So last summer our team almost died.
Ok, that might be an exageration but it for sure felt like it.
Last summer our team fell into the line of thinking of “doing more and doing bigger is better.” Last summer we jam packed our Wednesday nights, we scheduled midweek, stand alone events (including a 4 day night camp where we planned 4 big events 4 nights in a row), beach days and went to all summer camps. Sounds fun right? They were poorly attended and our team was exhausted. Last summer caused us to look at the rest of the year and we began to look at the things in which really were effective and compare them to what we thought would be “cool” and our team is a lot healthier now.
We stripped down and we have seen major growth because of it. Here are a few things we have done:
No stand alone events – What do we mean by that? During the school year we don’t do any event outside of our Wednesday night service. No random Friday night big event, no Sunday night movie… nothing. Why? We would get big turn outs yes, but none of those new kids would come back to service. The return on investment was so low. So we began to attach all events on to Wednesday nights. So we would plan for a shorter service, promote it, and not only did our students bring friends, but their friends actually got to experience the service and then attend the event afterwards. We have been able to see students who come to these events come back time after time. Now to be fair, we do have some stand alone events during the summer, but I’ll explain them below.
Summer planning is what summer is for…. relaxing – When we planned last summer, we were tired by September and events we did were okay. When we asked our students what their favorite events were, guess what… it was not the big crazy events. Their favorites were the really chill and relaxing, doesn’t take so much planning, why did we spend so much money if this worked events. So this summer, the stand alone events we are doing are the simplest events I have ever done. We planned 4 park days and 2 beach days, 2 ever service events.
- Park days – For a few hours on a Monday we take over a park down the street and we just hang out. Each day we will highlight a fun and crazy game like Crazy Soccer (soccer with a football) or Human Battleship. Great low key, relational time with students and volunteers.
- Beach days – We rented 2 busses. Students pay $15 and we go to the beach all day long with dinner included. No agenda. Just hang time.
- After service events – We have an outdoor movie night and a Color War Super Soaker night. Again, super low budget, good hang out time with students and volunteers.
I don’t know if you have noticed, but a lot of our students seem busier than we are. Their schedules are so jam packed. We have found out our students don’t want things that play into that life style, they want and crave good ol’ relational, low key hang outs.It’s good for them, it’s even better for your volunteers because they get good time, and it’s good for you because it’s effective ministry and you don’t have to die.
Volunteers take stand alone events – I think one of the biggest switches we had to take on was the idea of ownership within our volunteers. I felt like our staff was taking everything and our volunteers where just attending. Yes, we won’t do an event on a Friday night that we plan but we tell our volunteers and small group leaders that can. Instead of relying on us to plan it all, we encourage and train our volunteers to go beyond the Wednesday night. If they want to go to a movie with students, plan it. If they want to go to Friday night broomball, plan it. If they want to have students at their house for a BBQ. Great! Just the other day, two students came into the offices for what I thought was to hang with me, but they were meeting their small group leader at the church so they can go to the movies. 1) I was hurt because I wasn’t invited and 2) thought it was awesome because that leader gets it. It’s been a process of getting our volunteers to go from glorified babysitters to active and involved adults in our students lives. I feel the group we have right now is just now beginning to get this and it’s amazing what happens to a ministry where leaders take ownership of relational and discipleship. It really does change things.