I see scads of small church youth ministry on an annual basis. I love them. I love the leaders. I love the students. I also am blessed to work with some of the larger student ministries in my little circle here in the midwest. I love them too. I pray for them on a regular basis. The thoughts below are geared to those who are regularly serving in a church with 150 less people (though they may apply to any size student ministry leadership). One of the largest churches I know has a motto of “thinking like a small church.” It’s because relationships are key to any ministry. To the small church ministry leaders: don’t get mezmorized or star struck with larger churches – be who God has called you to be, where you are, now. A church of any size is equipped with everything they need to be extraodinary in the kingdom. Grow your student ministry on the strength you inherently have as part of a smaller intergenerational congregation. Here are 12 simple ideas:
- Take pictures of each kid and the ministry events and post them on a student ministry facebook page. Also, to connect the congregation at all levels, display the pictures to create an old fashioned bulletin board in the church.
- Include the words, “new students welcome” or some variation of this on any posters, bulletin announcements or letters you send out. This helps your own group understand their mission and ministry.
- Invite several adults to go on the summer mission trip. One of the pitfalls of many segmented churches is that once a student graduates from “youth group” all opportunities for going to serve in mission ceases. Work toward a goal of half and half.
- Instead of reserving an expensive retreat center, have your retreat in a motel – save money, go swimming, grow in faith, and have fun! Or open your living room up for discussion. This needs to be at specific times and not general. Some students with whom you don’t have a strong relationship will only respond to a structured time and purpose for attending.
- Involve youth in morning worship – ushers, sound guys, doing drama, singing, reading scripture, etc. This builds strong leadership and is one of the best perks for being connected to a smaller congregation.
- Prayer partners between youth. Maybe just for the week. Or just the week of final exams. Students may not be in the mode to commit to a semester or a year. Keep it bite sized.
- Send hand written notes of encouragement to the entire group on a regular basis
- Build a tradition of an 11th and 12th trip each year. Help the younger ones look forward to going when they get to be juniors and seniors. Or maybe, depending on the season your church is in, have a special once a month breakfast meeting (or weekly if it works) with upperclassmen in your group and their friends.
- Invite another student ministry to connect with you for a special event or evening.
- Connect with kids via text. And then probably consider getting unlimited texting on your phone.
- Think big. However it was you got involved as a volunteer or staff student ministry leader – this is your role! In a real sense, you are all they have! Lead well. Invite the church to join you in all the ways you can.
- Don’t assume everyone knows about the times, the changes in the schedule or the location of your event. Send out reminders. Send out an email or text. Connect with parents, even through a simple postcard or letter. Clear, concise and consistent communication isn’t reserved for the larger churches – it’s for everyone. It can create and build momentum and will give a great impression in your ministry.