I like to hype things that I believe in. When I first saw Space Jam in theaters in 6th grade, I was BLOWN AWAY. It was the best movie ever (Bill Murray was brilliant), with the best soundtrack ever. And I hyped it so hard. I mean, so hard that I brought my boombox to school with my Space Jam Soundtrack tape (I had the CD too, but I kept it at home so it wouldn’t get scratched) so that we could all listen to it at recess. And I didn’t even like basketball. Space Jam was something I loved so much that I couldn’t help but spread the word. Truth is, it wasn’t about Space Jam, the brand. It was about the experience it provided.

If you’ve grown up in or been around youth ministry for long enough, you’ve probably heard the “HYPE” word plenty of times. And 9 out of 10 times it was probably used with a negative tone. People would say things like, It’s all just a bunch of hype… there’s no real substance or discipleship happening there… blah blah blah…” I mean, I get it. And there’s some truth to it. I’ve been to many churches and youth ministries where, if you were to remove all of the special attractions, there wasn’t really much else going on.

But before we throw it all out and say, “HYPE IS BAD,” I think we need to take a closer look to see if it’s really the hype that is bad, or if the hype is simply covering up the deeper issue: a shallow program where nothing deeper is really happening (If that’s you, don’t stop the hype, just change what you hype). I think at times we look from a distance and see hype – social media posts, promos, incentives, special guest speakers, etc – and we automatically make the judgment that it’s shallow, fake and useless. This is wrong, and I’ve been guilty of it.

See, I grew up in and around youth ministry my whole life, so I knew the right way to do it, and the youth groups that were doing it different were all wrong. Especially YoungLife. I couldn’t stand YoungLife. From my perspective, it was all surface, popular kids, shallow, fake, no real change. However, these opinions weren’t formed from firsthand experience, but by what I saw from a distance. I would get invited by other students, but always turned it down because it was too “fake.” I would get flyers for events, see leaders at lunches, hear about crazy games and the fact that they didn’t have worship, and how it gathered people who didn’t know God (imagine that)… It wasn’t until 6+ years later, with Bible College and a couple years of youth ministry under my belt, that I was invited to come and see what was happening at a local WyldLife club, a middle school version of YoungLife. My perspective changed. These adults deeply cared about these kids that were coming through their doors, many of whom had no dads, didn’t know God, were being bullied at school, etc. They were coming to a place that made sense to them, met them where they were at, and was fun. Week after week they’d open up more and more to Jesus. I began to see the reason for the hype. All of the Facebook events, flyers, tweets, giveaways – they were all to compel people to come so that they could hear the Good News about Jesus. That’s what it’s all about! Since then MANY have come to know Christ for the first time and are still serving him today.

Hype isn’t the goal. Growth isn’t the goal. Attention isn’t the goal. People meeting Jesus is. The hype turns negative when it becomes the end-goal in and of itself, where you have to one-up yourself every week to keep people coming… That’s lame. But if it’s something you genuinely believe in, where you’re seeing lasting fruit come from it, DO IT. Just keep the main thing the main thing.

Hey, you could always just change it to an acronym… HYPE = Helping Youth Prepare for Eternity or Holy Young People Evangelizing or How You Persevere to the End. #cool #hype #relevant