I’m turning over a new leaf today on the blog with the intent of making guest posts a regular part of the rotation. Today’s guest post is from a good friend–Ryan Connel.
Student ministry has been my pursuit for 20+ years. I love it! It takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions. You can go from the thrill of seeing students understand what Christ did for them, committing their life to Him, to the pain that every day life can bring. Then there are all the emotions that play out in between those extremes.
Back in the day this time of year would bring about a lot of stress for me as we were in the middle of summer camp & mission trip prep. One of the reasons it would stress me so is because I wondered if we would have enough students to make a trip work. I remember hours spent to get speakers, worship teams, small group leaders, cooks, & on down the list, then coming down to the last week & having very few students signed up. There is a conversation for another time about casting a vision for what you are planning. But for our purposes today I would like to share one thing that changed our involvement on trips.
As the event came together I would eventually lay out a signup sheet, usually a couple of months out from the trip. Weekly, I would announce the event to get student involved & excited. Yet I would walk over to the signup sheet & only have a handful of diehard students signed up. In my weakness as a leader, I had failed to really connect the students into what we were doing. At some point along the way I made the choice to call students in the weeks leading up to an event & invite them to come join us. It was definitely more effective, but I’m betting you can already hear what the first question was on the other side of the phone, “Who else is going?” I always thought that was a funny question & understood to a point why they would ask it, but why the need to have other students validate if the event was worth while.
My answer finally came in a book that changed a lot for me. It is called “Sustainable Youth Ministry” by Mark DeVries. Why I missed this for so long, I don’t know, but I’m thankful for the incredible resources we have our disposal now days. One of the things I remember him mentioning is how he would get his leadership students to make phone calls when leading up to events. I gave it a try a few years back & it changed so much for us. The first thing I noticed is the excitement in my leadership students. It meant a ton to them to be asked to be involved in the preparation. I also noticed that they were able to connect in more students than I ever would have thought of or had contact information for. There was also an excitement that came from the leadership students sharing their excitement, that built the excitement of those being invited, so those being invited made things more exciting because the leaders could see the fruit of their labors, which eventually lead into a life changing event for many students.
The lesson I learned was to stop trying to carry the responsibility to get students involved by myself, because the reality is I won’t always be around & I’m limited in my connections. God has gifted us with students that want to & should be used for the kingdom, so why not use them & grow them even in something so simple. The other important lesson was that ministry isn’t a sit back & wait responsibility. It is engaging at all levels. So who are the students you can involve in your next event?
Interested in reading Sustainable Youth Ministry? Pick up a copy today!