Tag Archives: back to school

5 Essentials To Start Your Youth Ministry Year

EARLY in the morning, like before the sun was up early – I was gathering my gear to go on a difficult nine-mile hike in the local mountains. “Let’s see. Water’s loaded into the pack? Check. Dog’s pack is loaded? Check. Hat? Check. iPhone? Check. Dog’s leash? I’ll get it on the way out. Okay, let’s go.”

I forgot the leash.

Even though I thought through what I needed to have, my sleep-deprived stupor made me forget something important. If I had remembered the leash as I was getting into my waiting friend’s truck, I would have run back inside the house and retrieved it. But, I didn’t realize my folly until we were at the trailhead.

The new school year is about to begin, and even though you may have left the house for your hike, there’s still time for you to run through a checklist of items that you need to have for your fall kick-off to be effective. Here are five items that I think you need to have for this start to the new ministry year. I’ve even been able to tie them to the five items on my list this morning!

1. Supporters In Place
Your supporters include, but aren’t limited to, your church leadership, the parents of your students, the people who you have regularly praying for the youth ministry (you DO have a group of those amazing people, right? And you communicate with them often, right?), and those people who are willing to help out “anytime you need anything.” The ability that you have to generate “support” for you and the youth ministry will determine the long-term success of your efforts. Your support group is the water in your pack. You can do a bunch of hiking without it, but you won’t be able to go very far. And, you won’t recover from a big effort as quickly or as well. So, build relationships with those who may not be directly involved with what you’re doing, but who want to support your efforts. Make sure those relationships stay near the top of your checklist.

2. Team In Place
Since youth ministry happens person-to-person, not program-to-person, you need a whole team of people to help make the person-to-person happen. Since you’re just one person, you can’t expect to have significant relationships with all of the kids in your ministry PLUS all the kids who show up to check things out. All kinds of people are needed to reach all kinds of kids, so recruit as many folks as you can who are willing to befriend, teach, befriend, cajole, console, befriend, encourage, and challenge teenagers. (Did I mention that they should befriend kids?) Your team of volunteers will help you carry the load, like my dog carries his water and food that I would otherwise have to pack.

Get Music & Media Resources for Back-to-School!

3. Big Events Identified
A youth ministry gains a lot of its reputation and momentum from the “Big Events” that it can pull off. The “GOOD TIME Event” in YLO89 is a good example of a Big Event. It generates tons of exposure, “brag factor” (what the kids talk about the next morning at school), and helps cement the youth ministry as an important part of the youth culture of that area. Think of Big Events as being paydays. You get an infusion of resources at each one that helps you continue on to the next. They are to youth ministry what a hat is to a hiker – they cap everything. (I know. It’s a stretch.)

The GOOD TIME Event is a great kick off special event — and it’s free!

4. Game Plan In Place
My iPhone tracks my hikes using a GPS app. I can see at any moment where I am, how fast I’m going, how far up I’ve climbed, how far I have to go – and see it all with the satellite imagery of the terrain I’m hiking. You need a similar view of your ministry. That’s your Game Plan. Set your teaching series, objectives, and other vital issues into place before you roll into your new year. Now, every year presents unique opportunities and challenges to a youth ministry. Maybe this year you have a huge influx of new freshmen, or you have a bumper crop of seniors. Maybe you’re really connected with the athletes this year instead of the musicians last year. You can’t use last year’s plan. So plan your programming, and your teaching series, to maximize the resources you have. You also need a degree of flexibility with your Game Plan. If something takes off unexpectedly, you need to be able to adjust – like when we decided to take a trail spur this morning instead of staying on the main trail. My iPhone showed me a possibility, and we adjusted our Game Plan to take advantage of it.

