One of the great things about youth ministry is that there is no ONE WAY to do ministry. That means God can use the vision, passion, and ideas you have for students, their families, and your community. You have ideas and we need to hear them!
One of the challenges of youth ministry is that there is no ONE WAY to do ministry. Every student, every family, every church, every community is unique, requiring the ability to adapt or recreate ministry plans. That means if something works in one church, it doesn’t mean it will work in yours. In fact, if something worked in your church this year, it doesn’t mean it will work next year. Depending on your personality, the frequency of change in ministry excites you or frustrates you. Either way, it’s there.
One of the challenges I tried to overcome this ministry year is ensuring that we did not lose any students. It’s natural that students come and go, but I didn’t want to be surprised. If a student had not been attending for 4 weeks, I wanted to know why. Seems reasonable and pastoral…but not necessarily easy. I also wanted our students to know they would be known and cared for. If my bank and dry cleaner can remember my birthday and send me a card each year, our ministry ought to be able to do the same for our students. But we needed a plan.
Our database included basic information on students: name, address, contact info, school, grade, etc. But I added a few more categories: birthday, favorite snack, and adult leader.
The birthdate was obvious: I wanted to wish them a happy birthday and send a card. Facebook helps with this as it announces upcoming birthdays, but I wanted a more personal touch by sending a card via snail mail and include their favorite snack as a bonus treat. Students loved it–and so did parents. It was a simple yet effective way to communicate care.
But the most significant thing we did was assign an adult leader to each student. It was not possible for me to be accountable for each student–plus, not every student connected with me. So leaders were assigned 4-5 students or–in some cases–10-15. It worked great–in theory. The challenge arose when leaders didn’t know students or when leaders had too many students. They were either intimidated or overwhelmed, so as we look ahead to the new school year, we’re making some basic changes.
Instead of assigning students to leaders, I’m allowing leaders to pick the students they know, and I’m asking them to only pick as many as they believe they can effectively care for. The goal is that this will provide natural motivation for follow up with a reasonable amount of students.
For students who are not selected, I will seek adults in the church who agree to pray for them and contact them once a month to see how they’re doing and invite them to upcoming events. And I will personally follow up with any students who remain.
It’s simple and only a slight modification to what we’re doing this year, but my hope is that more students will be cared for and more leaders will be motivated to reach out. Sometimes ministry ideas need an over-haul and sometimes a tweak. We’re hoping this tweak will help.