Starting at a new church is scary, exciting and motivating all at the same time. You want to exceed expectations, you want to make a good first impression and lets be honest you just want the students, their families and everyone else to like you. There are 7 ways to make sure the first three months at a new church set you up a great tenure.
2. Plan Something Can’t Miss
In the first 3 months do some creative planning on a big event, get away or amazing night. This is an opportunity to let everyone know that you value fun and fun is a common language everyone can understand. Leverage resources from your church, go all out, make it something your students want to bring their friends to, etc. Color War, black lights, food trucks, giant foam slip n slide, water wars, mess fest, there are great ideas out there, find out what your students would love and blow it up!!
3. Create Opportunities for Parents to Meet & Get To Know You
When you start, get dates on the calendar to invite parents to a meet and great. Parents need to trust who is leading their children. The more parents know you, the more trust they will give you, the more opportunities you will have for influence. Ask parents to lunch, coffee, over to your home, to the church for dessert, anything to get in front of them.
4. Every Student Matters
The tendency will be to connect with the students that are easy to connect with. That is low hanging fruit. Seriously, go after those students for sure. The students that are on the fringe and on the fringe for a reason. Make sure the fringe students know that you care about them just as much as the core kids. If you do this, you will see some of those kids become more involved because they know you care. People over programs is a good rule to have. If you can spend time with students, you can find time to respond to emails later.
5. Engage With The Rest Of The Church Staff
The staff you are on needs you to value what they do just as much as you want them to value what you do. The best thing you can do when you start is to sit down with each department and ask what ways you can serve them are. If they know you have their back right off the bat, they will go to battle with you when the time comes. Ministries within the church can’t function effectively if they are off on their own. Make sure your ministry isn’t a silo, its part of the church and will be part of the vision to reach that community for Christ.
6. Over Communicate
Set the tone for communication early. Parents, Students, the rest of the congregation need to be over communicated to. The tension is that we think if we send to many emails or texts that they will stop reading them, which is possible. The flip side is that no one knows whats going on at all and that might be more problematic. Starting at your church over communicating will give you the option to pull back if need be. You want to be known as someone who get details to people quickly and thoroughly
7. Pray and Spend Tons of time with the Lord
You can’t pour into others if you are empty. Start a habit of spending time with God. Pray all the time, carve out specific time where you can focus on your relationship with God. This is by far the best thing you can do for your church, your students and yourself. If you’re filled up, you’ll be able to pour out what God is teaching you to those around you. Leading from empty doesn’t work, don’t get to that point, stay fueled up and connected to your Savior.
Kicking off your school year, the new year, a new series, groups ministry or simply anything in your youth ministry that is different from routine has to be great! Teenagers need something to look forward to, need something to be excited about and need something not the same. If you follow these simple rules you can make kickoffs great again.
Think Outside the Box
Forget everything you usually do for your programming nights. If you could do anything to kickoff the new school year or new series or small groups, what would you do? Let yourself dream a little. If money was no object and you could do the kickoff up right, what would it look like? How would it feel? What would you hope to accomplish? What would the end goal be for your students? Thinking outside the box means dreaming and being innovative with your kickoff and give your students and experience they haven’t had yet.
6 Months Out
In order to do something incredible you need to be planned out and have time to implement your plan. You should be thinking about kickoffs at least 6 months out. Period.
If you are going to go all out for a kickoff it would be wise to budget accordingly. This should be something you budget for and plan on the year before when you submit your request or as you are going through your budgeting process. When you know you have funds to use towards making an awesome night for your students, it opens up doors of ideas you can tap into. You use funds to push something to a new level, especially if the return on that investment has a chance of being significant. Leverage your budget to make kickoffs awesome.
Student Buy In
Use your students for promotion! Incentivize them, cast vision for the event and create some hype around what is going to happen. Use this generations FOMO (fear of missing out) against them in a good way. Use students to help you plan and implement the kickoff. Allow students to take ownership of certain areas. When students take ownership, it overflows into everyone else around them. Change your mindset from your kickoff being “for students” to “with students”.
Your kickoff needs to create moments for students to grab onto. It doesn’t always need to be emotional but it does need to be memorable. It goes back to why you are having a kickoff in the first place. What does a student need to walk away with from the kickoff. If its a small group kickoff, they probably should walk away knowing who their group is, their leader is and that its going to be an awesome year because they could tell someone cares about them. If its a kickoff to welcome students back from summer, it has to be fun and they should walk away thinking “I have the best youth group ever”. If its a kickoff to a series, they should walk away with an action step and a teaser for what the series is going to help them understand and see. How can you make moments during your kickoff to give them something they cant get anywhere else? Moments are crucial in the development of teenagers. You probably can still remember mountain top moments from middle school and high school vividly. Create a moment for your students to remember forever.
Duh! But seriously, pray for wisdom, discernment, favor and for God’s presence to be all over your kickoff and the results from it.
Make Kickoffs Great Again and put something behind it this year!
Award Show - (think dundies, Oscars, make students the stars, red carpet)
Color War - colored powder and a mess is always fun
Team Competition between small groups - competitions are always a way to galvanize people together
Use Food Trucks - yes a little expensive but they set a really cool vibe up
Fireworks - how cool are fireworks - be ready to spend a little bit but it could be just the spark you need to end the night well
Have Fun - Fun is a universal language everyone knows and understands!
Your calendar is not getting any less full. Like me, I am sure your personal calendar is stuffed, your work calendar is jammed and then you have the calendar your mother in law expects you to follow… hers! Calendars dictate your time but also can tell you when you are free! I can't tell you how to manage your personal calendar but I could send you a template email to send to your mother in law (insert appropriate emoji). Your youth ministry calendar is the one that you have an opportunity to leverage.
There is a natural rhythm to the ministry you oversee. Most of the time it's dictated by school breaks, your personal life and adult leaders availability. Let's scrap that mind set for a second and look at the calendar with a different filter. Look at your calendar and ask yourself, when would I have the biggest opportunity to build relationally with students? Every church is different, schools have different calendars and there are certain variables in each context. You are in charge of the calendar for youth ministry. Are you leveraging it well?
When do you kickoff certain ministries? Does it line up with a natural rhythm of school and family life for your students?
Kickoffs and Ending Celebrations are momentum builders that set up the future. Natural calendars for families, school, etc are already in place. Build your ministry calendar to line up with those so you can maximize your time together.
Are you planning activities during school breaks to make the most of relational time with your students?
Every school break that lasts more than 1 day is an opportunity to schedule some hangout time and have fun with your students and their friends. Whether its sports, video games, board games, taco bell, movies, etc, you have an opportunity to build relational equity by giving your students something to go do!!
Do your big weekends make sense for your students AND their families?
There is nothing worse than planning an event that happens to fall at the same time as a massive school event, sports, or weekend where nearly every family at your church decides to go somewhere. Make sure you schedule your D-Now weekend or fall retreat when the majority of your students have no conflicts. Choose the week of summer camp when you know your athletes and marching band kids wont practice. Make your Kickoff to the school year before school starts so you can actually celebrate without a wave of anxiety creeping in, or kickoff well after school started so your students actually are optimistic about the school year.
Do you just do the same thing or do you try new things and mix it up for your crew?
Please, try new things out. Please, try and fail instead of relying on the same events or programs to get the job done. Your students need you to try, be creative and risk failing in order to get to a final product that is awesome! Try something new and fail, its all good!!!
Your calendar can be the most freeing thing if you are strategic about it and intentional about when you do what you do. Have the students in mind first and your leaders will get on board. Cast vision well and pray like crazy for God to do some amazing things in the youth ministry you have the great privilege of overseeing for this season of your life!