Holiday-Minded Youth Ministry
The leaves are falling.
The temperatures are dropping.
The weekends are marked by football games and bonfires.
The familiar adjective that is “pumpkin spice” precedes every food and drink known to man.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner and Christmas will be sneaking up right behind it.
The holidays are upon us—’tis the season for holiday-minded youth ministry!
It pretty much goes without saying that the holidays are a special time. However, for those of us in youth ministry the holidays can present some unique opportunities as well as interesting challenges. Here are some considerations for holiday-minded youth ministry:
Keep the Calendar Open
During the holiday stretch students are generally out of school for days and weeks at a time. No school means the temptation to throw some activities, events, trips, etc. on the youth group calendar. While that’s not entirely a bad thing, I believe it’s a good practice to keep the calendar open around the holidays.
In the fast-paced society we live in, the holidays present families with the rare opportunity to be together. No school. Minimal practices. Few extra curricular activities. I believe one of the best things we can do to respect families and God’s design for families (see Deuteronomy 6:4-9) is to allow families to spend time together. In our specific context, we will typically still have our weekly gatherings around the holidays but rarely book any sort of out of town or overnight trip.
Oh, and not to mention that your family would love to have you around for the holidays too!
Share the Gospel
The holidays (Christmas in particular) present a unique opportunity in youth ministry. Whether it’s out of some sense of obligation or an effort to appease a family member, even students that don’t like church oftentimes find themselves in a youth room or auditorium during the holidays. Let us leverage this opportunity to share the gospel with many who otherwise would be unlikely to hear it!
What an opportunity to share the story—the whole story—of Jesus Christ! Let’s read Luke 2 and the miraculous account of the birth of Jesus, but let’s not stop there. Let’s talk about the perfect, sinless life he would go on to live. Let’s talk about how he was born to die and would one day pay the penalty of sin in full on the cross. Let’s talk about how he would rise from the grave in victory over sin and death. Let’s connect the dots of Jesus’ life and then show students how Jesus’ story intersects their stories.
Finally, while the holidays are a special time, they can also be a very sensitive time. For various reasons, the holidays can bring about anxiety, fear, hurt and pain for many of our students. It may be the first holiday season after the loss of a loved one. It may be that a recent divorce means the holidays will look entirely different for a particular student this year. The holidays may serve as a painful reminder of an absent parent. Or on a slightly different note, the holidays may heighten a student’s awareness that their standard of living is below that of their peers.
These can be difficult waters to navigate. From my admittedly limited experience, I’ve found that the only way to better handle these scenarios is to “know well the condition of your flocks” (Proverbs 27:23). The best way to avoid a potentially awkward or uncomfortable situation is to know, to the best of your ability, what’s going on in the lives of your students. If you’re unsure, use caution before projecting general assumptions about the holidays on the lives of students whose holiday experience may be far from normal.
What about you? How have you gone about doing holiday-minded youth ministry?
I would love to hear your experiences and ideas!
Jonas Larkin is the middle school student pastor at Oak Hill Baptist Church in Somerset, KY. He enjoys his family, good books, coffee in the morning, and all things Kentucky Wildcats. You can find him online at jonaslarkin.com or follow him on Twitter and Instagram @jonaslarkin.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.