With all the buzz on how important social media are in communicating with students and everyone telling you to text reminders for events, it’s easy to overlook the single most effective ways of inviting students for events: personally. No social media campaign, no text messaging, no flyer, reminder or announcement can ever trump a personal invitation.

Every Sunday after church, my husband and I would look for our small group members and invite them for whatever was happening that day or that week. It would go like this:

We have small group tonight, are you coming?

There’s a youth service tonight, we’ll go together, are you coming with us?

We’ll have dinner at our place Friday, you’re coming too aren’t you?

Did you hear they’re doing a girls evening on sex this week, I’ll be there, are you coming with me?

  • The students knew they were expected, that we were counting on them to be there;
  • They knew that we were keeping tabs on who was there, that we cared. They knew they were being missed when they didn’t come;
  • It’s a lot harder to say no in person than it is via text or email, so they’d have to come up with a really good reason not to come;
  • In asking why they couldn’t make it, we got to challenge their priorities and assumptions several times and we got better insights into what was going on in their lives;
  • We got to make a case for several more content-driven events that was more effective than a digital communication would have ever been;
  • It reinforced our closeness and unity as a small group.

Teach and encourage your small group leaders to invite their students personally to events. Make sure they know how important this is and keep checking if they do this. It may be hard for them at first, especially for people who are more introvert or who have fears of coming across as pushy or controlling. If necessary, help them find a way and a style to do this that fits their personality.

For this to work, it’s important that the leaders themselves are present as well. You cannot invite students to a youth service enthusiastically and convincingly of you’ve never been there yourself. I know that for volunteers it’s often impossible to be present all the time, but try to attend events at least once so you know what you’re talking about. If you are a youth pastor, be very clear of your expectations in this area so your volunteers know what you expect of them.

Do you have the habit of personally inviting your students for events? How do you go about it?