Often in churches the youth room is converted space. Meaning that it was a Sunday school room, office, parish hall, basement etc. that has been made into the youth room. But, just because the youth room is an afterthought does not mean that a youth minister can’t do some good things with it. So here are my tips for having a good youth room:
1. Keep the youth room clean.
Youth can be a tornado of messiness and destruction. This does not mean that the youth room should reflect their way of being during this stage in their life. Part of the youth minister’s job is providing a welcoming, hospitable space. This means it should be cleaned regularly. I like to have the youth straighten it up at the end of the meeting. I also try to have quarterly cleaning sessions on the weekend. My motto is don’t be afraid to get rid of stuff that hasn’t been used in years.
2. Have decent couches.
Youth are often given couches by generous members of the congregation. Usually these members are upgrading and want to donate their old couches to the youth ministry. It is a great idea to accept these couches, but as one professor in seminary always hammered into my head, “Only a gift is a gift.” If the couches are in poor shape, sag, and need major repairs they are not really a gift; they are a passed on problem. Graciously decline these couches. This means you will have to look at them, before they are delivered to the church.
3. Plan the blueprint of the room.
I am a big fan of having a “play” space and a “sacred” space. I tend to design youth rooms with all of the play equipment (ping-pong, pool, air-hockey) on one side of the room, while the couches or sitting area are on the other side of the room. I have yet to be a leader of a church where the space was so big all of the play equipment could be on the outskirts of the room. I think that having separate areas and a clearly delineated time for “activities” and the “lesson” help the youth transition better for a “sacred” time. Remember sight lines in your layout. If you have a huge picture window that faces a street and there’s a lot of activity on the street, it’s probably best not to put the couches in that direction.
4. Have the youth remodeled every other year.
I like to have the youth remodel the inside of the youth room every other year. This usually means that we clean it out, paint it, and put up new posters/photos. If I find a configuration that I really like, I will usually keep it. But there are times when I move the layout and am surprised at how much better it is. When you remodel remember to put up lot’s of photos of youth group activities. New youth can walk along the walls and see what you’ve done and it is a reminder of the events to the youth who went on them.
5. Get a 5 gallon water cooler.
This was one of the best things I did early on in a youth ministry. I bought a water cooler that dispensed both hot and cold water. On hot days the youth could have cold water and on cold days they could make hot chocolate. Something as simple as a water cooler with water makes the room 100 times more hospitable.
What are your suggestions for making a good youth room?