Caine’s Arcade: An illustration of what youth and children’s workers do

By now, you may be familiar with the Huffingtonpost story on “Caine’s Arcade.”  It’s the story of a super talented boy who build an intricate and spell-binding cardboard arcade at his father’s business.    Few noticed.  Until a filmmaker Nirvan Mullick spotted it and put the video online.  Nirvan also decided that a $1 per person donation would help Caine take his obvious engineering intellect to a proper college.  Over $65,000 later (and growing..  follow @CainesArcade), that seems to be a reality for Caine.

Well, the story is better told through that video:



I want you to think about the posture of the filmmaker.  He discovered Caine’s story and then celebrated Caine’s God-given talent.

Compare that to the posture of many youth and children’s workers.  We work hard to get kids to come to our events, to conform to our standards, and even to admire our talent (or leadership).  Some of us work hard through social media to get recognition among other youth workers.  While the youth and children in our ministries are actually participating for us to recognize them! 

Even more critical to ask ourselves:  How many kids like Caine exist in our community who aren’t interested in coming to one of our events, but they are amazing people and need us to encourage them?

I am thinking of the youth workers whose attendance is meh and the teens barely interested.  What if they didn’t focus on trying to make their program more attractive so that more kids would come, but instead invested that energy in making short movies about the talented kids in their youth ministry?  What if the group went out to find other youth in their community, each of who already is talented in his or her unique way?  WHO gave them those gifts?

What if we lived out our youth ministry so that each teen could say, “That made my day!”?

I’d like to discuss that actually because I have some ideas as to why we don’t do that often enough. I’d like to hear yours.

Caine’s Arcade reminds me of the talk Kenda Creasy Dean gave at the National Youth Workers Convention in 2011 where she shared the video of a surprise wedding reception.  She closed by saying, “This is what the Church should be doing!”   I look at what Nirvan’s video of Caine and think has done  the same:  This is what youth workers,  and what children’s workers, need to be doing.  We need to return to the missional heritage of youth ministry and adopt (again!) a youth-oriented approach to what we’re doing.

Sounds like a “sending” ministry posture to me.  Sounds pretty biblical. Sounds like what Jesus did.

What is one practice you could adopt this year that would reinvigorate your ministry to reach out to teens in your community?