5. Budget Available
My dog, Tipper, is very well behaved. I have spent a ton of time (and money) training him. He comes when called, heels on command, and generally is a very well mannered dog. But, he’s big and black. And even though he has his own pack (which usually gets a lot of “Cute!” comments), a big black dog can spook some people. To keep him from going off in directions he shouldn’t, I bring a leash with me to use when other people with dogs are on the trail. Your budget should be like that leash. As long as you’re disciplined and well mannered, you won’t necessarily need the restrictions it brings. But, when tempted to go too far too fast, or engage in activities that might spook your church’s Treasurer, use a budget as a tool to control those urges.

I hope your new school year is AWESOME this year. I’m sure that these five items will help you make it even more effective!

Made You Laugh

One On One

080414_oneonone_bts_590x200From YLO92 | By Todd Pearage, The Gathering Dayton, Ohio

Editor’s Note: This month, as we all get in the back-to-school groove, we’re featuring articles from previous Youth Leaders Only Resource Books — articles that hit on some of the fundamentals of student ministry. We picked these articles because we know that “Back to School” is also an important time for your youth ministry as you incorporate new volunteers, new students, new systems, and new ideas. From all of us at interlinc … Welcome Back to “Normal”!

As a fifteen-year veteran of student ministry, I’ll admit that I love the big events. I love planning them with my team and working out the details. I love the excitement of seeing a ton of students having a blast – in church. I love the crazy games, the loud music, and the free t-shirts. Throw in a Christian band and I’m in heaven.

However, in recent years there’s been a movement to shift away from the big events, and “programming” has become a dirty word. Youth pastors have been told to abandon the program and “just hang out with kids.” When you talk with youth workers, it does not take long before the conversation turns to the “program vs. relationship” debate.

Before we go and split the church over this philosophy of ministry (don’t laugh, it’s been split over far less important issues), let’s agree that both sides of this conversation have valid points. We have all seen the benefits of the big event, and I believe there will always be a place for them. But, I am convinced that impact happens person-to-person. So here are a few things I do to make an impact.

  1. Get Out of the Office I have two offices at my church – I have the “official office” which is really just a cubicle right outside my Senior Pastor’s office, and I also have a “secret office” which is in our student ministry area. Truthfully, I love my “secret office.” I can listen to Thousand Foot Krutch as loud as I want, search YouTube for the latest viral video, and even catch the latest episode of Duck Dynasty, all while getting my work done. But as cool as my secret office is and as funny as it may be to watch Uncle Si’s crazy shenanigans, the truth is – before long, I want out. I want to be at the school helping out with the Bible Club, or eating lunch with students, or just hanging out. I want to live life with them. And I can’t do that when I’m in my office all the time.
  2. Unplug If you’ve been in student ministry for more than fifteen minutes, someone has “encouraged” you to unplug. We all know that students are on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook – well, some homeschoolers are still on Facebook. (Just kidding, I love both homeschoolers and Facebook!) But, we need real human interaction and so do our students. We need to sit down knee-to-knee and eye-to-eye with them. Buy them a coffee, milkshake, or smoothie and put the phone away. You’ll be surprised how much better you’ll get to know them!
  3. Know the Calendar Here in the north we have “snow days.” I love snow days because they provide me with an excellent opportunity to grab some students and do something fun. But if I know the calendar, I can be even more intentional when students have a day off from school. Let’s be honest – we know they already forgot what you spoke about last Wednesday. So use those off days to create memories that will last a lifetime.
  4. Plan Better Sometimes I’m not as prepared as I should be. (That’s probably not a big surprise, since I just admitted to watching Duck Dynasty in my office!) I can’t tell you how many Sunday mornings roll around and I’m adding that last-minute video to the media presentation or making copies of permission slips instead of engaging students as they walk into the room. Instead of having the time to ask them how their week was – and REALLY listen, I’m running around doing tasks that should have been done during the week.

I know I need to do a better job organizing my week. I know I need to use my office time to plan and prepare. I know that when I am better prepared, real ministry can happen. And when real ministry happens, impact happens.

Back in November my family and I went back to Pennsylvania for a friend’s wedding. On our way home to Ohio we stopped and visited our “home church.” I was the youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Milton, PA for five years and we are still very close with the people there. After church we went out for lunch with some of the “students” who are now adults. We laughed for over two hours retelling stories and reliving memories.

