believe-2014

In the interest of full disclosure, let me say this: I’m a fan of virtually every organization, event and effort that exists to minister to junior highers! If young teens are the focus of somebody’s efforts, then I’m probably a fan.

But there is one event that stands out from the rest. Christ in Youth’s Believe continues to be the premiere event for junior highers…and if you’ve never taken your group, I think it’s worth considering! Here are a few things that make Believe such a perfect event:

- Overall Quality: Production quality, quality of speakers, the way they treat leaders, etc. I’ve NEVER been to a more professionally run event for students. Never, ever.

- Junior High Intentionality: Believe is designed specifically for middle school/junior highers. Chad Monahan and the Believe Crew “get” junior highers, and have a deep desire to point them closer to Jesus.

- An Amazing Way to Recruit Leaders: Over the years, we’ve had numerous adults join our volunteer team on a permanent basis after Believe. Because it’s only 24 hours, it’s an easy “ask”…just about anybody can handle 24 hours with junior highers. But because it’s an intense 24 hours, people quickly decide whether or not ministering to this age group is a good fit. In other words, they discover that they love it or hate it! And I’ve been surprised at how many nervous leaders find out they actually LOVE the idea of serving in junior high ministry after spending the weekend at BELIEVE.

- Road Trip! Chances are there is a BELIEVE somewhere near you, but probably not super close. So the odds are you will be taking a 3-4 hour road trip which adds to the fun!

This year’s theme is “Upside Down” and over the course of 24 hours, students will take an up close look at the upside down nature of the Parables and Jesus’ desire to flip the way we look at the world around us. Below is a fun little video they’ve made to promote this year’s tour. If you are looking for a GREAT event for your junior highers, I hope you’ll consider BELIEVE.

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Youth workers, for the most part, are creatures of habit. We have a hard time admitting that, though, because we see ourselves as innovators, creatives and the ones leading the charge for change in the church. Those things may be true…but we are still, for the most part, creatures of habit. When we find something that “works”, we have a hard time letting go.

One case in point for our junior high and high school ministries: Outreach Events.

Our primary tool for evangelism and outreach has never been events; it’s been students being salt and light and eventually inviting their friends to church. But to assist that process we have always hosted one or two big outreach events each year, on Friday night. And we’ve done it this way for a long, long time because it has worked. Of course, “worked” depends on your definition. The big Friday night events worked in so much as they attracted tons of students, but very few of those students ever came back to church the following weekend (we have our primary youth meetings on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings). And by very few, I mean VERY few!

So this year we are trying something different (I wish I could say it was my idea): We are attaching all of our big outreach events to the Saturday night service instead of putting them on a separate night. The idea is that our students will invite a friend to church, then they will stick around for the activity. Pretty basic stuff, folks!

We’ve done this once or twice now, and here is what we’ve already discovered:
* Less first-time students show up to the event.
* But WAY more first-time students attend church as a result (actually, they attend church as a PREsult because church happens first).
* Families and students appreciate that it’s not another night out.
* The event can be “smaller” because it’s not a stand alone thing….expectations are less.
* We can do a few more of them a year because they are smaller and less elaborate.
* It makes for a really easy church invite. “Wanna come to church with me? And afterwards there’s gonna be a massive dodge-ball tournament!”

Revolutionary? no. Cutting Edge? Not even close. Worthy of a blog post? Barely. Effective for us? Totally!

So here’s a question that I’d love the readers to share with the rest of us: What is an “Easy Button” moment you’ve recently had…a simple change in some aspect of your ministry that yielded significant results?



Question-300x300As summer is quickly coming to an end and fall is quickly approaching, I like to think about how the events or programs I oversee can be better. I also like to brainstorm new ones. My goal is to learn from my failures with summer events, so I don’t repeat them in the fall. Through failure I’ve grown to love the planning process a lot more. Here are 7 questions I ask myself based off of events/programs that I didn’t think all the way through.

