How to Run a Weekly Youth Student Meeting

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Recently I had the privilege of being featured on Word of Life Local Church Ministries new student ministry podcast called Multiply. This is a great new resource I’d encourage anyone in student ministry to check out. For one of the episodes of this podcast I had the chance to talk about running an effective weekly gathering for students. In it I talk about setting the right atmosphere, how to run games, using adult and student leaders, where does teaching and worship fit, and more. Click the link below to check out this particular episode. When you’re done I’d encourage you to listen to the other episodes as well.

Multiple (Episode 2: How to Run a Weekly Youth Meeting)

Programming a Student Ministry Service

This week I had the privilege of speaking via video to my friend Josh Evan’s student ministry class at Trinity Bible College. I talked to them about programming a student ministry service. Anyone who is doing student ministry at a local church will spend much of their time programming weekly student ministry services. Programming our student ministry services is something we in student ministry must strive to do well. It’s important we have good, quality services where students can build relationships with other students ad adults as well as worship God and grow in their relationship with Him. Click the link below to watch this video and learn more about programming a student ministry service.

Programming a Student Ministry Service

How Our Student Ministry Changes During the Summer ministry tends to look different in the summer than it does during the school year. It varies from ministry to ministry, but most student ministries change things up for the summer. Our ministry, both for middle and high school students, looks totally different during the summer than it does during the school year. Our weekly mid-week gatherings stop, our small groups stop meeting, and we only do a few large group events. However, we still do effective ministry. We still build relationships and introduce students to Jesus. During the summer we don’t stop our ministry, we just do it differently. Here are a few things we do during the summer to change things up.

Mission trips are the big thing. The main thing we do during summer is mission trips. My campus, Stow, is only doing one this year. Next year we are planning on doing two, one for high school and one for middle school. Other campuses, such as our Hudson campus, is doing around eight mission trips. Mission trips are a great way to get students out of their normal surrounding and into a new context for a short time to serve others and share with them the Gospel. Do whatever you can to plan some type of mission trip, whether that’s overs seas or in your own community, during the summer.

Building relationships become the focus. The reason I love doing student ministry in the summer is because it makes building relationships with your students super easy. Let’s face it, students are bored during the summer. They just want to get out of the house, hangout with friends, and have a good time. Capitalize on that by meeting up with them a few days each week for lunch, doing a cookout, going to the park, or planning an activity where they can all get together and just hangout. Don’t worry about making it fancy and “programmed,” just hangout with them and build stronger relationships. Also, doing this during the summer is a great way to save money for your ministry. Building relationships with your students is also a great way to save money for your ministry during the summer!

Preparing for the new school year. Another thing we do during the summer months is plan and prepare for the upcoming school year. For example, we are having worship band auditions next month and then starting band practice in August. Not having weekly meetings and a ton of events allows our worship band to practice and get ready for the next school year. Also, the summer gives me time to read and study for upcoming teaching series during the next school year. We have our teaching planned out enough that by the summer I know what topics and books of the Bible (or certain passages) to study and read up on.

Volunteers get the summer off. Another thing we do different during the summer is we don’t rely to heavily on adult volunteers. They have already given us the school year and they deserve a break. I intentionally try and say “thank you” to our volunteers at the end of the school year then tell them they have the summer off. If they want to help and be a part of some of the stuff we do during the summer they can, but they are not expected to. Make sure to go out of your way to let your volunteers know they have been appreciated, but you also expect them to take a step back and enjoy their summer with their friends and family. Then when the next school year starts they will be more likely to come back to volunteer again and be recharged to start serving.

These are just a few ways our student ministry changes during the summer. How does your ministry look different during the summer than it does during the school year?

Guest Post: Programming Vs. Relationships (Part 2)

Last post, I said relationships are the number one thing when it comes to a service. Relationships is what keeps people there, it is where the life changes come from. A church service is just a means to get people within the relationships with leaders or pastors, and ultimately Jesus. While the service can be ran with music, games, a sermon and a funny video, everything within the service should be pointing the students to someone they can talk to and get connected. The lights and music might intrigue them to come in, but after 3 weeks without making a connection with someone that person most likely wont come back.

