by Jason Sansbury
Whether we like it or not, the fall school season is almost here! Here is a quick look at some of the things that you should consider as you get ready to start your fall programming and ministry.
One of the great parts of youth ministry is that your group changes every year! At the start of the new year be very intentional in programming in how you try to help two important groups: just graduated seniors and rising new students.
Hopefully, you are aware of the major events for the coming school year. Now comes the hard work of communicating. Do everything you can to help communicate the whats (dates, times, costs, deadlines) and just as importantly the whys (why you are doing everything that you are doing). The reality is that the world we live in now provides all of our students a variety of opportunities for what to do with the limited time and money every family has. Work hard at helping families understand why involvement in the youth ministry should be a priority with them. To do that you have to hit them on multiple fronts: parent meetings, church newsletter, special mailings, etc. The more you communicate with parents and students the more likely they are to actually pay attention.
At the start of a school year, you are more likely to have people be open to helping in different capacities. But one of the first things that will turn someone away is an offer to help that is met with an unsure answer. Not just for fall but at all times, you should have a list of things that you need help with and what the expectations of those jobs are. If you don’t have an answer, the PTA at their school or the soccer team or Boy Scouts does. Be ready for that rare moment!
Some school systems are open to the possibilities of youth workers visiting students on campus during lunch and some operate on a much more closed capacity. Regardless, you need to consider ways you can engage in the local schools where your students are enrolled. Look for opportunities and places where the schools need volunteers and give what you can. One of the best seasons of ministry I ever had was serving as a volunteer with a local high school band and being a person who helped move equipment on and off the field during the halftime show. Just being present meant that more students knew me and who I was, more parents appreciated me, and I was able to serve as a default chaplain in some unchurched students’ lives when a crisis occurred. Every school needs and wants volunteers so volunteer and make sure the administration knows you just want to help and aren’t there to proselytize. The more you do this, the greater the relationship you will have with the school administration and the larger your ministry’s reach can be!
(Another quick tool for ministry at schools: borrow the yearbook from the year before, copy the pages of the students’ pictures and names. Then recruit some people of your church to take a page and pray for those kids over the coming school year!)
Everybody has moments in any given season where they are going to be stretched thin. Be smart. Look at your schedule and plan accordingly. The Sunday night after a Friday night lock-in isn’t the time to launch a major new event. That is the night to plan a good video-based lesson and to not feel bad about it. You have to learn what your church and your rhythm is but nothing will burn you out faster than not being smart with your schedule!
Remember how this summer came to an end and there was a mild panic because fall was here? Work to avoid that. Spend some time thinking through these questions:
Jason Sansbury is the youth minister at Belle Meade United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tenn. Previously, Jason has served churches in Franklin, Tenn. and Georgia and has been on staff with YoungLife. Additionally, Jason was one of the founding partners of Crossed-Up Ministries, a ministry specializing in putting together large worship events for youth groups. He has a heart for helping young people find their call into ministry and succeeding early in their ministry and careers. For fun, Jason loves movies, music, and television. He is a fount of useless pop culture trivia and dreams of being a winner on the TV show Jeopardy.
We are hearing from numerous youth ministers that during this season their plate is just too full. Caring for others is a ministry staple, but often it comes at the expense of caring for oneself. Self care for the Youth MInister is so important. If you don’t take time for yourself and your own relationship with God, not only will you suffer, but eventually your students will too.
We’ve created a Pandemic Youth Week curriculum bundle that combines elements of both a summer camp and a youth week. Many youth are missing out on both of these due to cancelled camps and trips among other cancelled important events your youth would usually attend. We’ve written this curriculum such that it can be used in person while socially distancing, online, or some combination of both.
Despite all the challenges the pandemic has presented to youth ministries, it has also created an opportunity to allow youth more involvement in worship. Although youth sunday will look very different this year, it is a great opportunity to empower our youth to be leaders. Youth’s comfort and familiarity with technology make them a great resource for churches who are seeking to move their worship services online for the first time.