Ahhh summer.  In ministry it’s filled with camps, trips and exhaustion.  In the world of my children it’s filled with more flexibility, days at the beach,  and of course camps. School starts for us in a week or so.  While I am looking forward to a “schedule” again, this time of year makes me feel more inadequate than every other time of the year combined.  As I read articles on how to “engage” us parents this Fall, I thought I would throw out some helpful hints from the Mom of three in JH and one in college.

Give Me Time
(And A Little Grace Too)

I am so thankful that you have calendars, planning and notices for me.  If you are offering “vision casting,” for the year even better.  While you are doing this, I am trying to get my feet under me as we return to the Fall and all that means.  Everyday involves pick up from soccer practice, football, and guitar lessons on top of school projects that are broken into “teams,” staying on top of homework being finished, the house not falling apart, dinner being made and eaten, and the “regular” stuff that never goes away. (I didn’t even mention we are in full time ministry too.)   I am getting voice and e-mails  along with texts from the school daily about another “need to know.”  I have had 400 papers shoved in front of me in the first 3 days of school.  I care, I am overwhelmed by re acclimating to a schedule that I don’t control.


Don’t Ask Me For Money

For three “at home:”

School Supplies: $400 (Why does every teacher require a “special” binder?”)  Uniforms/School Clothes:  $600  (This is with two pairs of pants and 3 shirts each.)   Shoes: AT LEAST $50 a pair if not more. (Once they hit “grown up” sizes all bets were off.) Sports Fees: $100 – $300 per sport (This does not include the “extra” money I am asked/required to bring for raffles, team snacks, new cleats and pictures.)  School Field Trips: $50- $60 per kid  (Thanks for starting the year off “right.”) The youth pastor not immediately asking for a deposit for the “Fall Retreat:”  Priceless. ( Please note “Only $150 per kid” is actually $450 for some of us BEFORE we ask which child wants to “sit this one out.”)   I have not even factored in the gas it takes to drive my children all over or regular “life expenses.”   It’s not that I “don’t care,”  I can’t give what I don’t have, at this point this includes time (see above.)  Notice I didn’t even touch the college student…


Before You Judge

I admit it, we can be “that parent.”   I am trying desperately to keep up with everything. It’s not fair, but the 15 different ways you communicate with me are helpful. AND I KNOW BETTER!!  If you have single parents, divorced parents, kids in Foster Care,  ask before you decide “the parent has just checked out”  My husband and I partner together in everything, plus I am always trying to push closer to Jesus.  AND  I feel like I am an abject failure most of the time.  We probably won’t offer it up, but if you genuinely ask, “What can I do to help?” we might not take you up the offer.  However, just offering makes it better.

In the end I am not asking for you to make a “special exception” for my child.  I am just reminding you that the unfortunate truth is youth group does not have the luxury of getting my single focus. We need you as a partner with us on this crazy journey with our kids.  My children need you as another Christ focused role model in their lives.

If you just give me until November I will have the Fall figured out, just in time to start looking at Basketball, Cheer and Christmas-  Oh and the Spring Retreat and next summer’s missions trip

Weekend Teaching Series:  I Am __________ (series premiere, week 1 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: Shut up and be a gossip-stopper.

Service Length: 74 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we kicked off our big fall series – this is a critical time of year to capture students who are starting off the year right in church and making a real effort to attend. This year we’re doing a series called I Am Blank and filling in the blank every weekend with a typical mistake/problem area/blind-spot of the Christian life. This week the message focused on gossip and it was super interesting to prepare this week being hyper-sensitive to the topic. It seemed like everywhere I went there was gossip! It made for lots of illustrations and reminders of just how much we need to stop gossip and slander it it’s tracks.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This week we had a fun but simple game – our version of 2 Truths and a Life with students using their cell phones (and polleverywhere.com) to vote on which as the lie. It was a fun game and the prize was a Twinkie Shower from the balcony – lots of fun, even though it probably isn’t wise to sugar everyone up right before you ask them to listen to the talk for 30 minutes. Lots of energy in youth group this week – KILLBALL was after the 6:30 and as always it didn’t disappoint. Although my team, the Deep V’s, came in 2nd which was frustrating.

Music Playlist: Dancing Generation, Here For You, Child of God, How He Loves, Your Love is Strong

Favorite Moment: LOVED hearing Hannah (from our team) share her story of gossip in high school – it was crucial to bring all of the points of the message together. It took a lot of strength to dig through your past and then share a big failure with a bunch of students it is a BIG deal. It was absolutely perfect and I’m so proud of her. Really made the message come to life.

Up next: I Am _____________ (week 2 of 3)

We used this video last weekend for our fall kickoff – the original idea was the place amazing guitar music behind Travis’ epic pretend tunes, but the original soundtrack proved too perfect not to use. Fun!


Weekend Teaching Series:  HSM’s Back to School Fall Kickoff (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence: A challenge to each class as we kickoff the new school year together in HSM.

