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.

Fun night trying a new outreach event – lots of new students at church tonight. Part capture the flag part first person shooter, got a bunch of kinks to work out but students had a good time!

JG



Do we really need to wear nametags at youth group? We’re in the middle of refocusing on them right now in HSM so I say yes and here’s why:

  • Nametags say: you want to be introduced
  • Nametags say: everyone is equal
  • Nametages say: bring friends
  • Nametags say: I’m a leader
  • Nametags say: you can ask me a question
  • Nametags say: I know where the restrooms are
  • Nametags say: you expect people not to know you

What do you say about nametags?

JG

I am not sure how we didn’t figure this out sooner, but after a few years of following up with new students to our ministry we never really had any sort of overwhelming response to what seemed like pretty intentional follow-up. We would call students, asked if they enjoyed coming to our group, asked if they had come with someone and always very cordially ended those conversations with something to the effect of “we hope to see you Thursday.” Nothing exciting, a simple phrase, which was true, that we did hope to see them out at youth.

What we didn’t realize until this year, that the wording of that was fairly non-committal for us, and for them. In response to this we have removed several commonly used statements that we often used when speaking to students on the phone, or in person. They include:

  • Hope to see you at youth group!
  • We would love to see you at youth!
  • You should come out this week!
  • It would be great if you could make it out this week!

The Facebook generation has pushed us into non-committal “maybe” type people and all those phrases can potentially elicit a maybe and since we didn’t expect an answer they could forget it all together. So we have changed how we speak to students and have replaced those statements with one simple question that we use before hanging up the phone or saying goodbye:

“Will you be at youth this week?”

It’s a question and not a statement and it opens doors for us to be better leaders. Firstly it requires and answer and thus commitment. If the answer is yes, of course we are delighted and look forward to seeing them. But if the answer is no, or a maybe, it allows for us to dig in and find out why? It is through these follow up questions where we can find out what is really going on. It could be school work, tests, family challenges or any number of things, and knowing the reasons allows us to be able to offer prayer to our students and support them even when they can’t attend.

Statements don’t often elicit honest answers, but questions can. I am not sure if the students have even noticed the change, but as leaders the change had had significant implications in our attendance and retention of new students. We follow up weekly with all guests to the program and simply ask if they are going to come this week. That invitation says a lot to a student and being asked to come back is a powerful statement.

This shift is minor, but the results have been significant. Try making “The Ask” when communicating with students; you might be surprised by the results.

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.



Twitter and Facebook have become regular and prominent parts of being involved in youth ministry. I didn’t really get the purpose of Twitter at first, but once someone described it to me as:

“Facebook is for connecting with people you went to highschool with and Twitter is for connecting with the people you wish you went to highschool with.”

I have a hard time disagreeing with this claim, but it doesn’t resolve my wrestle with the role that Facebook and Twitter can and should play in my ministry life. I follow some pretty bright minds on Twitter and some fall into the Twitness category: sharing verses that challenge me and quoting Charles Spurgeon, amongst others, to provoke thought. There are some that share leadership strategies and thoughts, some promoting themselves and others who tweet about their lives, the vacations, family happenings, funny things they see, etc. My tension is that it is still not clear to me what role twitter and facebook should play in ministry. The two paradigms I regularly see people align with are:

Twitness: I find much of what I would consider twitness type content on Twitter to be very encouraging and helpful to me as a Pastor and a Christian. It’s great to read the thoughts and feelings of others and hear about what they are reading or learning. But my dilemma is — who is my audience? My twitter followers are a mixed bag of friends, students, youth pastors, youth workers, Christians, non-Christians and Atheists. We are called to make disciples, but I just don’t know if reciting scripture and tweeting assertions of God’s sovereignty is the way that I can accomplish that. It’s not that I don’t see value in this style, but I wonder if it’s having the desired effect that the writer intends.

Transparent: This is the direction that I tend to lean towards; not because it’s easier, but because the biggest impact on my leadership has been people who I have seen living out their faith in all aspects of their lives. I love the idea of my life being open to my students, leaders and friends. That they can see the way I live, the way I love and honor my wife and family, my love of Christ and the things that I value. My desire has always been to model a Christ like lifestyle that is real and attainable. I want my students, friends, colleagues and congregation to know who I am, what I stand for, and what I care about. Perhaps this is not for everyone, but I don’t always understand why some keep a guard on being transparent.

So if you were looking for a definitive answer, you came to the wrong place, but perhaps you have some thoughts on where you land on this. At this point, I am not ready to be a full on Twitness because I am not sure where I am going to land on the spectrum, trying to strike a balance between investing in my students, friends, and congregation with wisdom and scripture, and allowing my life and ministry to be a true reflection of myself and my walk with Christ.

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.

