Youth Group Shirt Philosopy

If you go to a concert with your kids (for a band they love), odds are they will buy an over-priced t-shirt. It says “something cool happened here and I want to remember it.” Sure, the band makes extra money on the shirt, but they also use them to build loyalty in their fans and to reach out to new ones. When a student wears that t-shirt to school, he or she is making a series of powerful identity statements: “I am proud of where I have been,” “This is what I like,” and “You can ask me about this group.” Why are we not as wise as the world when it comes to building community in a youth group and supporting identity formation with our teens?

Now, lots of shirts are horrible and they can be over-used. I doubt I would get a generic “youth group” shirt; too much like a uniform for working at Wendy’s. But when the church, the parents, the youth workers, and I have significantly invested in the kind of ministry event or activity that we hope brings about life change, a t-shirt is a low-cost way to extend in both individual and group memory.

What do you do to build a youth group identity? How do you reinforce the sense of belonging in tangible ways? What do you use as markers of significant experiences in the life of your group or individuals?