the people, the place and the program
Anytime you get together with your junior highers, there are three key ingredients: The people, the place and the program. All of these ingredients play a crucial role in the various aspects of your ministry. Let's take a look at each one.
Hopefully everything you do has some people involved!
Who are the students in attendance? How many are there? Are they primarily churched kids or un-churched? Guys or girls? Are there any first-time visitors? Are there parents mingling around? Who are the adult leaders at the event? How well trained and equipped are they? The church is made up of people, but oftentimes we forget about people because we are so busy doing church stuff!
Over the years I've learned that the best way to remember people is by doing something that seems really impersonal: Create systems to help keep it personal. Here are a few ideas to help you remember the people at your event:
- Create some sort of check in/roster so you know who was there. This also allows you to follow up on each person.
- Create an annual 'survey' that allows students to share their interests, struggles, things they'd like to learn about, etc.
- Create a formal greater team. A smiling face and a friendly 'hello' seem like no-brainers, but it's amazing how many youth groups don't make the effort.
- At larger events, work the crowd and make an effort to say hello to every student. At smaller events make it a goal to have a short conversation with every person in attendance.
- Give your adult leaders formalized job descriptions so they know what's expected of them at the event or activity.
Where is the gathering taking place? Is it at Church or off campus? Is it junior high friendly? What does the 'atmosphere' say about our ministry? Is it warm and inviting? Is it cold and intimidating? How is the room arranged?
Everything you do happens someplace! I think it's worth the effort to make sure the place you are meeting is a good fit for young teens that it's a place they will feel comfortable.
Good Place: Starbucks or fast food restaurant
Bad Place: Senior adults buffet
Good Place: House with a pool table and industrial-grade carpet
Bad Place: House with glass coffee table and white carpet
Good Place: Junior high room at church with pictures, couches and a foosball table
Bad Place: Room at the church with pews, white walls and communion table
Every time your ministry gathers, you are gathering together to do something. When planning your programs, it's always a good idea to thing about the people and the place: Who is going to be there and where are we going to meet? If the only place you have to meet is the house with a glass coffee table and white carpet, you may not want your program to include the 'Fruit Punch Relay! If you expect most of the kids to be un-churched, you may not want to go street witnessing.
A final, and probably most important, question to ask is: What is the purpose of our get together? If your purpose is fellowship, then program accordingly. If your purpose is evangelism, then program in an evangelistic way. Like the place, the program needs to be junior high friendly. A common mistake is for twenty-something leaders to create a program that twenty-somethings would like. I'm forty. I really don't love playing Let's Make a Deal or Dodge Ball, but since our students do we make sure our programs include stuff like that.
So what's most important; the people, the place or the program? I'm sure there's a different answer for every situation your ministry finds itself in. You'll need to wrestle through that one on your own.
- Kurt Johnston