome sumo-wrestling night or that huge bounce-house-sprinkler-pool-combo-water-war or whatever you can think of.
As you plan your fun social event for Christmas break coming up, or your New Year’s blast-off – think big – think creative – talk it up huge – take no prisoners, and go for the win in your youth ministry. It’ll make your event the talk of the parish and the talk of the local high school. To do that, it takes some guts and big thinking, and some creative budget wrangling, or maybe inspire the the Core to work together on building something awesome – but it will be worth it. Not for the event itself that you pull off – but for the residue effect of that event.
If you do pull off something huge and talked about – you will draw more and more teens – you will draw more commitment from the teens there – and you will have the opportunity share the our faith with a growing community over time. Say yes to those big ideas, and have the courage to follow through.