For the past few weeks I have been trying to wrap my head around this question: “How can our Student Ministry reach more students?” We have several middle schools and high schools in our area… that means that there are thousands of students in our area. MOST of those students do not have a student ministry (or even a church… might I add) that they call theirs. We have a larger student ministry (for our area) but are not even scratching the surface when it comes to reaching those middle school and high school students for Jesus. So this question has been nagging me over the past few years… and in an even bigger way over the last few months… “How can we reach THOSE students?”
After racking my brain to answer that question… I came up with a 4 point strategy that I think could be BIG for our ministry moving forward. Now… these are not specific programs or events that are going to be the silver bullet in solving the mystery of getting kids to show up (that doesn’t exist… BTW) These are general principles that I think if implemented well… could be a game changer for our ministry. And not only will these principles help us PLAN ministry better… they will help us EVALUATE ministry better. So… here they are:
1. EVENTS that are FUN & FREE.
In our middle school ministry… we stumbled upon something with the rhythm of our events and the type of events that actually caused some GREAT momentum in our ministry. The event had to fit 3 categories: 1) it had to fall in the regular rhythm of a middle schooler’s life (we picked a Sunday night because that is when they meet anyway… so it wasn’t asking another night out from a family) 2) It had to be fun (oriented toward the age group of the students) & 3) It had to be FREE. Free events eliminate the barrier for some families and students. It is also an easier ask for a student to their friends if $$$ is not involved. Now… It’s not free to everyone (because our budget pays for it) so we had to plan ahead in how we set up our budget for the year. We saw how successful that strategy was for our middle school students… so this upcoming year we are going to go after our High School Ministry with the same strategy.
2. PROGRAMS that are EXCELLENT & IRRESISTIBLE.
Almost every Sunday night during the school year we have our middle school and high school programs going on. We have found that if we want to gain momentum with students and KEEP that momentum… then our programs need to be EXCELLENT (done very well and thought through… not thrown together) and they need to be IRRESISTIBLE. We want our students walking away from our programs and talking about it with their friends during the week. We want them posting pictures of it on social media. Students talk about stuff they VALUE… so, it goes to reason, if students aren’t talking about it or posting about it online… do they really value it?
3. TOPICS that are ENGAGING & HELPFUL.
We evaluate everything that we teach. Two of the main questions that I ask when I evaluate my own teaching or when my interns teach are: “Was the message engaging to middle school or high school students?” & “Was the message helpful to middle school or high school students?” I want to know that our students LEANED IN, LISTENED INTENTLY, and LEFT WITH SOMETHING TO DO. When we plan out what we are going to teach during a school year… we think through the same grid… but on the front end. We ask: “what is going to engage a middle school or high school student?”, “What do we think is important for them to learn from the scriptures this year in their lives?” & “How are these topics helpful in navigating middle school or high school life for them?”
4. SERVING PROJECTS that are INSPIRING & MEANINGFUL.
One of the biggest things that seems to reach students is when you get them involved in a project that serves someone else. There is just something about a serving project that is FUN and INSPIRING for a student. They get to work side by side with their friends… and they feel like they are making a difference. Every student wants to know that they were a part of something bigger than just themselves… and when they serve, they connect with that feeling. This is why I like to use the word MEANINGFUL when I think about serving projects. Because we want students to look back fondly on the times they served others and realize that God used them for something big in the life of someone else.
Those are the four strategy principles that will guide our 2016-2017 growth plan… but the biggest strategy behind all of this isn’t a strategy at all. We are going to PRAY LIKE CRAZY! Because it doesn’t really matter how amazing our strategies are or how well thought out our plans are… if God isn’t in it, it’s all pointless.
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. – Proverbs 19:21