Our high school ministry is in the middle of what has become the highlight of their youth group calendar every year. We call it “You Own The Weekend (YOTW)”, a six-week “series” in which the students from six different local high schools run the entire weekend service.
I thought I’d share some of the basic details with you for a couple reasons. First, because it has proven to be an incredible momentum booster for our high school ministry, and second, because any youth group can do it regardless of size. Granted, you may not have as many schools as we do, but the concept of letting students own the weekend from time to time translates to virtually any youth ministry setting.
Here are some basic details that may help you if you decide to try something similar:
- We schedule it strategically when the highest percentage of high school students will be available to participate if they choose. We wait until after football season and drop it right in between winter formal and prom. We also use YOTW as the launch of our summer camp registration push. We want to expose as many students as possible to the opportunity to go to camp, so promoting it during “peak” attendance makes sense.
- Each school is assigned a weekend and an adult leader as their “coach”. The adult leader works with them every step of the way.
- Students from each high school are responsible for every aspect of the weekend; no adults are allowed on stage. Students pick the theme, give announcements, lead music, make the videos, teach the lesson, and do the follow-up.
- For the most part, upperclassmen take on the highly visible roles while underclassmen contribute by shopping for supplies, decorating, and completing other tasks.
- We let them get as creative as we can possibly accommodate! Schools have invited their entire marching band to come perform, asked teachers to share their testimonies, borrowed the mascot uniform to do announcements, and other fun ideas.
Dedicating six weekends to YOTW is risky, but our team made a strategic decision that has paid off: sacrificing a little bit of quality on behalf of student ownership is a fair trade-off. Sure, the lessons struggle a little bit. Of course, the games go longer than they should. And naturally, the announcements get botched. But the excitement level is through the roof, attendance is the highest of the year, and momentum is built that pushes us into spring.
Do you have a smaller youth group? Consider one or two weeks of YOTW that aren’t driven by individual schools, but are simply “owned” by the students who sign up to be part of it.
Another option: Instead of individual schools owning each weekend, break the weekends down according to class; freshmen own one weekend, sophomores the next, etc.
The best part about “You Own The Weekend”: for a few weeks each year, YOU don’t have to own the weekend!
Thanks for loving students,