Fast food restaurants know how to manipulate the teen brain in order to sell burgers and fries. Do we sometimes resort to the very same tactics in youth ministry?
In my latest essay at Patheos.com entitled "Fast Food Youth Ministry," I consider the connection between fast food marketing and the ways in which we market church to teens:
Perhaps it's not surprising that our fast food restaurants long ago discovered that the quickest way to a teen's heart is not through her stomach but through her brain. We can just chalk it up to good business and savvy marketing. But I sometimes wonder if the Church uses these same tactics in a way that undermines our own efforts to offer teens an authentic, transparent, and mature experience of the gospel.
Case in point: How often in youth ministry do we attempt to lure youth into our churches with those things the brain craves? Yes, there is the requisite junk food—the pizza and chicken nuggets and chips and soda heaped on tables at just about every youth gathering. If it works for the fast food joints, why shouldn't we use it, too? But of course we don't stop there. We intuitively know that the brain craves novelty and distraction and so we throw in promises of entertainment as a way to entice teens.