This opportunity comes only once a year and if you miss it, you’ll never get it back!
In fact if you miss it, for some students it could be your last chance. You may be thinking that this sounds like a one time offer thing but I’m not trying to sell you anything. I just don’t want you to miss the opportunity to connect these vulnerable students with your ministry. Here’s what you need to know and what you can do about it.
One Last chance.
The haemorrhaging faith study showed clearly that about 30% of students never make the transition from the children’s ministry from your church to the youth ministry. You’re probably really tired of hearing how high school graduates leave the church never to return but if you don’t help public school kids get into your jr high, middle school, or high school ministries this year, they won’t be signing up next year or any other year.
Receive the Hand Off
Some forward thinking ministries were on top of this last year when students ended their time in the children’s programs. They graduated to the summer programming that you were running. If you haven’t been working with these students all summer now is the time is get them in your programs and connect them with your leaders.
This is an ancient concept that you can repurpose. In the next few weeks, maybe part of your kick off night or actually on a Sunday, you can receive the parents and the students into your student ministry. It doesn’t have to be long but it can be very powerful.
By demonstrating to the church that these students belong in student ministries everyone recognizes that this is the next step in discipleship for the students and and their families.
It seems like every student ministry takes a different approach to their first night back in the fall. Some do their wildest event of the year so that every student and their 3 closest friends will be there and decide they’re coming back for another year.
Others start with a parent and student registration type night where parents join in with the program for a while, fill out forms, and do a meet and greet with the ministry leaders.
However you run your first night it really matters that you get those students out, they connect with your leaders and you are ready to follow up with them that week. It’s in this vulnerable time that they may choose they are never “coming to youth” or that they are going to give it a try.. This might sound crazy but at one church I went to each home to invite them personally to a day on a house boat before the big event! Out of 24 grade 6 students 22 joined our joined our Jr. High group when they hit grade 7!
Follow the Student
What if you did something radical and a children’s worker or volunteer came up to the youth program with their students. They could come out for a few weeks or they could stay permanently. Some ministries are actually doing this. They are getting great results!
Immediate Follow Up
If you get a big influx of new students you’re going to have to scramble to solidify that families connection with your student ministry. This is one of those all-hands-on-deck situations where all leaders need to be connecting with parents and students.
Do I Matter?
Do I belong? Does anybody like me? However they phrase it, these students don’t automatically feel like they belong. In fact, they are programmed to think the exact opposite. That’s why your students and leaders need to go out of their way to make them feel welcome, accepted, and appreciated!
The tricky thing is that it can’t feel forced. It has to be genuine.
Worth the Effort
I don’t know how some people get it in their heads that it is up to the student and their families whether they choose to join or not. One guy told me, “They know where we are. They can come when they’re ready.” When I consider the way football players will bend over backward to execute a play with no thought to injury or strain I’m inspired to do whatever we can to stretch ourselves to make sure that no student is missed!