For the most part, when I write something about youth ministry it is field-tested. I have done it…it worked. I have done it…don’t ever do it. I have done it…check out these scars. One of the ideas floating around in the old noggin that I have never done and I don’t know if it will work is … wait for it…seasons passes.

Allow me to explain: we live in a CostCo world. If I can’t buy 12 of something at a discounted rate then I don’t want any of them. I love the idea of warehouse stores so much that I bought my wedding ring at CostCo. (Longer story for another day) What if we were to sell season passes to our youth ministry with some of the same mentality? It would work something like this. We do 10-20 events throughout the year that cost different amounts.

    Winter Camp-$200
    Summer Camp-$500
    Connecting Event (Broomball)-$10
    Connecting Event (Road Rally)-$25
    Mission Trip-$100

…you get the point. If you were to plan your entire calendar for the year and figure out the cost for a family to send a student to everything you would come up with a grand total. Assuming the above 5 events were the only things my ministry was doing it would cost a student $835 to attend all of them.

What if you offered a 20% (or whatever you could afford as a ministry) discount on the cost of all of the events, and if a parent spends $668 they could go to all of the events for a 20% discounted rate?

The reasons I think I am on to something:

Who doesn’t love a discount? More for less is a good thing.
Forces you to plan (and stick to) your events for the year. I am 6 months into a new job at a new ministry. This will probably not happen for a year or two until I am sure of what works and what doesn’t.

There is a group of students who are bought into an event before you even start to plan for it. Once you have paid for something there is a willingness to go to it. You don’t want to waste the season pass. So you can assume most of the students who bought the pass will be at any given event. If not then you can be disappointed about their absences with a little extra money in your pocket.

You have some seed money for start of the year costs. All of our deposits are due at the same time and I put our accounting offices into a panic every September. If your budget was front-loaded by some extra incoming cash, they might not break into a cold sweat every time they saw you coming.

You can allow payment plans. Take the cost of your season pass and divide it by 12 or a little less after a deposit and then families can budget it on a monthly basis.

This one is a slippery slope…You could give some discounts or other privileges with the pass. Discounts on shirts, books, or other things you sell. Maybe front of the bus (or back) seating. Like I said, this one could get a little dangerous but just a thought. As mentioned, this is in the beta phase of genius, so I would love your thoughts or why you don’t think it would work. Maybe you have already tried it and you have some evidence one way or the other. Would love to see a discussion in the comments!

Jeff Bachman is the High School Pastor at Rock Harbor Church just up the road in Irvine, CA. Feel free to leave comments or email him at jbachman@rockharbor.org and of course subscribe to his blog The Until Matters.

A while back I was in Costco Warehouse store [read: Sam's Club] for lunch and to stare at the display of magical flat screens that call my name when I walk in. Josh … you NEED a 75″ 3D cinema display…

After drooling over for the TVs for a while I like to head toward the food area, largely because of the incredible amounts of free samples they give out. They allow you to get a taste, see if you like it or the product speaks to you, and encourage you to buy it and then heat it up for dinner. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – either way it is a good experience and one that I began to think about over the next few days that translates to our youth ministry philosophy.

Youth Group is the sample
The purpose of our large group meetings is to expose students to the Gospel of Jesus and encourage them to see a step they could take in their spiritual life. The message is neither shallow nor deep – it is a sample of the whole counsel of God designed to push them forward i their relationship with Christ whether they are a devoted follower or even hearing about Jesus for the very first time.

Small Group is where pick up the package and inspect it
The large group is designed to give students a taste of what Jesus is all about. Small groups are the next step where students begin to experience Christian community and are surrounded by changed lives and an adult mentor. Small groups are the place for questions, doubts, fears and decisions.

Individual Life is taking it to the checkout and making it your own
Our desire that a student sampled who Jesus is in a safe, relevant way during our weekend services. We’ve challenged them to inspect their faith and examine their lives in community and study the scriptures together. Now we want them to own their faith, that they would grow on their own and express their faith well into adulthood with Jesus. They serve on mission trips, follow Christ’s example in baptism and have a walk with Jesus that is their own.

Costco wants you to sample, inspect and own. We want our students to expose, experience and express.

JG