The end of summer is here and your church youth are preparing to start school again (if they haven’t already started). They’ve had their fill of summer freedom and are looking forward to their new classes and activities.
After all the incredible summer activities you’ve shared with your youth, you definitely don’t want to lose them to busy schedules. You’ve spent so much time helping them to bond with each other, so it’s important to continue to keep them engaged throughout the school year, as well!
But what can you do with your youth to help them connect without overscheduling them? How can you ensure that kids are having fun and deepening the bonds they created over the summer?
Here are some great ideas for you to consider adding to your plans to make sure that teens stay active in your ministry all school year long.
1. Make a school year hang out space.
Create a space for your youth to hang out as often as they have time. This might mean extending your open hours into the evening so that kids can hang out together, play games, or do homework. Set up little nooks for those who need some quiet space and bigger nooks for groups of kids to spend time together.
Weave your youth events into the space so that there is always a reason for them to be marking their calendars. Keep the schedule flexible and choose times for events that work for most of the kids. Try to always have youth staff around so that youth have someone they trust to talk to.
2. Plan a monthly movie night.
Make sure that youth are connecting in meaningful ways, but also having fun! Set up a projector, drag out the popcorn maker, and set up comfy couches and chairs. You could create a school year theme for the movies, or keep it flexible and choose different movies based on interest. Invite the kids to bring their friends, which will help to generate more interest in your church in the wider community.
3. Schedule occasional service projects.
Yes, youth will be very busy with school. But that doesn’t mean that the summer service projects have to end. Find a time once or twice a month to fit in a Saturday morning of service. Identify the elderly or disabled in your congregation and ask if a team of youth can come help out with yard work, cleaning, or other useful projects. While kids might not initially be excited by the idea of hard work, if you provide fun refreshments and a positive attitude, pretty soon they’ll realize that they’re having a great time and that service feels good for the soul.
4. Create a fun back to school night.
Celebrate the new school year with a bash for everyone at your church. Invite families and their kids of all ages, plus extend invitations to other families in your community that don’t currently attend your church. Find a theme for your evening, serve refreshments, and keep it fun with games.
Make sure to have your school year schedule ready to go so that you can start telling youth about all the fun things you have planned. Send them home with a calendar of events and get their parents in on the excitement. This will help ensure that parents are aware of and can help kids come to the activities you’ve got planned.
5. Make Sunday services count.
Youth schedules are busier than ever, especially once they hit their high school years. Some kids just won’t be able to come to your activities, no matter how much they’d like to. To make sure that everyone feels connected and welcome, put a lot of your energy into making your time with them on Sundays as high quality as possible. Create opportunities for bonding, with a heavy emphasis on relationship-building. Kids will take these experiences into their schools, maintaining friendships with their church buddies.
6. Reading and games.
Teach today’s youth that they can still have fun without technology. For youth that have time to participate, plan a school year reading club (and maybe even separate ones for different ages). Choose all the best Christian youth literature and get them enthused about reading and discussing together. You can also host regular game nights focused on board and card games, bringing back all the good, old-fashioned favorites.
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The main goals of your youth ministry should be to building relationships, increase self-esteem and self-worth, and deepen fellowship. Ask kids what they want to do and find ways to cultivate enthusiasm for the plans you create. Choose activities that will keep their interest, while still being wholesome and Christ-centered. Involve parents and younger siblings when appropriate, and create plenty of space that’s just for youth, too. Be willing to take a few risks and think outside the box. You’ll end up having the best school year ever in your youth ministry.
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