I like to start my weekly small group meetings by asking a random opening question, simply to get the ball rolling.
“If you could go back in time and observe your life from an outsiders perspective, what event or time would you go back to and why?”
I ask questions like this for my small group to create a safe space where we get to hear from all the participants, it establishes that everyone contributes and every person adds value. Most of the time, a question like the above, helps the group to gain insights into the life and thoughts of each other.
The specific question above, serves as a brief intro to this blog series. In May of 2016, the leadership of our church asked me to take on a short interim role as we engaged a search for our new Student Pastor. “Short” became a little longer as I served for 18 months. In many ways I got to rewind the tape and relive some key strategies in youth ministry.
Relaunch Realization Number THREE: Know and Be Known— Relational Programming
As I stated in the second post, naming a short term destination helped everyone to understand the why behind the decisions being made and the events being offered. With those named, it was time to implement events that helped us get the desired outcomes. My goal was the leaders, students and parents get a sense that they could know (others) and be known (by others).
Creating a relational space was key, almost everything offered in the summer of ’16 was on the calendar so that community could increase. We kept the summer calendar clear of events that took a lot of preparation (I, like most of our other volunteers, work full-time outside of leading in the interim), and most everything drove toward relational investment.
We did simple events like:
- Late-Nite-Apps (gathering at 9pm at Applebees for 1/2 priced appetizers)
- Minor League Baseball Game (cheap and no-brainer)
- Bike-Hike and BBQ (active and food always is a win)
- Bible and Barbecue Nights (weekly Bible study with simple theme and little prep needed)
Our most “robust” event that summer was our “campouts” for both middle and high school, but even those were programmatically simple, allowing our students to get to know our leaders and vice-versa. Instead of week-long camps, we did camping trips for two nights and three days that included water-sports, grass volleyball, kickball and a lot of time just hanging out. We did grade & gender mixed small groups to help create community outside of class distinctions.
I relaunched my youth ministry career the way my original youth pastorate started— by starting simple and creating a relational context where all can be known. Perhaps you are a “big program” person? Even for you it could be good to take a season where ministry is stripped back so that individuals can truly be seen and heard and trust can be built.