Listen, by now you are probably experiencing the dreaded spring slump. Low numbers due to spring sports, nice weather, school work, and general family fatigue. I have experienced this myself and, while I sympathize, I challenge you to re-think this time of year and use it to the advantage of your ministry.
Rather than painstakingly plan for Sundays or Wednesdays only to be disappointed when a handful of (or no!) kids show up, accept the reality and plan for it. Buy some games and programming from DYM, hand off the planning to an intern or some volunteers who really need to be leading, and GET OUT OF THE OFFICE!
You see there is a reason why everyone is out and about, and you should be, too. Why would students care about your best-laid plans if you don’t really care much about theirs? This is the season to go to all the things. Games, matches, meets, recitals, competitions, art shows, assemblies and more. There is plenty of ministry to be done outside the walls of your church.
Here are my best tips for making the most of your out and about time this spring.
- Put this in your budget. Games and tickets can get pricey, so make sure you aren’t spending your own money to go to all these events. PRO TIP: If you don’t have a budget…many private schools don’t charge for sports or concerts, and most public schools play some private schools on their schedules. Also, school assemblies can be an easy and free way to see middle school band, orchestra, and chorus all at once, during your regular work hours!
- Make a strategic calendar plan: I go through each student and write down the two best chances I have to make it to whatever they are into this season. Call parents and get concert and recital dates now. Line them all up and see…are there games where you can see more than one student at a time? Or times when games on one campus overlap? PRO TIP: Figure out some tricks that work for you. Is there a school near your house where most schools compete? My kids went to a K-12 private school, and most of my students from various schools competed against this school. So I picked up my kids, brought them to the game with me (conveniently located right outside their carpool pick up), and was home before bed. So convenient and easy!
- Partner with Parents: It means as much to parents when you show up as it does to their kids. And this is a GREAT time to communicate with them. In fact, you can meet and get to know the whole family at an event and it gives you so much more insight into the student’s life. One parent told me how her kid had never played the sport and was now the captain. I had no idea the kid was that brave and willing to take on hard things! Often parents are so excited you are coming they offer to buy you a ticket to sit with them. PRO TIP: The best parents will introduce you around to all the parents whose kids are on your roster but you’ve never laid eyes on the family!
- Bring other students and leaders. Invite the student’s small group leader, confirmation mentor, other staff, and other students. Once I was at a middle school musical with our choir director, youth handbell director, a confirmation mentor, and a small group leader. I heard a parent behind me brag to her friend “That whole row is from my church, here to support our kids!” There can be no better advertisement for your church than this!
- Get that pic for the ‘Gram. It seems like bragging, but your Insta tells your story, and your story should include you and your leaders, on-site, at schools, with families, being the church. Plus, it documents for everyone how you spend your time. People often just don’t know what goes into youth ministry. Maybe they would want to join you if they knew what you do!
I hope these tips inspire you to get out of the office and into the lives of your students this spring! You might be surprised who shows up to church after you showed up in their lives. Either way, that student and their family will know they matter to their church.
Ansley has served in youth ministry for two decades and holds a certificate of Youth and Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. She loves the relational aspect of youth ministry as well as helping equip adults and students to lead. Ansley lives on her family’s beef cattle farm in Virginia with her husband and two young sons (and, sadly, no llamas).
See more from this DYM author here.