fall

 

 

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

The fall is one of our favorite times in our youth ministry. Summer is over and everyone gets ready to go back to school. And in our ministry — it also means “back to church” (we have church during the summer but attendance is much, much lower)!

As our regulars interact with their friends from school, something awesome starts to happen — it seems like the same pattern every year – they start bringing them to church! The fall seems to bring tons of opportunities for friendship evangelism and a boost of momentum. It doesn’t happen automatically, we’ve worked to create this kind of culture. How do you build this type of culture in your student ministry? Here are some ways that work for us:

Have a “fall kickoff” weekend
Our goal is that every youth service is safe for non-believing students — we always include an element of fun and an understandable message. But for fall kickoff we go all out – bigger and better than normal — and most certainly will include a clear Gospel presentation. Last year we handed out a bunch of youth group branded school supplies for our students to share with their friends as the school year started. They turned out to be fantastic conversation starters!

Host a big event right at the top of the school year
Every fall, our high school ministry hosts Pumpkinfest, a massive outreach event at the end of October, and our junior high ministry runs an event called The 3 ( $3, 3rd Friday of the month, 3 hours)! We honestly don’t do too much outside of youth group in the fall — these are it! And for us, they pay off big time. A great activity will get people taking in the schools and on Facebook. You’re not into activities and events? You don’t have a budget or space to accommodate something like that? No problem! The principle isn’t “do something big and crazy”, but rather “do something different and creative…something that builds some momentum as you head into the fall”

Pray about it!
This is the season that sets the tone for the entire year for us. A great start gets us off and running through Christmas. We are sure to cover it in prayer and ask God to do something life-changing. This one doesn’t go without saying … we need to be reminded that we serve and do our part, but the real work is up to Him.

Make sure the next step is clear
With the natural momentum of the fall in youth group, make sure your students know the next step in your discipleship process. For us it is small groups, so not a week goes by without us talking about, promoting, showing a video or texting about getting in a group. Want to start the fall out right? Don’t be satisfied with entry-level ministry alone…challenge students to take the next step!

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.



This week we snuck away for the afternoon to take a stab at creating the first draft of our fall youth ministry calendar. There were lots of laughs and some good ideas for what’s next for HSM. Here’s a few things that were running around in my head yesterday, and am thinking about as I continue to process the stuff we came up with for our students:

Kill the sacred cows.
Each year, everything is on the chopping block. Annual events are fun and I totally love and support traditions, but have to be careful they don’t become something doesn’t becomes untouchable. Sacred cows haunt the halls of too many churches, this will not be one of them. Nothing is sacred. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when someone offers up one of my favorites to be sacrificed, but I have to be willing to put a bullet in it.

Effective is what matters most.
This ties in pretty closely with the first principle, but what matters more is not size, buzz or fun. Those things do matter and certainly play into our decisions – but what matters most is whether the event we are putting on the calendar is effective. If a discipleship class is bombing, don’t get rid of discipleship, just search for a way to do discipleship that is more effective. If an evangelistic event is huge but isn’t bringing students to Christ and/or back to church, why bother with it? Put aside personal feelings and inferior measurements and talk about effectiveness.

Know your unique strengths, identity and culture.
Here’s a few of ours that help shape what we do: the fall has natural momentum with the launch of small groups and the launch of our weekend services. Fun after-service events have been way more effective than separate night our events. We are an evangelistic-leaning ministry (trying to balance the biblical purposes). If you know where you’re leading your youth ministry and have a firm grip on your strengths and specific culture, it will help you guide the planning session accordingly.

Last years successes can be this years successes … or failures.
Don’t change for the sake of change – but realize what worked last year may not work again. Copying the previous year may seem like a good idea (and it just might be) but be careful not to get too comfortable in the same path because they easily turn into ruts. Surrounding your past, present and future plans in prayer and asking God to guide you into your future is always a good plan.

I wrote 5 Steps to Calendar on Purpose a couple years ago … might also be helpful. What else?

JG