  1. What’s the purpose of the event/program? – Knowing the purpose of the event I’m planning helps me gauge my target audience. Not every student will want to come to a worship event or discipleship event. Knowing the purpose allows me to go all out on promotion that is specifically created with the purpose of the event in mind.  My goal is to reach those I’ve identified as my potential taget.
  2. Will students want to come? –  I have to be careful that I don’t plan something based on my own preference but I plan something that will be great and fun for students. I’ve pulled core students in on the planning just to get their perspective on an event or program.
  3. Is there opportunity for building relationships? – I think of this question in terms of student to student or leader to student. Of course there will be both going on but being intentional about which one best fits the event takes the event to the next level.  A lot of times I push students to our events so they can get connected, so I have to think about that during the planning process.
  4. Is there follow-up or next steps needed? – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed the opportunity to challenge students to take the next step or follow-up with them because I didn’t think it through beforehand. I’ve been thinking about helping students follow-up with friends that they bring to events. This is definitely a question you want to ask yourself.
  5. Should it cost and is it the right amount? - I’m always thinking is there a way not to charge. Sometimes it’s doable, like the park day we do where we provide lunch, but this is not always the case. Some events or programs have no budget and students have to pay, which is ok, as long as it’s the right price point which has been thought through. Parents will definitely appreciate this step.
  6. Where can we cut cost? – Again I’m thinking about budget and parents. Budget money is coming from people who believe in the God given mission of the church. I definitely want to care about where their money is going. So where can we save money is the question.
  7. How can we help students invite their friends? – Students are connected non-stop with their friends through social media and text. We’ve had great success using these mediums to help them invite their friends.  The goal is to be as creative as you can be.  If you’re not that creative get some of your students to help you.  They will love it and you will have potentially started a new ministry.

Now, I know there are more than just seven questions, so what else can we think about in the planning process to make it the best event/program ever?  Would love to hear your thoughts!!!

hope it helps

ac

Prayer Walk

Colton Harker —  May 31, 2013 — 1 Comment

Prayer Walk

With the school year coming to a close, we thought we would have one last big push for a campus outreach event. We decided to go out with a bang and do a multi-campus prayer walk! Prayer walks are one of my favorite things that we do! It is a completely student lead prayer event that takes place each school campus in our area at the same time. Here are a few reasons I’d push it for your ministry!

Student Leadership Opportunity! It is a great opportunity to give your students a chance to really own something. They are responsible for everything from promoting it to programming it. The cool thing about programming it is that a prayer walk can be done in a ton of different ways. Some schools have their students walk around the entire campus praying for specific teachers, student groups, etc. Some schools have a worship session at the beginning. And some schools even split off by grades and pray for each other! Prayer Walks allow student leaders to get creative with their events and experiment with some cool elements.

Adaptability! There are a ton of different occasions to put on a Prayer Walk. We just did ours because the school year is coming to an end. We prayed for things like graduating seniors and incoming freshmen. You could put them on right before the school year starts, right before finals season, right after a school tragedy, etc. You get to adapt the event to match what is happening in the student’s lives.

Fellowship! Prayer Walks have proven to be a great bonding time for our schools. We have our students promote it through all of the school clubs and push it to any Christians they know. Because of that, students get to be joining in prayer and ministry with students from other churches. Because we have the prayer walks on Sundays, students usually go out and grab lunch together after and just hang out, allowing them to get to know each other outside of school hours.

Is your ministry doing any prayer events? How do you do them?

Colton [Email||Twitter]



Freshmen Transition

Colton Harker —  April 3, 2013 — 3 Comments

It is hard to believe that the school year is almost over! That means that it is time to say goodbye to our seniors and hello to our new freshmen! This year, we want to take Freshmen transition to a new level, so we are getting a head start on what we are going to do and how we are going to do it.

The biggest transition piece we are doing is a not-so-new event called Freshmen Frenzy. It is something that we used to do years ago, but we let it rest for a while. Each year we did Frenzy differently and, keeping with tradition, we are completely rethinking how we are going to do it this year. We are already tossing around a few ideas that include the local high schools schools, student leaders, volunteers, videos (high school survival tips, etc.), and other fun/inclusive activities to make our freshmen feel known, loved, and welcome in our ministry.

We are so excited to be at the front end of planning, what could be, one of the most important events we throw all year! We can’t be the only ones rethinking freshmen transition. So here is the question:

What is your ministry doing to transition your incoming freshmen? What worked? What didn’t work? 

