Summer Ministry: Making an Impact When Attendance Drops
Are you getting ready to see students less- but still have effective youth ministry?
Actual questions I have asked students before:
- So your parents grounded you from church again?
- You have select team practice on Wednesdays and Sundays?
- How could you possibly have homework on summer break?
- You and your family are gone all summer to Sweden?
I have been on the church side of this dilemma more and more frequently in the past several years. When students are being grounded from all social opportunities including church — plus sporting events or family travel already make it tough to see our students (not to mention work and homework obligations) — what are we supposed to do? When do we get to see them so we can enjoy our students again? When do we have time to be used to make a significant impact like we all thought we would when we began this journey?
We don’t see students because they are grounded, they work, they have sports, they are on vacay. Will anyone even show up to all these great events and growth opportunities we have planned?
We all know our students and families are busy. We get it. How can we get ready for summer months of ministry as well as the rest of the year and build the right relationship with students and families all year long? Often families are choosing grades, sports, work or even social opportunities over the chance for their student to get together with the rest of the church crew not just to have fun but also to be together intentionally to grow spiritually. Busy lives and schedules make weekly ministry tough to manage and make summer ministry or event planning even tougher.
The strategy of partnerships with the family has got to become a bigger deal for us youth workers.
We originally got into this area of ministry for the students but we have to know this youth ministry opportunity reaches further than just students. Ministry to students is ministry with and to a family now.
How do we still do what we do even when we can’t be with our students as often as we want to?
We can work toward building solid trust relationships with families and build in the “I don’t want to miss” mentality with our students for when the margin time comes.
Here are 4 ways to lead well and prepare for the most impact with students and families when we have the fortunate opportunity to be around them. Often summer presents the best chance to make a lasting impact so let’s get started with the prep and make the most of the opportunity.
Wow parents with your preparation
When parents and students say,
“I always know you guys have a plan and you do things on purpose,”
we build opportunities for future ministry and impact. Way in advance, have a spring, summer, fall plan that is clear, looks sharp and can find its way to hanging on the family fridge. This plan can include events’ times, costs and sign up instructions. This plan can include what you will be studying during the regular gathering times and even give some ideas for activities at home the days after the regular gathering on your schedule based on the topic addressed. When parents show up to bring students to an event or a regular study, make sure to do your prep so it looks like you were expecting them. Be detailed and ready. Families appreciate this and it builds trust and future opportunities for impact. The purpose is to never look like you are just winging it and instead wow them with your preparation. If they feel like you are ready for them they will be excited to show up!
Wow parents with your understanding
Wouldn’t it be interesting for a parent to say,
“I know we don’t come to youth group often but when our student does, you always make them feel so welcome. Thank you for not laying a guilt trip on us, we are just so busy these days.”
When students can’t come to an event or a series of studies is there a way to provide material for that event or study to somehow be experienced at home? Is there a way to not only help students feel welcome when they do come after several weeks away, but that we can also include them somehow while they are out? Maybe a video recap or encouragement sent through email or through social media that would help people experience what the group did even though they did not get to take part this time. When a parent says their student can’t make it, find ways to make them feel included rather than pouting and being frustrated that no one is coming to your youth stuff. Let families know you want them there, but you understand what they are dealing with. Respect builds from this, and when the right time for engagement comes for a family, they will be there because of the foundation you have laid and who knows what impact that might lead to.
Wow parents with your presence
I hope that every youth worker gets to hear,
“I can’t believe you made it.”
Go see your people and they will come see you. Be present when you can. Even though they say they can’t make it to your stuff, try to make it to theirs. Who knows what impact this might lead to later?
Wow parents with your space
Wouldn’t it be great to hear,
“I love what you have done with the place, you really work hard to create a safe engaging environment for my kids. I appreciate you so much!”?
When parents know you are working to create a space for their students, they will work to create space in their schedule to join you.
Be encouraged! The students like you! The parents like you! People are crazy busy though.
Use these four ideas for inspiration to boost their confidence and energy as well as yours!
[bctt tweet=”The strategy of partnerships with the family has got to become a bigger deal for us youth workers.” username=”ys_scoop”]
Some of the greatest success stories from the ministries I have been around as a leader and as a student used a similar approach to these four ideas. When we are prepared, understanding, present and can wow parents with our space we are assigning value to the student and to the family. Assigning value like this to a student or family paves the road to future impact and opportunity for ministry. These four simple ideas can make a major difference whether students are physically present or not. Make investments like these in their future and in the future of your youth ministry for greatest possible impact!
Lee Coleman has been a youth pastor for over 23 years and enjoys serving Dallas/Fort Worth as well as traveling the country sharing Jesus’s message of hope and freedom to children, teenagers, college students and adults. Lee is currently on staff with Waxahachie Bible Church along with being the Lead Character Coach for WISD athletics. Besides these roles, Lee also helps people and organizations grow in efficiency and excellence through personal and organizational coaching facilitated through the group “What’s Next? Coaching and Consulting” of which he is the founder. Lee and his wife Melanie, have four kids, Caleb, Faith, Marigrace and Lilly. Follow him on twitter when he remembers to tweet @LEECOLEMAN.
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.