Evangelism is a scary word because so many of us believe we have to have a memorized plan or speech, we must preach to the crowds of people, or we must have a flashy and trendy way of presenting the Gospel message. We have taken the word evangelism and associated it with something difficult to do. In reality, evangelism is a lifestyle. It is simply how we live our lives. The truth is we evangelize daily. We point people towards Christ or away from Christ on a daily basis simply from how we live our lives.

I once heard someone say, “You will never talk to your friends about Jesus until you have talked to Jesus about your friends”. This statement has stuck with me over the years and has helped me remind myself and my students that the best evangelism is friendship evangelism. Our best witnessing efforts will happen with those whom we share real life with on a daily basis. Friendship Evangelism simply means “caring” for people. Someone once said, “The best evangelism takes place in a context of mutual trust and respect. It takes place between friends.”

In the context of student ministry I see students struggle with how to do evangelism. We strive to help shape their everyday choices to simply following Christ’s example. Christ lived and breathed evangelism. He took every day situations and taught truth from them. We want our students to realize that every bus ride, every lunch break, every classroom discussion, every practice or rehearsal are all opportunities to point their friends to Jesus.

We also believe that God calls us to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Because of that calling our student ministry goes on international missions as well as domestic missions. However, over the years I have noticed students willing to fly to other countries to share Christ but struggling to share Christ locally and domestically. Because of this mindset, we are now in our second year of the following strategic plan to help students create a healthy and biblical mindset of missions:

First we offer what we call Outreach Saturday Projects (OSP). These projects rang from yard work to nursing homes, to cleaning local school campuses, and everything in between. We leave our church campus and serve in our local community. Students who desire to go on our domestic or international trips are required to attend a percentage of these OSP’s.

Secondly we offer our Spring Break Mission Trip. This is usually a three to five day trip during their spring break where we go and serve domestically. Right now we are in our second year of partnering with the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes where we go and serve on location with them for our trip. This trip serves two purposes: first it forces students to make a sacrifice. They must sacrifice the beach and hanging out with friends in order to serve those less fortunate. Secondly, it allows me the chance to see them in action on the mission field dealing with changes, team work, etc. Any students who desire to travel internationally with us are required to first attend a spring break trip. They are only required to attend once but many students are already signing up for another trip simply because they understand the biblical purpose for the trip.

Lastly, we offer an international mission trip in the summer. This trip is usually seven to ten days in length and will be in a third world country. We are in a partnership with Guatemala for the next two years and thus we will travel to this country together. This trip is the climax for a student’s mission experience. They will be exposed to things they have never seen, they will see God work in mighty ways, and they will be used by Him in ways they could never imagine. They leave this trip understanding what it means to share Christ with the poor, hungry, and orphans. They will return home with a new outlook on life and because we have a strategic plan to take students from serving locally to serving internationally we have seen students truly understanding the biblical mindset behind the reason we go and serve. This in turn also helps in students living for Jesus and accomplishing the friendship evangelism in their everyday lives.

Jeff Dye is the Minister of Students at Northcliffe Baptist Church. Follow him on Twitter here!



The Life Book was a sponsor of the Simply Youth Ministry Podcast the other week – I had never even heard of it before but was totally impressed by the book and the movement. If you want free books (essentially Bibles) for every student in your youth group, and potentially even enough for the surrounding high school students – check out their website today. Awesome mission and awesome vision.

JG

Next weekend we finish up a series we’ve done 3 years running called You Own the Weekend. In fact, we added a 6th week by popular demand – that’s how exciting this series has been. It is one of the biggest series we do every year (beaten only by our kickoff weekend and the sex series) and has become a staple in HSM’s culture.

The idea is that each high school gets their own weekend to run from start to finish – they do everything from the message to the videos, testimonies and bits. Each school starts a Facebook group and has an adult mentor, but no adults take the stage at any time for the entire month. How crazy is that?

Here’s why it totally works:

Students get involved in ministry
More students get a taste of ministry during this month than any other time of the year. Students step up and there’s a positive peer pressure on them to be a part of what is going on. There’s something for everyone – from greeting, decorating, videos – even speaking!

Students bring their friends
Without a doubt this is the most evangelistic series we have – teenagers bring their friends to something they are a part of. You Own the Weekend captures school spirit and gives students an easier opportunity than normal to bring their friends. Every student from every school gets an invitation to church.

Parents show up
I’m amazed at the number of parents who attend a weekend service during You Own the Weekend. They love seeing their kids doing ministry, not just watching it. Parents leave with a better idea of what the high school ministry is about and infectious in spreading a positive word to others when they leave.

One fun byproduct of the series is that it allows students to see just how challenging it is to create a youth group every week. They appreciate sermon prep, great videos, awesome stories or a funny bit way more in the future.

JG