Hello! I have some really important news I’d like to share with you about the future of The Underground.
In 2004, The Underground was launched with the foundational mission to create a safe place for teenagers to experience the love of Christ through music and media. In the early days of the ministry, teens experienced this through awesome concerts by national and local bands at our state-of-the art concert venue and through a television show hosted by teenagers. These two vehicles provided an innovative, relevant, and Christ-centered entertainment alternative for teenagers. Through the years, tens of thousands of young people have come through our doors and have encountered some of the finest Christian artists in the country.
In addition to the countless teens that entered our front door, The Underground’s back door has been a gateway for hundreds of teen artists who have taken the stage to showcase their talents and to be mentored by faith-filled, caring adults. The Underground has been a launching pad for many artists who have gone on to gain national recognition.
We feel humbled and blessed to have influenced and impacted the lives of so many teens with the love and grace of God throughout the past 14 years!
The ever-changing teen dynamic, coupled with the pace of change in our society around technology and cutting edge trends, has required The Underground to adapt in order to remain relevant and meaningful to the youth of our city. How teens connect with each other and consume music and media has drastically shifted over the past 14 years…think Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Spotify.
As these shifts rapidly advanced, we were constantly asking ourselves how we needed to shift to stay engaged with the current youth culture. Much of the early shift was an expansion of our media offerings. Our media programs morphed from a weekly TV show and one (1) summer film camp in 2007, to a full-fledged film program that today is reaching students from elementary school to high school. About 40 former students have launched successful careers or entered a collegiate film program because of their time at The Underground. In 2017, over 400 students in six locations participated in the film program. The demand for these programs has been great and the potential opportunities are numerous.
These new technological and social changes also have had a profound impact on the music industry—in particular, the Christian music industry. How teens consume their music is focused less on concert venues and more on social media platforms. Furthermore, over the years, there have been fewer Christian artists to book that appeal to our target audience of teenagers.
These profound changes, along with other factors have, impacted one of the original core programs of The Underground: the weekend experience. The demand for the weekend concerts has diminished significantly over the past several years. The Underground experimented with additional weekend offerings by integrating more media into our programming, creating a more club like atmosphere and providing more “before and after” activities. None of these tactics were able to stem the tide away from the traditional concert venue draw.
While we were noticing and experiencing a diminishing excitement around weekend concerts, an enlivening energy and demand around media opportunities was blossoming, however. The time for the ministry to enter a new season was becoming very evident.
The book of Proverbs speaks of the importance of being aware of particular times and seasons. We must not fear allowing one season to end and allowing a new season to begin. We cannot stay stuck, attached to things that we have loved in the past, simply because those things were good or effective “back then.” If The Underground were to do this, we would become irrelevant and lose our privilege to impact and transform the lives of teenagers in our city.
Consequently, we have approached our future with much prayer and soul searching, along with diligent research and planning. And we are thrilled about the next chapter in the story of The Underground.
Along with the excitement about our new plans for a fruitful future is some sadness about a necessary change we must make: The Underground will cease weekend music programs and national concerts as of May 31.
I know that for many this announcement brings with it a sense of loss. I’ve been leading The Underground for over 12 years, and no one wanted to hold on to the weekend music experience more than me. Yet, God is calling us into a new season, built upon the foundation of the extraordinary programs and activities of the past.
The end of one season is at the very same time the beginning of another. The Underground will now invest 100% of its time and resources into a year-round, comprehensive Film School for teenagers. This investment represents a strategic extension of our mission to impact the world through storytelling.
The power of story is rooted in the Bible and is found in every sector of society. We want all students we touch to understand that each of them has a unique story. This unique story starts before birth, with God as the Author. Helping to facilitate a clear understanding of their story, The Underground will educate, empower and launch these teenage storytellers into the world, so that they can facilitate hope and change through God’s power and for His kingdom.
In this new season of ministry, we will provide access to every facet of media education to teenagers throughout Cincinnati and eventually throughout the Midwest. Just imagine the impact on our community and our world if we equipped and trained an army of powerful Kingdom storytellers!
We are grateful for the amazing life transformation that resulted from the music and the weekend experiences. We will always be grateful for the impact this programming had on the lives of untold numbers of students. However, we are now called to move forward with all of our energies and resources to reach teens where they are today.
I’m very grateful for everyone who has helped The Underground over the years in our extraordinary mission of impacting the lives of teens. Whether you were a volunteer, a parent, or a donor, you are the reason we have thrived for the past 14 years.
And you will continue to be the reason why we will thrive in this next chapter.