The fall is one of our favorite times in our youth ministry. Summer is over and everyone gets ready to go back to school. And in our ministry, it also means “back to church” (we have church during the summer but attendance is much, much lower)!
As our regulars interact with their friends from school, something awesome starts to happen—it seems like the same pattern every year—they start bringing them to church! The fall seems to bring tons of opportunities for friendship evangelism and a boost of momentum. It doesn’t happen automatically, we’ve worked to create this kind of culture. How do you build this type of culture in your student ministry? Here are some ways that work for us:
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—and most certainly will include a clear Gospel presentation. Last year we handed out a bunch of youth group branded school supplies for our students to share with their friends as the school year started. They turned out to be fantastic conversation starters.
Host a big event right at the top 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 taking 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,” but rather “do something different and creative…something that builds some momentum as you head into the fall.”
Pray about it!
This is the season that sets the tone for the entire year for us. A great start gets us off and running through Christmas. We are sure to cover it in prayer and ask God to do something life-changing. This one doesn’t go without saying…we need to be reminded that we serve and do our part, but the real work is up to Him.
Make sure the next step is clear
With the natural momentum of the fall in youth group, make sure your 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 fall 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, Calif., 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.