In our youth ministry, the church fall season is one of our favorite times. Summer is over, and students are ready (more or less!) to go back to school. And in our ministry, it also means “back to church” (we have worship services during the summer, but attendance is much, much lower).
As our regular attendees interact with their school friends, something awesome starts to happen. In fact, the pattern seems the same every year: They start bringing those kids to church!
The church fall season offers tons of opportunities for friendship evangelism and a boost of momentum. That doesn’t happen automatically, though. We’ve worked over the years to create this kind of culture.
How do you build it in your student ministry? Here are some ways that work for us, especially in the autumn.
4 Kickoff Tips for Your Church Fall Season
1. Have a “fall kickoff” weekend.
Our goal is that every youth service is safe for nonbelieving students. We always include an element of fun and an understandable message. But for fall kickoff we go all out, bigger and better than normal. Most certainly, we always include a clear Gospel presentation. Last year we handed out a bunch of youth group branded school supplies for students to share with friends as the year started. They turned out to be fantastic conversation starters.
2. Host a big event right at the start of the school year.
Every fall, our high school ministry hosts Pumpkinfest, a massive outreach event at the end of October. And our junior high ministry runs an event called The 3 ($3, 3rd Friday of the month, 3 hours)! We honestly don’t do too much outside of youth group in the fall—these are it. And for us, they pay off big-time. A great activity will get people talking in the schools and on Facebook. You’re not into activities and events? You don’t have a budget or space to accommodate something like that? No problem! The principle isn’t “do something big and crazy.” Rather, it’s “do something different and creative…something that builds momentum as you head into the fall.”
3. Pray about it!
For us, the church fall season sets the tone for the entire programming year. A great start gets us off and running through Christmas. We make sure to cover it in prayer and ask God to do something life-changing. This doesn’t go without saying: We need to be reminded that we serve and do our part, but Jesus does the real “heart work.”
4. Make sure the next step is clear.
With the natural momentum of the church fall season in youth group, make sure students know the next step in your discipleship process. For us, it is small groups. So not a week goes by without us talking about, promoting, showing a video, or texting about getting in a group.
Want to start the church fall season out right? Don’t be satisfied with entry-level ministry alone. Challenge students to take the next step!
Josh Griffin is the high school pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, and the author of 99 Thoughts for Youth Workers. He has served in youth ministry for 15 years.
Kurt Johnston has been involved in junior high ministry since 1988 and is currently the junior high pastor at Saddleback Church in Southern California. He’s the author of Controlled Chaos: Making Sense of Junior High Ministry and Go Team! He loves providing resources for junior high ministry almost as much as he loves junior highers themselves.