Whimsy is defined as something fanciful or unusual in a fun way. We remember whimsy. Whimsy is magical moments that become lifelong memories, things we want to share about on Instagram, tell our friends about, and what we look forward to for our next experience.
Whimsy is an art, you should be creating whimsy in the environment or experience of your youth group.
A few years ago, we went to Catalyst conference in Southern CA. It was the first Catalyst conference I had been to. I had gone to many other conferences in the past, and because of those conferences, I didn’t have very high expectations for this conference.
Now I am a loyal Catalyst follower, heck I’m not a follower, I am a fan… And you know why, not just because they provided great information and engaging speakers, which they did, but because they worked whimsy into every piece they could.
There were free camel rides as we waited for registration to end. A cereal bar with fruit loops, cocoa puffs and lucky charms, all the cereals that we typically reserve for children. At lunch, the lawn area was filled with cozy lawn chairs, hammocks, giant connect four and corn hole and food trucks for days, one of which was called The Greasy Wiener!... THE GREASY WEINER AT A CHRISTAIN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE?! How joyfully rebellious!
Catalyst made moments that were out of the ordinary. Moments that brought joy, moments I wanted more of, and moments I wanted to share with others. I’ve been to a handful of Catalyst conferences since, and I joyfully wait for the magic moments they create each time.
The same thing happens at Disney Land, grandma’s house, and all of the areas we hold precious in our hearts.
Many people shy from whimsy because they are so focused on the goals or outcome they miss the details. They can’t see the trees through the forest. Others shy from whimsy in fear that it will be distracting.
Whimsy isn’t distracting, it’s enriching. Corny is distracting. You’ve seen whimsy fail and end up corny, it was probably painful to watch or experience. Don’t be corny, and if you find yourself corny fess up to it, and try again.
You should add whimsy because it creates moments that your students look forward too. Whimsy makes moments that they want to share with their peers in life and on social media. Whimsy helps us create a shared experience and bond.
Many of your students are probably just coming back from summer camp, they’ll talk about camp to anyone that will listen for the next few weeks. They’ll share about when their cabin leader dared them to eat a live goldfish, or they pranked the person in the bunk next to them for the rest of their lives. When next summer comes they’ll be the biggest advertisement for camp because they experienced whimsy and in that, they grew closer to others and grew closer to God.
How to add whimsy
Disney has an employee guideline called Take 5/Magic Moments. These encourage all Disney “Cast Members” or park employees to take 5 minutes to make a magical moment for a guest. Each morning a child is chosen to officially open the park for everyone eagerly waiting, what a memory. Mickey or another character may stop to lift the spirits of a guest that is in the middle of a temper tantrum. Or a cast member at a ride my sneak you a hint about a secret detail on the ride.
One time a Cast Member told me and my husband the best place to wait to watch Fantasmic at the end of the night. He let us in on the little secret that though the view is blocked right now, before the show start the giant equipment currently in the way moves and you have a beautiful view of the show, without the crowd of people all around you!
All cast members are consistently looking for ways to make the guests feel special, feel noticed, and feel cared for. Your staff and volunteers can do this at every youth ministry event. Your students are waiting to be noticed, longing to feel special, and eager to feel like they’re a part of something or in on a secret. Equip your team to make these magical moments possible.
One day at Axiom I noticed one of our students was really looking down. It seemed her normal excitement and positive attitude had been drained from her. I asked if there was anything she needed and she asked if I had any candy, I did, so I gave her a piece. Well, actually I had a whole bag of individually wrapped candy. I set a timer on my phone and every three minutes I brought her another piece of candy. To the point that she had so much candy to had to give it to others. Her mind was blown every time I walked over and gave her another piece of candy that seemed to have just shown up from nowhere. She was back to normal excited and cheerful because I had noticed her and did something out of the ordinary to make her feel special.
As the leader, you should also be looking for ways to incorporate whimsy into the experience of your volunteers and staff. The more you do, the more fuel they will have to have whimsy for your students. The best way to fuel your team with whimsy is to ask yourself... A.R.E you? A.R.E. stands for appreciation, recognitions, and encouragement. Are you consistently providing appreciation, are you recognizing them when they add value and are you encouraging them?
You already know that working in youth ministry is hard, and sometimes we forget that its hard on our team too. Provide opportunities for appreciation, recognition, and encouragement formally and informally throughout the year. Make a system for yourself to do it weekly or daily and keep to it.
The last key to whimsy is being attuned to the Holy Spirit. God is so full of love and whimsy and his desire is for you to be too. Pay attention to the whimsy God is displaying throughout the universe. Look for it, embrace it, and cherish it. The better you are at doing that the better you will be at creating your own whimsy.
First, go out and experience whimsy in your life. Turn your phone off and enjoy the outdoors, or visit Disneyland, go skydiving or do something out of your ordinary for yourself. Then do something out of the ordinary for someone you love.
Catalyst – check out their full or 1 day conferences, podcasts, and other media.
Creating Magic- 10 Common Sense Strategies from a Life at Disney by Lee Crockerell