Yesterday was launched our most ambitious April Fools joke yet: iLifeTeen. What is iLifeTeen? This is what we wrote:
Our next Life Support shipment will be the last box you get as a Life Teen parish. Inside, you’ll find a coupon for our store to get your iLifeTeen iPod or iPhone–your choice. Also, the box will have your username and password for our new Apple / Life Teen joint venture, iLifeTeen.com. Now, everything you love about the box, is available on the iLifeTeen iPhone and iPod Touch. All the Life Night PDFs, videos, and even a semester’s worth of our Lifeteen.com podcasts are included in the iLifeTeen Edition. Simply plug in your iLifeTeen iPod, open iTunes, and hit Sync. Three times a year, the newest Life Teen content will be delivered right to you. (You can see the the whole joke here: iLifeTeen.com)
Those of you who’ve been around for a while will know that our joke in 2003 and then again in 2005 was that we had changed the name of our ministry from Life Teen to Teen Life. (I know it’s dorky that we recycled an April Fools joke, but we were really busy in 2005 with an all new website.) The prank was most believable in 2003 because we changed the logos on the whole site to read “Teen Life”, and we posted a new logo to the old Youth Ministers section for people to download.
Later that day, I called my mom and asked her if she’d seen what I had done to the website and asked what she thought. I wanted her to tell me how clever I was, but apparently she didn’t realize it was a joke. She affirmed me in the direction: “I think Teen Life is a much better name. I’m glad you all changed.” When I told her it was an April Fools joke, she replied, “Oh shoot.” The conversation was too awkward to continue, so I told her I loved her and said goodbye.
Why We Did It
One of the seven Core Values of Life Teen is joy. This means we need to be happy people who laugh. Christianity cannot be reduced to “just feel good and be happy”, but we also cannot reduce Christianity to a lifestyle of lifeless sincerity. Nobody wants to be around a Christian that is serious all the time. You need a balance.
As a youth minister, April Fools day should be marked on your calendar just like holy days, Life Nights, and retreats. Think about it. For a teenager, getting pranked on April 1st is awesome because it makes them feel cool. The more elaborate and well-thought-out the prank is–the better. It puts them at the center of attention. And what teen doesn’t like attention?
How to Do It Right
Here’s some practical advice on how to how to do a good April Fool’s joke:
- Don’t exploit someone. Teenagers are fragile. It’s okay to have fun with them, but they should never feel like you are taking advantage of them to make others laugh.
- Believability. A good April Fools prank should have an air of believability. I wouldn’t suggest that you tell the kids in your youth group that you’re going to tryout to play in the NBA.
- Don’t be lazy. There’s nothing more pathetic than a lazy April Fools joke. My friend works at a locally-owned coffee shop. Two years ago, they told customers that their coffee shop had been purchased by Starbucks. This worked out okay, but most people didn’t believe it. They quit playing the joke after the first hour because the customers were irritated.Then last year, they covered up their logo on the door with a Starbucks logo, and posted a brief explanation on the wall so people could read it while they waited in line. To top it all off, each employee wore a green Starbucks apron. It was a huge success! Customers lingered around the store all morning just to watch the shock on people’s faces.
So there you have it. Next year, I’d love to hear what each of you did bring some laughter into your youth group.