Some of my best student ministry volunteers are former students. For many years I overlooked former students and never recruited them to come back and be volunteers in our ministry. However, in the past few years I’ve leaned into this group and seen more and more of my former students come back to serve as volunteers.
We do have a policy that former students must be a year removed from high school before they can serve in our high school ministry. Because of this many of my former students start out serving in our middle school ministry.
I’m convinced that former students have the potential to be your best volunteers. Here are three simple reasons why I believe that.
1. You know them. One of the great things about using former students as volunteers is the simple fact that you know them. You have probably spent a few years getting to know them, pouring into them, and seeing them grow. You have a decent grip on their strengths and weaknesses. You know their personality and how they operate. Usually when you recruit a new volunteer you know next to nothing about them. All you know is what they shared in their application or when you met with them a few times. However, former students you know and this will help you put them in the right spot within your ministry.
2. They know you and your ministry. Not only do you know them but they know you. In addition to knowing you they also know your ministry. They probably have a good understanding of what you want your ministry to look like and be about. They know the culture and vibe of your ministry. This will save them much time and energy as they set out to be volunteers in your ministry. Sure there will be some things they don’t know. It will be new for them to be on the “leader side” of the ministry. However, they will know more than the normal new volunteer so that’s a plus.
3. They want to give back. The reason most former students come back to be volunteers is so they can give back to the ministry. Usually these are students who God impacted in huge ways through your ministry. Because of this they want to come back and be a part of God doing that for other students. This is the main reason they make great volunteers – they have experienced God through your ministry and they now want to help other students experience the same thing. That’s awesome!
Don’t overlook your former students when you think about volunteers for your ministry. Reach out to them and get them plugged in. They will make great volunteers in your ministry.
This week was a big week in our student ministry! On Tuesday night we had Senior Night in our high school ministry where we honored and celebrated our seniors. As you will see, the whole service was pretty much focused on them. Then on Wednesday night we had Edguation in our middle school ministry where we honored our 8th grade students and sent them off to officially become part of our high school ministry. Both nights where incredible!
What We Did at Porch (High School) – Senior Night
Worship Set List: The Ascension (Phil Wickham), All Things New (Elevation Worship), Man of Sorrows (Hillsong), Jesus I Come (Elevation Worship), and Oceans [Where Feet May Fail] (Hillsong United).
Video: 2015 Senior Video
Teaching: Every year for senior night I prepare a message just for our seniors. It’s always something all the students need to hear but it’s specifically for the seniors. This year I did a talk called “4 Questions to Ask Yourself As You Graduate High School.”
Highlight: I have three highlights from this night. First, after my talk I brought all our seniors upfront and had them sit along the stage. Then I asked everyone else to gather wound them and place their hands on them. If they couldn’t reach them they were to touch the person in front of them. Then I opened the floor for our students and leaders to pray over our seniors. For about 5-10 minutes we lifted up our seniors in prayer and it was amazing. Second, we had Porch alumni shirts designed and we gave one to every senior. The shirts looked awesome and the seniors loved them. Third, the worship was incredible! The band rocked, our two seniors in the band were singing their hearts out, and the students in the crowd where going at it. I saw students who normally don’t show any emotion in worship lift their hands and sing their hearts out to God.
What We Did at Edge (Middle School) – Edguation
Opening Video: Worst Doctor Ever
Upfront Game: Lego Lava Walk Challenge. This is something I ran across on Download Youth Ministry. We did it as an upfront game with all our 8th grade students. We spread about eight pounds of legos across the front of the stage and had each 8th grade students walk (or run) across them. We timed each one to see who could do it the fastest.
Video: Edge Announcement Video (this was by far my favorite announcement video to film because of the end – watch it).
Group Game: Scatterball. We play this game a ton in our middle school ministry and our 8th grade students requested it for Edguation. We did a few round for just them and then a few for everyone. It’s basically dodgeball, but with only one ball (we throw a few more in to speed it up) and you can only take up to 3 steps (when it gets down to a few people we let them take as many steps as they want). Click the link above to download the graphic we used for this game.
Teaching: Every year at Edguation I prepare a special message for our 8th grade students. This year I did a talk called “3 Things to Keep First As You Enter High School.” I also did a live interview with one our high school students at the tail end of my talk where we talked about following Jesus in high school. Click here to listen to the talk.
Highlight: Watching our 8th grade students leave the room and walk into a huge crowd of high school students that were cheering for them (and spraying silly string and blowing horns). Then they went to another room where they hangout, talked about our high school ministry, gave them free stuff (Porch shirt, ESV compact Bible, and a invite to Porch).
It’s that time of year again. Your seniors are graduating and in a few short months they will leave your student ministry to start a new chapter of their life called college. If your like most student pastors during this season, your searching online for that perfect graduation gift to give your seniors. Even though it’s been done since Adam and Eve graduated high school, I think giving your seniors a new Bible is the way to go. But if we want them to appreciate the Bible and actually use it, you need to invest in getting them a good Bible. Let me suggest a few of the Bibles I would consider giving your graduating seniors.
ESV Thinline Bibles. If you have a lot of seniors and a tight budget this may be the Bible to go with. Usually the ESV thinline Bibles are pretty cheap ($20-$30) and are very popular. Their simple Bibles that are easier to carry around or throw into your book bag. You can get this Bible in many different colors, materials, and designs.
ESV Study Bible. This is the Bible of choice if you want to give your students the best! This is what we will be doing for the next few years. The ESV Study Bible is by far the best study Bible out there right now. It’s a pretty large Bible, but is packed with study notes, book introductions, maps, charts, and other resources. This is a Bible your seniors will not only find helpful in college, but for the rest of their life’s. The only bad thing is the price. This Bible is not very cheap, but if you dig around online long enough you cab find a good deal on this Bible.
Apologetics Study Bible (HCSB). I haven’t used this study Bible much myself, but I have heard some great stuff about it. The notes and resources includes within the Bible deal with apologetics and answering common questions in regards to defending Christianity. Since many students head off to secular universities where professors will discredit Christianity, this Bible could be a great tool for them during those college years. Check this Bible out and see if it may be a good fit for your students, especially those headed to secular colleges and universities.
College Devotional Bible (NIV). This is another Bible I have not looked into much yet, but it seems to make a great gift for graduating seniors. One of the most important things a college student can do is get into a regular habit of spending time in God’s Word everyday. This Bible is designed for college students who are busy and need a plan in place to read Scripture. It includes a reading plan that goes through the college year.
These are just a few of the Bible out there that will make great gifts for your graduating seniors. You may notice that many of these Bibles, especially the ESV Study Bible and Apologetics Study Bible, have popular students versions of them. I didn’t share those because I think college aged-students have outgrown the “student Bible” days. Those are great for middle and high school students, but not for college students.