Is Your Youth Ministry Stuck Thinking Like Blockbuster?

Blockbuster refused to change with the needs of consumers. Don’t make the same mistake with your youth.

My family and I were on vacation a little while back and I saw what I hadn’t seen in years: a Blockbuster Video store. I was shocked and amazed at what I saw as we drove down the highway. Our hotel was close, so before we left the town I made sure to stop by. I had a lot of questions for the store owner; how did you survive? What are sales like now? Do you stream movies from this store to stay competitive? And I had more.

However, when I got closer to the store, I realized that it wasn’t a real Blockbuster store. Instead this Blockbuster store had closed like the all of the others and in it’s place was a person selling artwork in the store. This person didn’t take down the sign but all of the movies were gone. Blockbuster as I remember it was the place to go for all of your movie and video game needs. They didn’t change with the times and instead were lost and now left behind. This made me think about youth ministry. Could we become like Blockbuster, if we aren’t careful?

The simple answer is yes, we can become Blockbuster if we don’t watch out for the things that they didn’t notice: 1) Change in the times 2) Change in the needs of those we serve. Blockbuster missed the cues that they were given and it cost them everything. It is my prayer that as a church we won’t miss our cues.

1. There was a change in times. Blockbuster didn’t realize the change in times and the shift in technology from VHS (Google that if you’re in your 20s) to DVD and then to streaming. It didn’t make sense to them that the industry could change that quickly with all that was invested in VHS and DVDs.

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In youth ministry, we have to also ask ourselves when was the last time we thought about the change in times. When was the last time you thought about the change in the period of time that the students you serve live in? What are they using now to communicate and read that they weren’t using before? If most of the students now don’t have physical Bibles to read, does it make sense to either get them some that work for them or to begin to use an App or online Bible where they can take notes and grow?

The question is how are you looking to shift the ministry so it can change and grow with the student instead of growing against the students and the times they live in?

2. There was also a change in the needs of consumers that Blockbuster didn’t realize or listen to. People no longer needed to come out to the store to see what the latest movies were that they could rent. People also didn’t need to use the equipment that Blockbuster spent millions of dollars investing in.

Instead of evolving with the changing needs, Blockbuster decided to stay the same, and that proved to be unfavorable for them. As a church and youth ministry, we have to acknowledge the change in the needs of our students. Yes, our students will always need Christ, even if they won’t accept or be honest about this need. However, the way they go about fulfilling this need has changed. Students now, as many of us have witnessed, have a need for connection but have found ways to fulfill this need without being in the same physical place as those they are connecting with.

Are we still expecting that everything done on behalf of the ministry and God has to happen at the church? Are we still expecting that every student will have to serve in the choir or be an usher/greeter and join a Sunday School class in order to get involved? If these are still our assumptions then we are off base and closer to Blockbuster than we think.

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We need to reimagine our youth ministry and how we meet the needs of the students we’re called to serve. What kind of ministry opportunities can we provide on their school campus? How can you engage them online through Snapchat or whatever tool they consistently use now? How can your youth ministry meet the changing needs with the love and focus of Christ?

Blockbuster missed several cues on changes that cost them their existence. The question for us is can we acknowledge the changes in our community and in the families and students that we serve so that we don’t become Blockbuster? We don’t want to become just a building that represents what used to be. We don’t want to become a place full of memories instead of a place that still makes an impact in the community we are called to. Remember that Blockbuster was all over. They made an impact on each community—that is until they stopped listening to the needs and the changes in those communities.

What can you shift and change today that will assist you as you serve the families and students in your church better?

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