All around the country, folks are preparing for a successful new year of school. Buses are running their practice routes, schools are hosting open houses, and schedule change requests are pouring into guidance counselors.
A lot of action goes on at the beginning of the school year. And the same is true for us in ministry. Before we lose focus in the busyness, let’s get prepared.
You can start preparing for a successful year with these four tips.
Have a plan to communicate with parents.
How you communicate with the parents of young people in your ministry will often make or break their attendance.
Consider how you will communicate your top-level announcements, such as when your Fall Retreat will occur. Top-level announcements can be shared via a printed calendar (for the entire Fall/Winter season), through monthly parent e-mails, in your church bulletin, or website. Top-level announcements contain information that individuals can use to make a decision about participation. For instance they can look at the retreat dates and decide if it works with their schedule.
Mid-level announcements get more specific. These announcements are audience focused. Mid-level may be the details of the Fall Retreat. Where will drop-off and pickup occur? How much spending money should their child bring? This information can go out in newsletters, but you will also want to communicate this information more directly to those participating in the activity.
Quick announcements are the final kind to consider. These are the announcements used to encourage last-minute participation or temporary changes to plans. Text messaging, social media, or phone calls are often the best mediums for this type of communication. Do you have a text message system or a way of collecting their phone numbers? Will you put young people on this text list also?
Create excitement for the mission within your volunteer team.
An old saying is, “Mission is like a balloon with a slow leak.” I have found this to be true.
To help your team refocus around your mission, spend time together to go over the mission. But don’t just say the mission – make a game out of it. Write the mission statement on paper and cut it like a jigsaw puzzle. See how quickly volunteers can put the mission back together. Then, help them see a practical example of what it looks like for them to live out that mission in your ministry. Get them excited and involved in preparing for a successful year by actively honing in on the mission.
Engage with young people who are leaders.
Whether you call them student leaders or not, there are young people in your ministry that influence others. It may be a natural ability they have or respect given to them by their peers. Whatever the source is, build a relationship with them and help them see what you hope the ministry will look like this year.
For example, if one of these influencers buys into the idea of your ministry being a place where every person has a friend, they will help make that happen when they see a new person. They will either befriend the new person or encourage others to do the task. The quickest way to culture change in your ministry is through young people, not adults
Have a game plan for your spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health.
I had a history of being one of the worst at caring for myself. I would get excited and ready to make a significant impact in the next season of ministry. So what would happen? I quickly forget about myself, leading to exhaustion and near burnout by the end of the season.
Over time I discovered that making a plan based on the season was helpful to me. For instance, I may say that I will intentionally schedule extra meetings for the next three months with people that refuel me. Or I may take a season of planning spare time to listen to podcasts. I always found mowing my yard was a good time for these podcasts. Whatever it may be, preparing for a successful year has to include a plan of how to take care of yourself in the next season. Be creative, have fun, and make it something enjoyable to you. Your health directly impacts those you serve.
I hope these spur on ideas on how you can have a great season of ministry this Fall. At Youth Ministry Institute, we are always rooting for you!
Rev. Brian Lawson is the Director of Leadership Development and Client Services for YMI and has served in youth ministry since 2004. He also serves as a pastor in the Florida Conference of the UMC. Brian holds a Master of Ministry with a focus in organizational culture, team-based leadership, change, conflict, and peacemaking from Warner University. In addition to his degrees from Warner, he studied Christian Education at Asbury Theological Seminary. Click the social links below to engage with Brian.