Making the Most of Your Students Birthdays

LS006996Making good connections with the students in your ministry is vital. One thing every student in your ministry will have is a birthday. Birthdays are one of the most overlooked connection points with our students. Usually they get drowned out in the busyness of our ministry, but I believe they are a great way to connect and show students for a day that you appreciate them and enjoy having them in your ministry.

Honestly, I’m not the best person to be writing about this. This is an area I am trying to improve and get better at. I want to use birthdays to connect with students and show them I love them. So here are a few things I’m going to start doing in the future that may help you as you try and capitalize on your student’s birthdays.

Use Facebook! Let’s face it, most of your students are on Facebook and your friends with them. Facebook keeps track of your friend’s birthdays and notifies you when it’s their birthday. Keep an eye on this as a way to remember which student’s birthdays are coming up.

Don’t underestimate a card. Don’t overlook birthday cards because you think your students find them lame. A simple birthday card with a hand written note from you will go a long way with students. Buy a box of goofy (keep it appropriate of course!) birthdays cards and send them to students when it’s their birthday. We actually have cards made with our ministry logo. That helps students identify with our ministry and makes them feel like they are super important, because they are!

Stick a volunteer on it. Delegate this area to a volunteer. Have them keep track of birthdays and write cards to students from your ministry when it’s your birthday. I’d suggest having the volunteer keep track of the birthdays, but have you as the student pastor or head leader write the personal note inside. That will mean more to students.

Take them lunch. You may not want to do this for every student in your ministry, but at least the core ones.  Either take them their favorite fast food lunch to school or on the weekend take them to a fast food restaurant yourself. This will also give you some great one on one time with them.

Make a big deal in your service. This may not work for larger student ministries, but for smaller ones it works great. Bring the student up during your mid-week or weekend student gathering and make a big deal about their birthday. Embarrass them a bit (all in good fun) and make them feel like they have the spotlight for a minute.

I hope these simple ideas help you capitalize on your student’s birthdays. Again, I’m no expert in this area and trying to do better myself. Feel free to share your ideas and how you have done this in your ministry by leaving a comment below.

This post was originally a guest post I wrote for my friend Justin Knowles. Justin is Pastor of High School Ministry Small Groups at Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA. He has a great blog loaded with tons of good student ministry content so check it out!

Selecting New Volunteers for Your Student Ministry (Part 2)

In part one of this series, I shared a few random thoughts to remember as you are selecting volunteers for your student ministry. But that is the easy part. The real work comes once you have a few potential volunteers that you feel may be a good for fit for your ministry. Once you have a few, the temptation will be to plug them in right away, but don’t get ahead of yourself! There are a few crucial steps that I would encourage you to take before you officially add these new volunteers to your team. Here are three things we do with our potential volunteers here at CCC that may be good for you to do as well.

Application. We have a lengthy application we ask all potential leaders to fill out. It’s lengthy for a reason. We want people who are committed and are willing to take the necessary steps to joining our team. Also, it’s a great way for us to get to know important information about them before we put them on our team. We ask them to write out their testimony, ask them why they want to work with students, see if they are a member of our church, and other important information. If you don’t have an application you give to your potential volunteers I would encourage you to put one together. Once you have one made, keep it on file so you can send it to any potential volunteers that may be joining your team. I recently shared our application as a freebie here on my site (click here to see a copy of our application).

Background Check. This is huge so don’t overlook this! I am always surprised at how many churches don’t require background checks of their potential volunteers. I have been guilty of this, but know always make sure every potential leader has one done. We must protect the students we work with and one way we do that is screening our potential volunteers. It’s an important step that we must never overlook. Before anyone can join our team, we do a background check on them. If you are not doing this I encourage you to start doing it now!

One on One Interview. Once a potential volunteers as filled out an application and passed a background check, I sit down with them one on one and do a casual interview with them. This gives me a chance to hear their story as well as hear their heart behind why they want to work with students. I will review their application beforehand and highlight any areas I want to discuss with them. This is a great way to put the paper work aside and hear the heart of a potential volunteer. During this interview, make sure to ask the right questions, but also share the vision and purpose of your ministry. Explain the commitment they will make as part of joining your team and make sure they know exactly what they are signing up for. Pray with them and tell them you will get back to them in a few days.

If you have done these three steps and feel like they are a good fit, add them to your team! Find out where they best fit and unleash them to serve the students in your ministry! You may have a few other steps, but I believe these are three important steps you must take when your selecting new volunteers.

This post was originally a guest post I wrote for Justin Knowles. Justin is the High School Ministry Weekend Coordinator at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. I would encourage you to check out Justin’s blog for more great insights on student ministry.

Selecting New Volunteers for Your Student Ministry (Part 1)

Volunteers are the key to having an effective student ministry. A student ministry will not last long with a single student pastor; it needs a committed group of volunteers as well. Currently I am in search of some new volunteers in our ministry. We have growing small groups, which means we need more volunteer leaders! Many student pastors are in the same boat I am, on the hunt for more volunteers. I want to share a view thoughts on selecting new volunteers that I hope will help you as you look for new people to add to your team.

Don’t post an ad. The last thing you want to do is post a “volunteers needed” in your churches bulletin or website. If you do this, you will get a ton of responses from people that may not be close to what you are looking for. You’re opening up yourself to too big of an audience. However, if you do open it up so people can “apply” to be volunteers, make sure they know it’s not something you offer to everyone that signs up. For example, we just did a serve push for our whole congregation. We encouraged everyone to find a place to serve in our church and put together a webpage for them to fill out areas they are interested in serving. I had multiple people express interest in working with students, but that doesn’t mean they will get that opportunity. We want to get the right people for the job when we think about volunteers in student ministry.

Intentionally search. Instead of posting an ad, I encourage you to intentionally seek out new volunteers within your congregation. Through relationships and community, look for potential volunteers that would be a good fit for your team. As I meet new people in our church I am always thinking in the back of my head if they would be a good fit for our student ministry. It wouldn’t hurt to always have that in the back of your head as well as you meet new people.

Be open to recommendations from your current volunteers. Some of the best people to recommend new volunteers are your current volunteers. Many times they will know people that have an interest in serving students in your ministry. Usually they know a current volunteer and have seen what they have been doing which gives them an idea if it is something they would like to do. Encourage your current volunteers to always be on the lookout for new volunteers.

These are just a few random thoughts on selecting new volunteers. Finding the right people for your team is important so take your time and get the right people. Don’t forget who is really in control when it comes to finding new volunteers. God will direct your path and will bring you the right people at the right time. Trust Him and do your best to follow His guidance as you look for new volunteers.

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.