Even if you’ve already started and planned out a good chunk of the ministry year, listen up! Here’s a veritable “idea-buffet” that can kick your youth group kickoff season into the strata of community building.
These ideas are designed to enhance, not replace, the awesome plans you’ve already made. And as a bonus, many will work beyond autumn.
Try These 10 Youth Group Kickoff Ideas—During Any Season
1. Tailgate in the church parking lot.
Hey, we already know it works for the stadium crowd. And every church has a fraternity of fire-making gentlemen who excel at barbeque. Their favorite cologne is smoke. So launch into a pitch by saying, “I know how much you love to grill. So I was wondering if you’d be interested…” If you get that far into your invitation without a “Yes!” I’ll be surprised.
Arrange for them to grill hotdogs, bratwursts, burgers, and wings before church on Sunday. Promote it as a Tailgate Party to teenagers in your church and their friends. Play loud music. Also, make a run to a local party-supply store with some student leaders. Grab all the tailgating promo stuff you can find. Then start inviting your kickoff crowd!
2. Use the power of SWAG.
Watch how radio stations do it. At every sponsored event, they pass out bags of free trinkets and treasures. That’s exactly why God created the internet: so you can find a gazillion low-cost or free things to give away to teenagers. Simply search “free or low-cost stuff.”
After you have a stockpile of booty, give stuff away! No conditions. No trading for email addresses. Just give away the treasures. During the weeks leading up to your youth group kickoff, promote the prize-fest well. Make sure kids know this meeting is the only time they can experience your SWAG giveaway.
3. Plan a youth group birthday party.
Your fall youth group kickoff is a great time to celebrate your ministry’s birthday. Ask the best bakers in your church to make cakes for a special party. Send out invitations, and ask kids to each bring the coolest toy for the youth room they can find for less than $10 bucks (for example, a Nerf gun). Make sure kids know the toys and games are for the youth room.
Hang streamers. Get balloons. Play party games too. Does anybody really know when your group started? Probably not. But now you have an excuse to restock your youth room with cool stuff every year!
4. Get out of the church.
Go to a movie, or sing Christmas carols at the senior pastor’s house (even if it’s not
December). Or plan a youth group kickoff at a nearby lake or park. Planning an unforgettable youth group meeting is a lot like starting a business: The key is location, location, location. The biggest reason teenagers struggle to invite friends may be the very idea of a “church” event. There’s a huge difference between a church event and a church event that’s not in the church.
5. Organize a Breakfast Club breakfast club.
Send kids invitations to Saturday morning detention at your church. Make the invitations look like actual detention slips. Serve donuts and juice, or go big and ask church members to make pancakes or waffles and sausage or bacon. Print the shooting script from the movie The Breakfast Club (dailyscript.com/scripts/breakfast_club.html). Then select a few scenes and ask kids to act them out during the meal. Afterward, show the classic film (be aware it has some objectionable scenes).