Want to pass this article along to your adult leaders or volunteers? Download the PDF here. 

Every edition of Youth Leaders Only includes great articles like this one. Learn more about YLO Membership.

By The Time I’m Done With You …


Featured in YLO85 | By Doug Ranck, Free Methodist Church, Santa Barbara, CA

Editor’s Note: This month, as we all get in the school groove, we’re featuring articles from previous Youth Leaders Only Resource Books — articles that hit on some of the fundamentals of student ministry. We picked these articles because we know that “Back to School” is also an important time for your youth ministry as you incorporate new volunteers, new students, new systems and new ideas. We’ll include a PDF download of each article in case you want to pass these along to your adult leaders. From all of us at interlinc … Welcome Back to “Normal”!

Do you remember the last time you lost something important and desperately wanted to find it? I recall those moments all too well. In the midst of my searches, I even had moments where I could imagine the lost object sitting in the place where I believed I left it. I can also feel the disappointment I experienced when it was not to be found. Our imagination can play tricks onus, but it can also be a very helpful tool.

In 1960 Maxwell Maltz wrote a book entitled Psycho-Cybernetics. Many motivational and self-help speakers based their principles on Maltz’s idea of “a positive outcome through visualization of that positive outcome.” (Psycho-Cybernetics Author; Plastic Surgeon Tries to Heal Inner Scars, Los Angeles Times, November 2, 1973).

When I was in college, I took a class called “Theory and Technique of Team Sports Skills.” In one of the lectures, we talked about how to coach an athlete on shooting proper basketball free throws. The professor talked about the usefulness of pscyho-cybernetics and imagining what one would do to complete the perfect free throw. Have you ever imagined what it would look like for a high school senior in your ministry to be fully-discipled and perfectly ready to enter the next stage of his or her life? What would you want that student to know? How would you want him or her to act? While we know that no one on this earth is perfect, we need to “aim high” in our vision for loving and equipping the youth that we shepherd.

Accomplishing this is all but impossible if we are not willing to do the work of creating a profile describing the character of such a person. There is no one perfect description fitting all youth, so youth leaders can enjoy the freedom of creating a tailor-made vision for their youth. Where do we start?

  1. Begin with prayer. Ask God for insight and wisdom.
  2. Include the primary principles Jesus taught us to live.
  3. Take the best character traits of godly men and women throughout the Bible.
  4. Develop a list of everything you believe should be in the profile. No initial list is too long.
  5. Allow key parents, youth leaders, and students to review the list adding their own suggestions and input.
  6. Edit, combine, and pare the list to a manageable, measurable number of qualities (somewhere between seven and twelve).
  7. Publish the profile and put it to use. Let it influence your teaching, guide your curriculum choices and be at the center of your ministry strategy.

About fifteen years, ago I took the time to develop a “Profile of a Discipled Student.” I was mentored through the process by patient volunteer leaders, older youth pastors, and students who sincerely wanted to grow. Over the years I have used this document in many different forms, given it different titles, and emphasized various parts. Below is the profile we have created in our ministry. I hope it will serve as an example for your reflection, prayer, and planning. Feel free to use it in any form – you don’t even have to change the words! When a student graduates from our ministry, he or she will exhibit these qualities:

