By Julian Molina
Renovation projects in the church context are never easy, but they feel especially complicated if you are a student pastor, renovating your student space. Attempting to renovate ANYTHING will take several “committee meetings” while juggling the day-to-day responsibilities of running a ministry, but if you are committed to changing your space, you must keep your eye on the prize.
So as a student minister in the Methodist church, here is my story:
Our student room was called: “The Youth Lounge”. The Youth Lounge was a long room that contained:
- a 4 by 8 foot stage in the MIDDLE of the room.
- beat up kitchen cabinets with dozens of expired peanut butter jars.
- old, non-functional TVs with no remote.
- a dozen paintings of the last supper.
- stained carpet that could be interpreted for UFO carpet circles.
- painted walls that could be the set for a 1980s TV show.
Not only did this room need a serious cleaning but it needed a major renovation.
My first priority was to clean and sanitize this student space NOW. After a “bring-your-broom-to-church night”, we started cleaning and tossing out things like crazy. We had a garage sale that was more of a Christian finders keepers game. If you saw it, then the Lord wanted you to have it!
After cleaning, I wanted to redesign our student space, and it was going to cost an estimated $80,000. As I shared my vision for an $80,000 room, everyone thought I was crazy!
Over and over I heard:
“You are dreaming way too big”
“Getting your students’ hopes up and not coming through will just disappointment them”
“A project like this takes years”
” Let’s face it– renovating this Youth Lounge is just impossible”
Now, like many student pastors, if you tell me I CAN’T do something, I am going to do everything in my power to make it happen!
After one anonymous donor gave $6,000 toward our project, I was able to convince our church committee that we could do this! Sitting through several finance meetings, I received the approval to begin a three month campaign to raise the funds for our project. Wait, what?! That’s right, we had three months to raise $80,000, and I responded with what any student minister would have said, “Thank you so much. Now, who wants to be the first to donate toward this project?”
No exaggeration, many donations were made that night from members of the committee. It took us two and a half months to raise the money we needed through donations and pledges from Sunday school classes, college students, and members of the church.
I was overwhelmed with the immediate response and UNITY of the church to make “The Warehouse” (our newly named student space) possible.
There may be times that you also begin to listen to the chatter and criticisms around you, but continue to share your ideas, visions and passion. There are people in your church who believe in you and will embrace your vision even if others vocally (and constantly) doubt you.
Here are some guidelines that I found helpful when rebuilding, redesigning and renovating:
- Recruit student leaders and workers: Find your student leaders within the group. Get them excited about the vision and plans of your new student room and ask them to participate by helping clean, prepare and renovate the room. They can also pull in their friends to help!
- Develop a support team: Find your spiritual and financial supporters and get them involved with the goals you have set for the new space. Build a team that listens, supports and isn’t afraid to give you some constructive criticism. Remember, you are there to do the dirty work, but it’s impossible to accomplish a project without the unity of a team of supporters. This support team functions as your cabinet of trusted individuals who help you keep the ball rolling.
- Find time to keep growing spiritually: I am going to warn you: Undertaking this renovation project is a lot of tough and tiring work. So it is really important to make time for refilling your spiritual tank.
- Designing a room for THEM: It makes no sense to recreate a room with an environment that doesn’t fit the personality of all your students. So keep asking your trusted and committed students about what they want in their room. Make sure to run so of the plans by them. Bottom line constantly pray and remind yourself that it’s not about your personal taste. It’s about them.
Throughout the project, I had to keep reminding myself of why I was committed to renovating our student room. I strongly believe that if we created an irresistible environment, we have a better chance for students, new and old, to have a relationship with God and others. It really is all about relationships. You cannot force group chemistry, but you can create an environment that invites and encourages interaction and relational time well spent.
Director of Youth & Young Adults Asbury United Methodist Church
My name is Julian Molina, I’m Trilingual (English, Español, Catalán) I love baseball, golf, traveling and a good snowboarding session. I have been in Youth Ministry for 12+ yrs. I’ve been preaching since I was 7 yrs. old. I have spoken in several leadership conferences, radio stations, local television stations, summer camps. I am currently the Youth & Young Adult Minister for Asbury UMC in Little Rock Arkansas. My specialty is redesigning youth rooms and helping churches build vibrant youth programs that create solid and lasting leadership.
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