It doesn’t matter the age of your students; they all want to have a part in what goes on in the youth ministry. We found a good way to get that input and at the same time develop a good bond with each group.
A simple idea was to have each grade come over to my home for a pizza and talk. Every group was given a chance to introduce themselves and get a quick tour of our home and yearbooks. The dorkiness of their youth minister and how bad his haircut was, will provide many laughs.
After the laughter dies down, we get a chance to talk about what they think will be the funniest thing about their yearbook in 5 or 10 years (or longer if you are a “seasoned veteran”). The bonding opens the door to the kids sharing about what they think is right about the youth group. This starts them out on a positive thought and what they like about the group. The things they like are also not perfect so we always talk about how to improve the good things. By showing the students that you aren’t opposed to changing the good things, it starts them thinking about how you want to make the group even better.
We then move on to the things they don’t like about the group. Sometimes this can hurt a little to the youth minister but also they have great insight. The thoughts they have are usually constructive and can really help out. The good news is that sometimes they see where they can actually improve their own lives to make the group better. Many times how we make new kids feel welcome is brought up. They see how the problem is not the “program” but the students themselves. We usually end up the nights with a time of prayer asking God to start with us and make our youth group inviting and His place. These simple nights have been a real blessing to our group and to The youth minister alike!