  1. Love for God (Mark 12:30) –Regularly participates in corporate and individual worship of God; disciplined in quiet times; internalizes the truth of sin, salvation, the sacraments, and God in three persons.
  2. Faithful to God and others(Romans 12:1-2, 10) – Practices spiritual disciplines; keeps appointments; fulfills commitments to others and projects through setting priorities; practices the holy life and integrity in living.
  3. Student of the Word(2 Timothy2:15) – Spends consistent time in the Word; changed behavior as a result of internalized truth; uses God’s truth in everyday decisions; grows in the skills/disciplines of memorization of verses/significant passages or can identify the location of important stories/teachings.
  4. Pray-er(1 Thessalonians 5:17)– Committed to regular times of prayer; initiates or suggests prayer in the midst of life circumstances.
  5. Critical Decision-Maker(1 Kings3:1-15, esp. v.9) – Demonstrates ability to decide right and wrong on an individual basis through the power of the Holy Spirit and the instruments of Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason.
  6. Life-Long Learner(2 Timothy3:14) – Lives a life of obedience and servanthood; asks thoughtful questions; seeks growth opportunities beyond “growth level” events and youth group experience; responds and acts on instruction.
  7. Life-Leader(1 Thessalonians 2:8) – Knows how and is willing to be a witness; understands the spiritual battle and the need to be a positive influence through Godly example in word and deed.
  8. Commitment to the Community of Faith (Hebrews 10:19-25, esp. v.25) – Values the fellowship of Christ’s body and the variety of gifts to be used for “the common good” of the Church.

Download this article as a PDF.

Every edition of Youth Leaders Only includes great articles like this one. Learn more about YLO Membership.

Youth Ministry’s New Year

© Monika Adamczyk | Dreamstime.com

In youth ministry, back to school really is the “new year.” You’ve got new kids, new volunteers, and a new plan. More so than in January, it feels like a fresh start. And a chance to apply those lessons learned last year.

So in honor of your new year, here are some resources and ideas to help kick things off. Hopefully you’ll find these resources helpful as you turn the page and begin a brand new season of student ministry.

Download a free chapter from “Surviving Middle School”
This book and soundtrack combo is a great way to greet your newbies (and their parents). You can click here to see the complete Table of Contents for the book and go here to learn more about this resource.

Learn more about our theme-based DVDs and resources for must-talk-about topics in student ministry.

Would Jesus Show Up At Your School? Download the PDF
“Jesus was, and is, all about people. His core purpose was obvious: “I have come to seek and save the lost.” What did He mean by “lost”? He was referring to the spiritual condition of people—lost with no relationship with their Creator, lost in purpose, lost in direction, and most seriously, lost forever. Jesus’ heart beat for lost people. Where people gathered, Jesus would show up.

Fast-forward to the present and we can be confident that Jesus, by His Spirit, is
indeed hanging out at, you guessed it, the school campus.”

Artist Drop-Ins
Every Music Video Loop features “Drop Ins” you can add to your video announcements. Here are some of our favorites for setting the tone for the year (click each link to download the file):


Thinking Ahead

I’m guessing right now all you have time to think about is the next event on your calendar — whether it’s final prep for camp, helping out with your church’s VBS, or getting things together for the-best-ever-pool-party-extravaganza, summer is full of fun events. But we all know part of the purpose behind all those activities is to provide an avenue to connect with new kids and new families.

As you establish new relationships, you’re probably already thinking of ways to continue to connect and grow those bonds. Maybe you’re already working on your fall plans, mapping out lessons, topics and events. Maybe not. Either way, we’ve got some things you probably want to go ahead and put in your toolbox for the next season in your student ministry.

Working With Parents
The latest edition of Youth Leaders Only features a “Parents” theme, and there are some great tools for you to offer parents to encourage them in their responsibilities.

  • Click here to download the article “Raising A Soul Surfer” by Cheri Hamilton from YLO84.

Special Editions
In fact, every edition of YLO features a theme, and some of the most requested we offer as “Special Editions.” Topics include sex and dating, evangelism and middle school – topics that every student ministry will cover at some point. Check out this clip from “The Naked Truth: The New Sexuality and Youth Ministry.”

Here come the newbies!
End of summer is a big transition time – for your ministry and for your students. As a new group of youngsters join your group, our Surviving Middle School book and CD is a great tool to help everyone adjust.

  • Download our 6 week guide to starting middle school small groups.

Learn how to add any or all of these resources to your ministry toolbox here.

Enjoy your summer! And as you look ahead to the fall, we hope your student ministry toolbox is well stocked with great resources … and plenty of coffee.