What I Learned From Opening Weekend: Part 1

I’m tired but good, I had a protein packed breakfast; therefore, I should have the energy to take on the week and recover from the weekend.  I’ve said this before but doing a weekend of student ministry (which for me spans from Thursday – Sunday) is like running a marathon.  When you wake up the next day you don’t know how you did it, you are glad you did it but you are wiped.   Sometimes it’s easy to go from weekend to weekend mindless; however, if we take each week like a runner takes each mile then we can sustain and endure a great pace.  Over the next couple of days I hope to share with you a few things that I learned from this past weekend when our church kicked off the fall season.  I believe there is a lot we can learn from an opening weekend that sometimes we won’t see in the middle of the year.  So first thing I learned is:
After the hype of week one wears down you need a plan to get them back.  Due to all the plugging, promoting and inviting we had a great turnout for week 1. There have been many times where youth ministers (including myself) have put so much of their energy into the opening weekend that they have little to sustain them through the first month.  (Brian Kirk from Rethinking Youth Ministry has a great article on this 6 Ways to Guarantee A Lousy Fall)  We get stuck on the idea that they only way we can bring people in is to have “Kickoff Like Weekend” week after week.  What we forget to do is think about how we are going to get the students back the following week.

Whether it’s a lesson, a message or a night of fellowship develop some tangible way of inviting them back.  For the first week of our series we gave them two reasons.  As some of you know we are doing a series on Anger and the first challenge we laid out is for them to track their anger.  To help them do this we gave them cards with a system to track anger.  We told them that they need to come next week with their cards so we can help them analyze whether their anger is justified or not.  The second reason they can come back is because of the online poll on pet peeves we asked them to take.  We’re giving them the results next week.  I know these aren’t two mind blowing ways of bringing students back, but it gives them a hook, a little taste of how we want to help them grow in their faith.
As youth ministers we have to be careful not to forget about the invitation, we need to ask ourselves, “No matter how many kids return, how do I want to invite them to come back the follow?”  When we ask ourselves this question week to week, we won’t worry so much about blowing out our energy on moonbounces, crazy games and the other things that can burn out a student ministry.