So does that mean the service should suffer? No way! I love my job. I love creating services in which are fun and engaging and well ran. I wouldnt have it any other way. Give me lights, give me videos, give me great sermon illustrations and fun ways to do announcements all day, but as long as I realize this is not the end all. All these things are to start a conversation or point to someone to have a realtionship with. After all, at Saddleback, our weekend services are to EXPOSE students to the Gospel, to get them introduced to who Jesus is, and the relationships will help guide them to EXPERIENCE Him.

So how do you add relational aspects into the service so people can be guided to start a relationship with someone on your team? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Add a 2 minute greeting within the service. Use it as a transition somewhere in the service to have students get up and meet someone new. This gives leaders a chance to talk and make a connection as well. You can read more about this in a previous post here.
  • Info cards. We have a tear off section on the bottom of their message notes that if a student turns it in to a leader after service for first time visitors, we will then give them a FREE GIFT, from HSM to them. First, we get their info and we can connect them. Second, a connection is made and a relationship is started.
  • We try to focus on those students who are sitting alone. We have our leaders and our student leaders in each section go and sit with those who are by themselves. For the most part, if they are by themselves, they are new and do not know anyone. This wil get them a connection and a face to look for the following weekend.

[Question] What do you do in your group during service to get people connected into a relationship? What would you suggest?

This is part 2 of a series of posts. Click here to check out the first post.

This guest post was written by Justin Knowles. Justin is the High School Ministry Weekend Coordinator at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. He is a pastor at heart and oversees four weekend services for students. You can check out more of Justin’s thoughts on his blog as well as follow him on Twitter.

Guest Post: Programming Vs. Relationships (Part 1)

I’m a pastor. I am also in charge of programming our weekend services for our High School Ministry at Saddleback. Something that I want to do the best I possibly can. The pastor in me loves relational ministry: getting coffee, hanging out after services, and eating together. Jesus was all about having relationships with people. But I am also a programmer and need to focus on the program as part of my job. So I want the lights to be just right, I want the smoothest transitions possible, I want the sweet videos, I want a professionally ran service so it looks and feels smooth to create an experience for students to meet Jesus during services.

So which am I? A pastor? A programmer? A programming pastor? The way I like to think of it is…I am a pastor, who happens to programs a service.

I don’t think it is an “either/or” type of situation. The tendency is to think that we have one or the other. We either can focus on the programming side, making sure the service is flawless, with cool elements, and illustrations, but then the relationship side would suffer because all of our focus is on the service, and the ministry would be super shallow. Or there is the other way, where relationships takes completely over, where you will have really deep relationships with students, but the service will suffer and be sloppy and boring, and friends of the students wouldn’t want to come because they think it is “boring”. I feel like this battle is within us and is constant. It may or may not be true for every ministry, but I know there is a balance that we need to be aware of.

One of my favorite times on the weekends is the 5-10 minutes before service starts as students are sitting down and just going around meeting and talking to people. I love it. Being a pastor, it would be obvious that I am relational. I think this is the number one thing when it comes to student ministry. Being relational and being authentic in that relationship is the number one thing students’ want/need. If you do not have the relationship side down, there would be no kids to put on a service for.

The service itself is important yes, but it means nothing if we don’t have relationships to go with it. “Real ministry” happens the 15 minutes before and after the service, and the service is just helping them sit and focus on the area you are speaking about so you can then do the “real ministry” (the prayer, the hanging out, the conversation about what stood out to them, etc.) afterwards.

Without relationships, we are missing the purpose that Jesus came to earth for us…to have a relationship with us.

But what about the service? If we have a boring service, then they wont bring their friends? They will be bored to death and won’t come back! These are real questions that I have thought myself. I fall into this way of thinking, but it also is my job to run a successful service. This is something I want to unpack next post.

[Question] What do you do on the relational side?  Where are some of the best places you hang out and have those “real talks”?

This guest post was written by Justin Knowles. Justin is the High School Ministry Weekend Coordinator at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. He is a pastor at heart and oversees four weekend services for students. You can check out more of Justin’s thoughts on his blog as well as follow him on Twitter.