Monday, September 16, 2013

4 Keys to Starting Fresh in Student Ministry

Eight fall seasons ago I had the opportunity to start fresh with a student ministry that was, for the most part, non-existent.  Since then, along with an incredible team of volunteers, I'm very excited about the student ministry that we've built, and are continuing to refine.

A fellow youth worker from a few towns over called me the other day with a similar opportunity - to start fresh and small.  Here is some of the advice that I had for him.  I hope you find it helpful if you're starting fresh.

1. Small Groups are Key:  You've heard it before, but don't do ministry alone.  Even with only 15 students and your spouse.  Bring along other adults to care for students.  You will ultimately only grow at the pace that you have adults to adequately care for the students in your ministry.  Pick a ratio that you want to see in small groups, and recruit AHEAD of that number, not in response to it.  Just be careful in the early stages not to overwhelm the students with too many adults.  If you have 15 students and 8 adults it's going to feel a bit overwhelming for the students.

2.  Be Intentional with Your Programming:  With a small number of students it's easy to leave a lot of room for unplanned and off-the-cuff activities.  But what happens when you add 10-15 more students.  All of a sudden you have to add some structure and things in place.  You don't want to have to change things up majorly mid-steam and have your current students push back on this new structure.

Have fun, but do it with purpose.  Have a plan each night just like you would if you had 50 students.  Jim Wideman says it all the time: "Do NOW what you'd be forced to do if you grew.  Then you'll grow."

3.  Have Fun Outside of "Normal" Programming: Tailgate at football games.  Do impromptu ice cream runs, or coffee meet-ups.  Have students over to your house.  Those relational moments that we're tempted to do off-the-cuff in our regular programming can be done at other times.  The allows for those relational connections to happen, while still remaining intentional during your "normal" programming.

4.  Be Committed for the Long Haul:  I've been in the same place for nearly 8 years now, and have seen things in student ministry by being in the same place that I would have never seen had I jumped ship even 2 years ago.  Seeing your team go from 2 other volunteers besides your spouse to a group 17 small group leaders (larger than the student ministry we started with) is unbelievable.  I'm still a bit emotional when I get together with those leaders each week before our student environment starts.

I hope that list helps some in either starting fresh, or working in a small context.