by Hayne Steen
What is your favorite “secret sauce” from a special restaurant you enjoy?
You know what I mean: You are eating with friends at PF Chang’s. Your waiter appears and offers their special blend of a spicy/hot/zesty sauce for your meal. Or, you are sitting in the drive-through line at your local Chik-Fil-A ordering the #1 chicken sandwich meal with an extra large sweet tea. We are all very aware that it’s the secret sauce that keeps us coming back for more.
There is even a web site dedicated to helping us to replicate the secret sauce from our favorite dives. [Click Here for Secret Sauces]
But what is the secret sauce in your student ministry? If you were to poll the students in your ministry and ask them what keeps them coming back, what might they say? That would be a fun and risky experiment. We might discover that our secret sauce is not all so secret after all.
First, what would YOU say it is? Small groups? Worship? Incredible teaching? Missions? Outreach events? Media and technology? Lights and sound? Relevance?
The list could be endless. Any secret sauce is a blend of special ingredients that are carefully mixed together with just the right amount of potency - not too bitter, too salty, nor too sweet.
There is always a team of people behind the scenes who are working hard to make sure that the entire experience is a tremendous value, so that when the secret sauce collides with your taste buds there is a clear connection between the great service and the joy on your palate.
Is the secret sauce in your ministry even really a sauce? Is it an ethos of loving Jesus for all He is worth and moving authentically into intentional relationships with the teenagers within your influence? When we build a team of passionate and called people who love to deliberately place themselves in the presence of teenagers we are whipping up a batch of the most lethal secret sauce known to man. This is the stuff revivals are made of.
Bible studies, worship experiences, mission trips and outreach events will flow from a well of relationship where students will not only invite other students to your ministry, but they will be embedded as missionaries who know how to whip up a secret sauce that whets THEIR friends’ appetites to see and savor Jesus as well.
When we talk about SEEING and SAVORING Jesus at our network in Chattanooga - we know that He is far more than a sauce or recipe. He is actually the entire meal.
Why does this even matter? Because knowing what draws students into your ministry is one key to knowing what motivates their hearts and minds. You might think numbers are up because you are putting two more hours of effort into your weekly message. Kids might say they are coming more often and bringing their friends because of the student testimonies you added or because you serve the cheapest pizza in town.
You may want to create some ways of finding out what motivates them by fashioning a questionnaire. Or, have a "confession booth" where you get every kid to share - either alone or in small groups of 2-3 - why they are part of your youth ministry.
Putting a camera on people has a dynamic power to capture truth in concentrated form. A friend of mine used to work for a national fast food restaurant chain as an anonymous shopper. He could eat all the free chicken he wanted and then he would anonymously rate the service, asking other customers what brought them in that day. He would often tell me the things people shared. Many would say that location played a huge role in their choice, along with the cleanliness and health of the meal. Good service was always mentioned as well.
Have you ever considered asking your students and parents what the secret sauce is that keeps them coming back? Have you ever given them an opportunity to speak into the process and evaluate the service? If not, you may want to consider trying some creative and redemptive ways to learn what is really motivating your "customers."
It may not mean that you overhaul everything. But it will help you get insider marketing tips for keeping the ones who are coming, and reaching new students and families by accentuating your strengths. It will help you identify the strengths that your target audience is responding to.
The goal is to get students to the table so that they might truly dine on the most delicious meal of all. It's better than chicken!