Colton [Email||Twitter]

Viral Marketing

Colton Harker —  February 27, 2013 — 4 Comments

A few months ago, we had a discussion about the effectiveness of on-stage announcements during our weekend services. It was the main way that we would push all of our events and upcoming opportunities. But we felt that students just weren’t listening to what we were saying up there and we questioned whether or not it was still the most effective way to communicate to our students. So we took a risk and cut all on-stage announcements and decided that we would only show 1-2 videos announcements per weekend. Of course that meant that the videos went to the big events like summer camp, small group launches, etc., and, unfortunately, left the smaller events without much spotlight.

This was a huge leap of faith and a total departure from what we were used to, but it was a risk worth taking. It forced us to get creative and try new things. So we started playing around with the idea of viral marketing. We studied things like the Invisible Children campaign and looked at the most practical elements we could adopt to our own ministry.

The genius behind viral marketing is that other people are doing the marketing for you. In youth ministry, that means students are pushing your events for you. And the best way to get students to go to things is them knowing that they will have friends there.

Last week, we threw our first event that was pushed solely through the use of social media and by the grace of God, it worked! We didn’t say a word about it during the weekend and our attendance at the event was just as good, if not better, than any event we pushed “the old fashioned way.” I thought I would share a few of the things we learned along the way:

-The Platforms. What social media are students using? For our students, they really like Facebook and they LOVE Instagram. So we focused on those two platforms and formed our strategy around that.

-The Material. The key to viral marketing is having sharable material that is interesting and straightforward. Sharable material works best when the sharer doesn’t have to write an explanation for your videos or graphics, they just have to repost them. For Instagram, we made an attention grabbing graphic with all of the information clearly presented. For Facebook, we made a video that was short, funny, and easy to follow.

-The Network. Viral marketing starts with a few people and branches big. Get as many students as you can to help you start. We went straight to our student leaders and other core students to help us start. A good thing to keep in mind is demographics. Make sure that every school is getting hit and every grade is getting hit.

-The Momentum. Space out your posts and keep a steady stream going from several different users. It can be really easy for viral marketing to lose steam after a day or two because everyone already posted it at once. Don’t let your campaign die early on!

 

How are you marketing your ministry’s events/announcements? What is working for you?

 

Colton [Email||Twitter]

 



For the better part of 2012, I met on and off with 3 other youth pastors to plan a huge New Year’s Eve party for the teens in our area. All of our ministries are mostly relational and relatively low “flash”, but we wanted to pull all the stops out on this one. Live DJ. Giveaways. The band ‘We As Human’ in concert. Midnight balloon drop. The works. I can’t tell you how many times I cast the vision to others in the community: “We want to start of 2013 focused on Christ”, “No one else is doing anything like this around here”, or even “I know where I was on New Year’s Eve when I was 17 and I don’t want our teens there either!”

 

Overall, the consensus among everyone involved was that it was a rousing success. Some things turned out better than expected and some worse…BUT, one thing stuck out to me as the defining moment of the night. And it wasn’t the band, DJ, or even the moment the clock struck twelve. After the band finished, I took about 5 minutes and shared the Gospel. I knew many of the kids there were saved and members of the various youth groups in attendance, but we always felt that this was a perfect time to share Christ with someone who may never set foot in our churches otherwise.

 

The next day, as I was sifting through the response cards, I found one in particular from a girl who had earlier sought me out to tell me she accepted Christ that night. This is what the card said:

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Her simple response totally re-calibrated how I evaluated that night. Even though I fought it the whole way, near the end I got lost in the logistics of throwing a bash like this and was rating it’s success on technical execution and attendance. As I reread her words, I felt God whisper a reminder into my gut: Our first priority is sharing the love of Jesus as effectively as we know how. Quite frankly, the rest can be swept up with the streamers.
Ben Suggs is the Minister to Teens at Freedom Family Church in Liberty, NC and you can follow him on Twitter here
-GS

I have a question that might bring us some interesting responses for you all today and it surrounds giving students a reward for bringing a friend or friends to an event. This is nothing new, whether a chocolate bar, a crisp picture of Honest Abe on a $5 bill, a discounted registration to an event or camp or as much as an iPad from a draw. Youth Pastors everywhere regularly and sincerely are rewarding students who invite their friends to an event.  So my question today is simply this:

Do you offer a reward / prize for students who bring someone new to youth and what is it? If you don’t why not? 

-Geoff @geoffcstewart