A post by guest blogger, Niki Brodeur, M.Div. '11, youth ministry at First Presbyterian Church of Pittsford, N.Y.
When I was younger I remember seeing a commercial for Staples office supplies. You might have seen it too. Chris Marquette dances around the aisles with two moping children while “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” plays overhead. I used to despise that commercial. Not anymore. Back to school time for our ministry equals kids returning from summer camps, family vacations, and cottages. And although the church program year gets crazy-busy pretty quickly for all of us in ministry, there are a few things that I believe we can all keep in mind and be doing before it goes into full-on excitement.
I take a day each week to pray for a particular grade of youth in our church, including their families. On the seventh day, I pray for our adult volunteers. It keeps your ministry in focus on the people God has called you to serve.
2. Use mid-late August to your advantage.
Many families tend to go away in the beginning of August because most camps/mission trips are over by then; which means that by mid-August, you have a bunch of bored teenagers sitting around at home. Plan an event to culminate the end of summer and get kids geared up for the start of the school year! And tell them to invite their friends! Need a few ideas? Trip to an amusement park, scavenger hunt, head to one of the lakes, laser tag, a picnic in the park … you get the idea!
3. Put a lot of effort into September events/Sunday school/youth group.
We should be putting forth our best efforts for ministry all year, but September is pretty important. For all of those kids who are just showing up at youth group for the first time ever, teens transitioning into high school, and new kids on the block, this is where we make our first impressions. If what they get is lackluster, has the appearance of “just thrown together,” or doesn’t ring of honesty, those kids will sniff out the falseness within moments of entering your youth room. And probably won’t return.
4. Clean House.
This goes for everything. Take some of your “down time” to go through old youth group plans, games, Sunday school lessons, and events. What isn’t working? What’s not helping to accomplish the goals of your ministry? Toss it. Go through your Sunday school rooms and youth
rooms. Clean out the old stuff. Put new stuff on the bulletin boards. Add some pizzazz with paint, glittery borders, and pictures of your group being together. Check your roster and update it. Who’s moved? Who’s graduated? Start the year with a clean feeling.
5. Pray some more.
I think as ministers, it can be easy for us to forget the importance of prayer in our daily lives. Prayer is how we stay connected in our relationship to Jesus Christ. If we aren’t connected, then we’re not allowing God to fully use us in ministry to others. So pray. A lot.
Youth ministry leaders, what are some of your back-to-school tips?