For a while now, I’ve wanted to make a youth group t-shirt that said just that when we went to a big youth event where there would likely be a bunch of youth groups with their own t-shirts. I wonder if people would get it. But, alas, we haven’t ever made that kind of t-shirt, for two reasons:
- We don’t go to many big events like that.
- I avoid youth group t-shirts if at all possible.
In my five years of youth ministry, we have never had a youth group t-shirt of any sort. Every now and then someone will suggest that we need a t-shirt for this or that, and I take it under advisement and see if anyone feels strongly enough about it to bring it up again or take the steps to actually make it happen. So far, no one has.
Now, I don’t think you are evil or have a bad youth group if you have t-shirts for your ministry (because that would include about every youth group in the country, it seems). I have just personally made a commitment to avoid expending any of my energy of youth group t-shirts for a few reasons:
- T-shirts are not important. You have to prioritize in ministry, right? “Keep the main thing the main thing,” they say. T-shirts do not fall into that category. The church has existed long enough without youth groups and churches having their own t-shirts.
- “They’re just t-shirts; it’s not that big of a deal.” I had one of my good friends say that to me one time after we had a conversation about why I didn’t do t-shirts. His point was that there wasn’t harm in doing them and that they weren’t “that big of a deal.” I agree that they aren’t a big deal, which is why I choose to go without them.
- T-shirts do not create identity. I’ve heard some people say t-shirts are a good way to provide cohesion and identity to a group. Maybe so, but that’s not the kind of identity I want to create in my group. First of all, if there is no other way we can think of to create identity within our ministries than to make a t-shirt, our time would be better spent trying to figure out a possible alternative. Second, we say that our identity is found in being children of God, so I try and put that into practice. You can’t teach a lesson on identity-in-Christ and then go and try to create identity-by-t-shirt.
- Some people can’t imagine youth ministry without t-shirts. If that is the case, then you should probably go without t-shirts for a while. There’s more to ministry than t-shirts. It’s possible to do youth ministry without t-shirts. I promise.
- I’ve made it this far. Part of the inspiration to keep going without a youth ministry shirt is that it’s already been five years without one. This wasn’t really a life goal that I had, but when I started thinking about it I realized that I’ve never had a shirt in any group I’ve worked with, and that seemed like a pretty significant streak. So now I’m trying to avoid them to keep my record going. Maybe a whole 30-year youth ministry career with no t-shirts? I bet it can be done.
Because of all the above, I really don’t care for t-shirts, so I’m not going to spend any of my time making them happen. If someone else thinks it is that important, someone else will take that project on. And if your group does the t-shirt thing, I don’t think less of you. But don’t tell me they are a necessity to ministry, because they just aren’t.
Has anyone else given up on youth group t-shirts? Or would there be a mutiny in your group if you didn’t have a t-shirt for your next mission trip?