Service Length: 87 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend I wanted to challenge each of the different high school classes (freshman, sophomore, junior and senior) with a specific message and verse. I encouraged everyone to listen to the whole thing – but specifically called out students to walk through the challenges of each year faithfully to God. 2 student speakers joined me in teaching the weekend – Jenna is a freshman who did a great job talking about the transition to high school and her hopes and dreams – Bryce is a senior at a different school who talked about the challenges he faced throughout his high school experience and his goals for his last year in school. At the end of each section, students could sign up for class-specific text messages sent to them once a month until Christmas, reminding them of the passages we studied and the challenge given out to each class. All in all it was a fun service with what I hope was a very powerful message.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend we went all out – big videos, big music opener, big giveaways, big game. Everything about Fall Kickoff was big – and so much fun! We did a ping pong ball game where everyone had a chance to win a game, then the top 2 contestants got to face off in Veloci-copter, a hilarious game we invented as well. Strong, over the top program for sure!

Music Playlist: Gangham Style [cover opener], Yours Forever, We Are Free, Love Came Down, Avalanche

Favorite Moment: So many great moments – it would have to be the whole thing. Fall kickoff is in my mind where I cement the commitment for the year ahead. I love the energy, fun, craziness and opportunity a new school year brings. Here we go!

Up next: I Am _____________ (series premiere, week 1 of 3)

Fun video we played during the countdown of our Fall Kickoff weekend services.


Kickoff for the fall, there is nothing like it.  Everyone is focused on getting plugged in, connected, signed up and registered.  The summer dreams have come to an end, school is back in session and the thought, “Here we go again.” races through your mind.

For some of us the beginning of the year stresses us out and for others it excites us.  There is so much to do, so much to get done and then BOOM! The year starts and we are off.  It’s like a marathon where the anticipation before the race is killer; however, once you get moving you settle down.

Kickoff is a season that can race by; however, it’s also a season that needs to be embraced.  On top of fun memories of moon bounces and wild games, it’s really a season when you can strengthen your foundation.  It’s a season when you need to:

Recruit New Ministers – The best time to recruit other ministers is when the program is in full swing.  That way potential volunteers can:

  1. See the program in action.
  2. Talk to actively serving ministers
  3. Ask questions they might not have known to ask if inquiring during the summer

When you recruit new ministers right after kickoff you’ll have a positive excitement that will be contagious.

Invite More Teens – It makes sense to invite someone to an event before it happens; however, your ministry isn’t an event.  While you want to build up hype and momentum before the program begins you’ll want to put more afterwards.  By continuously inviting teens to your program your creating an open enrollment feeling.  So many times we give up on a class or a program because we miss the first session.  Ministry should be treated like any relationship, where you can step in at any time.

Build Margin – Once the year begins we feel our margin slip away; however, there is no better time.  You should be letting your leaders loose, let them fail, succeed and problem solve.  As the point person you should be able to take a step back, observe and take in the experience.  As soon as the year gets going, slow down and find that pace because it’s going to be a long year.

Kickoff is not the end of summer and it isn’t just the beginning of your ministry year.  It’s a mile marker that you should utilize to grow stronger.  Look for the opportunities in every situation and continue to move forward.

What other opportunities do you see during kickoff?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

Here’s HSM Fall calendar – we handed them out this weekend bundled along with a few promo cards for Pumpkinfest and our weekend services. Our hope is that students will keep the calendar and hand out the cards to their friends and invite them the church.

The calendar is a simple and clear design – we are only doing a few events so the focus is on on-going programs like our weekend services and Life Groups.


This is such an exciting time of the year and if you have a lot of Youth Pastor friends on Facebook or Twitter, its so encouraging to read all the status updates and tweets leading up to the fall launch.

For our team, it’s been a fall of thorough and over the top intentionality with our students and potential students. Each week last year we collected information on every new student / guest and kept a record of it, and last week we called every student on our roster, every guest, every camp follow up we were given. It took a total of 12 man-hours to do, but the benefit was a 70% increase in attendance at our fall launch compared to last year. As much of a challenge as it is to call all those students I cannot say I am surprised at the outcome, since I know so many students just want to know that they are valued and wanted. A phone call is many times more powerful and meaningful than a text or FB, so if you have the resources to do it, I would encourage you to.

The other half of our strategy for this fall was to try and make it easier for our students to invite a friend out. I was trying to avoid an action packed promo video full of our best-of highlights, to me that would equate to a bait and switch leaving new comers disappointed that it wasn’t always crazy fun. We thought instead to do something that our high school students could post on Facebook, twitter etc, that was an invitation to our group. Its not a promo, not a best of, nor is it funny, but a sincere appeal to non-Christian students in our area to come be a part of what is happening. I am stoked about how it turned out, and I cannot wait to see what God is going to do with it.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.