Guest post by Scott Huff
Last year we began testing theme nights at our first gathering of each month. We would use these nights for several reasons but ultimately they were done to spark attendance and gain momentum heading into a new series for the rest of the month. There are a few things we learned from this test that I feel can help you implement theme nights in your ministry and see similar results. Here are 5 elements of a theme night to think through each time you plan one:
- The Theme – The theme is the most important detail when planning the night. The theme can be based off the new series you’re kicking off or be separate to provide creativity and energy for the students. For example: a “superhero” night is fun and easy to build around but a “battle of the sexes” night can also achieve a connection to a new sex and relationship series. Change your theme each month and try to touch on a variety of topics to engage various groups of students in their sweet spot.
- The Creativity – Once you have your theme began to think through the many creative elements you could implement to make the night different and original for the students. Use sets and lighting on the stage and around the room to create a fun environment that ties into the theme. I like to say that nothing is off limits when it comes to the creativity of a theme night. The crazier, the better. For example: we kicked off a series called “Reality Show” at a theme night once and had a guest worship leader come in who had been on The Voice.
- The Message – The message should be largely evangelistic on these nights because the intention is that your students are inviting lost friends to this type of night. You could use a guest speaker that is connected to the theme. For example: maybe you’re kicking off a series called “Game Day” and you could bring in a local college football player who is a Christian and he could share his testimony. One time we had a theme called “Camp Throwback” where we opened up summer camp registrations and we invited in a former camp pastor we had a few years earlier. Make connections between the theme and the “personalities” on stage.
- The Students – Think of a way that automatically engages each student into the night. I often lean towards what they’re wearing to make everyone feel included. Clothing is an easy way to get each student invested by asking them to dress a certain way. For example: if you’re doing a “Neon” night then you ask every student to wear neon clothing. This provides an immediate connection between everyone there and also breaks down walls of socio-economic differences for everyone there. You should also offer promotions for those who invite friends. Maybe you’re doing an “At the Movies” theme and you offer a free movie ticket to every person who brings a guest with him or her.
- The Extras – These are the things that can make or break a night. It’s the little things! Use food to connect the theme. Maybe you could have blue and pink cupcakes on “Battle of the Sexes” night or a kiddie pool full of 8 types of Cheetos on “Code Orange” night (we did this and it was amazing)? Theme nights are great nights to do really cool giveaways and students love great giveaways. You could a “Video Game” night and give away a gift card to GameStop or Xbox. You could give away a huge basket of candy on a “Halloween/Costume Party” night. I will often give away a deposit for camp or our DNow weekend if I don’t have a giveaway that connects to the theme. Parents love that one! I would recommend having some sweet swag too. When we do our “Neon” night we always have glow sticks and finger lights but one year we also have away neon colored shirts with our student ministry logo on it. Everyone loved those and now almost all of them wear it for our annual “Neon” night!
Theme nights have always been our largest attended nights and they also re-engage students who have fallen out from being consistent. Thinking through theme nights are some of my most fun days in the office and I love getting others in on the creativity… even the senior pastor! You should definitely look to repeat themes that go over very well and also look for ways to connect a theme to a current trend or event on the calendar.
Theme nights make it easy for students to invite friends. They make it easy for students to jump back in after missing a few weeks. They make it easy to feel a part of the group whether they have been or not. They also make your days in the office much more fun and creative. These nights also make memories for everyone for years to come!
Scott Huff is the Student Pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, KY. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Hannibal LaGrange College and a Master’s of Divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a former college basketball player and golfer. A Student Pastor for more than ten years and a national speaker for fifteen, Scott has a calling on his life to impact the lives of people with the Gospel and to lead them to strengthen their faith for glorifying God in an ever-changing world. Scott and his wife. Lori, have two children.