I used to coach basketball at one of our local high schools, and one of the biggest reasons students would try out for the team is so that they could connect with other students. It totally works! I’ve had students on my the team who are still friends with each other today.
I believe there are many ways youth ministry can duplicate the bonding environment of most sports teams. Here are four of them:
1. School Spirit – While this may come easier for most schools, it’s not impossible for your youth ministry to duplicate. The key is student involvement.
- Create a committee of students that will name the youth group, design t-shirts, and brainstorm ideas on how to promote and create an identity for your youth group. You want students to come to your ministry and feel like this is a place they can belong. You will win as students take ownership, and they will win by making awesome connections as they create something together.
2. Opportunities to serve – Schools are filled with clubs that are doing nothing but serving others. The key to the clubs is that it’s easy to sign up and you start serving right away.
- I have the privilege of overseeing service opportunities with our ministry. One of my primary goals is to help students connect. So I have one serving program that is double-layered. Instead of having a specific team for each serving opportunity within our ministry, I have one serving ministry that coordinates all service opportunities, with a student leadership component. Any student can sign up and serve right away, while student leadership is more of a process. So if a student wants to get connected, I tell them to sign up for Impact (the name of our ministry team), which places students into an entry level group of students who love to serve. Connections are made.
3. Easy overnight trips – Schools have clubs or classes where you get to travel and getaway. I’m still friends with people I met in my French class at school because we traveled to Florida together.
- Now, you definitely don’t have to take students out of state to connect with them. But getting away somewhere overnight helps students connect. We do a guys trip and a girls trip at the end of summer. It lasts two nights and three days, and its entire purpose and intent is to get students to connect. We make it super affordable and highly relational. It’s one of my favorite things we do, because I have seen God do some amazing things in the lives of students who had given up on church and youth group.
4. Learning together – Students are forced in a class with people they don’t know. But halfway through the school year they make connections(friends and best friends) because the classroom environment naturally fosters them working together.
- Here’s a question for you to ask your staff and/or volunteers: “Is the our youth group environment helpings students to naturally connect with one another?”
In all my years of youth ministry, one thing that I have learned and have never forgotten is that students want to connect and belong. I hope every youth ministry in the world is prepared to give those two things to every student they come in contact with.
Hope it helps,