By: Katie Edwards, Junior High Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA
One of my favorite parts about student ministry is getting my students involved in giving back to the community around them.
But if I’m being honest, it’s also one of the most challenging. Getting students excited about doing things for other people isn’t always easy. And coming up with new and unique ways for our students to serve, love, and share our resources can be even harder.
To help take just a little bit of that weight off your shoulders, let me share with you a few unique things we’ve done (and you can do, too!) to get our students involved and give back to our community.
Write letters to veterans or people in the military. This one is great because it’s short, simple, and makes a big impact. Have your students take just five minutes in Small Group to write a note of appreciation to the veterans or military service members in your community.
Create a care package. Fill a basket with anything from small home décor items to food to notes of encouragement. Then, deliver the care package to people in your community you know could use a pick me up. Think widows, spouses of military members, families who have lost a loved one, and more.
Porch drop. Leave Scripture, encouraging notes, small treats, or a bag of groceries on the front porch of a family in need in your congregation. A little act of kindness like this will go a long way in lifting their spirits.
Do a food pantry scavenger hunt. In Small Groups, have your students go door-to-door to collect canned goods for your local food pantry or for a family in need. Make a list of specific items they need to collect. The group with the most items check off at the end wins a prize!
Instagram campaign. Post a picture of your Small Group holding signs with words of encouragement to someone who needs it. In the caption of your post, write something like, “Today in Small Group, we were thinking about you, ” or, “We think you’re awesome because…” or, “Our small group loves you!” Be sure to tag the person you want to encourage so they see it!
Cook a meal for your family. Challenge your students to give back at home by taking charge of dinner. Have them buy the ingredients, make the meal, and even clean up afterwards.
Babysit. Is there a family in your church that you know could use a night off? Encourage your students to offer them one night of free babysitting. Or, host a Parent’s Night out at your church for families to drop off their kids for a few hours. Have the students in your ministry serve as babysitters that night.
Serve a nursing home. This one is great because there are so many ways you can do it! Decorate a room in a nursing home for a holiday. Bring treats to the residents. Host an evening of games or activities. Or simply send cards to residents from your student ministry.
Raise money to support someone going on a mission trip. So often students think about raising money to support themselves on a specific trip or student ministry mission, but why not give them the opportunity to do that for someone else? Have your students focus on raising money for another person in your church (maybe an adult, a family, or even a church leader) who is serving on a mission trip. It’s a great way to get them involved in supporting the work of others at your church.
Clean out your closet. What student couldn’t benefit from a little spring cleaning? Trust me, their parents will love this one! Get your students to clean out their closests and bring the items they want to get rid of to your church. Then, donate the clothes to a foster agency or Goodwill.
Bake cookies or cupcakes for a teacher. We all know teachers have one of the hardest jobs in the world. Get your students together to bake them some treats to show their appreciation. Be sure to include a thank you note with it, too!
Encouragement jars. Find a family in your church or community to encourage. Have your students fill a jar with verses, kind words, jokes, and other notes of encouragement to serve and love that family.
The $5 challenge. Give everyone in your student ministry (or every Small Group) a $5 bill. Tell them they have to use their $5 to do something for someone else. Encourage them to take pictures to share what they did.
Help coupons. What are your students good at? Have them create coupons for their trades or talents to give to members of your congregation. They’ll be using their skills to serve other!
What ideas can you add to this list?
I would love to hear them!
Have you ever started in a new ministry role only to find yourself thinking: “How am I ever going to change this?”
Maybe it was something as minor as changing the blend of coffee used in the kitchen. (Amen!) Or maybe it was something as imperative as a total culture or vision shift for the ministry. No matter what it was, you know as well as I do that change is always hard in ministry, but especially when you’re the new guy!
That’s the situation I found myself in when I entered my role as youth pastor in my new church.
Now don’t get me wrong; there are many absolutely wonderful things about my church that I would never change for the world. However, it was clear from the start that change needed to be made in a few areas. For me, it was specifically to bring a greater intergenerational focus and a stronger strategy for partnering with parents. I was staring down the barrel of a clear need for changes, yet fearful of what actually pushing for those changes might mean.
One thing was certain: I absolutely needed to introduce Orange. Not only for the curriculum, but for the strategy of partnering with parents to understand the importance of their roles in the lives of their kids.
Fast forward one year, and we have gone from a highly segregated, multigenerational church to a ministry where every generation is embracing the Orange curriculum and strategy. While I certainly don’t have it all figured out, I have found some universal strategies for how to bring a change like this one to your ministry.
I strongly recommend reading as many Orange resources as you can. Doing so will help you be well informed about what you’re going to introduce to your ministry. Read books, articles, and blogs. Listen to Orange podcasts. Make it part of your weekly rhythm to invest in your personal development in this particular way. Each week, I have two hours blocked out in my calendar where I do this. I treat it as non-negotiable. It can be easy to get overwhelmed with ministry ‘tasks,’ but I firmly believe that personal and professional development are vital.
There’s nothing worse than having a blank face when someone asks you, ‘Why?’ To be able to cast vision and use common language for the Orange strategy at your church, you first have to understand the vision and language for yourself. This way, when you present it to others, you feel confident to answer any question you may get!
- Start with the basics.
I had a parent vision night where I started a conversation with the parents about youth ministry. Following that, I introduced the basic principle of Orange, focusing on the significance of ‘yellow’ (the light of the Church) and ‘red’ (the heart of the family).
The way I did this was simple: I had a yellow-red gradient on the screen with the color orange in the middle. I asked parents to discuss where they believed our youth ministry currently landed.
It had become very apparent that even though our ministry was quite yellow, the parents overall had a desire to bring more ‘red’ into the spiritual lives of their kids. This was an incredible insight into how parents saw both the present and future of our youth ministry, and it gave us great momentum to move forward with the Orange strategy in mind.
- Focus on alignment.
I’m the adult guy who has braces on his teeth. (I call it being relational with students.) The reality is that while my teeth looked very healthy on the outside, underneath the gum-line was anything but healthy. Nearly two years ago, I was told that if I didn’t get my teeth aligned, they would rot out from underneath. It’s a slightly uncomfortable (and gross!) illustration, but the reality is that strong alignment is crucial. If we don’t emphasize the importance of alignment, our teams and our vision may very well rot.
To get everyone in alignment, I took my leaders on a weekend retreat to introduce the Orange strategy. This was an awesome opportunity to hear their thoughts and input as well as cast some big-time vision. To say my leaders were excited would be an understatement!
I brought parents on board using the same Orange vocabulary I used with our leaders. With everyone on the same page, we were set up for some huge wins. Their alignment was key to our success, and I think it will be for yours, too. Using common language with both your leaders and parents will help them catch on much quicker, and you’ll ultimately get more buy in when they hear them used frequently.
- Find your pioneers.
One thing I have also realized is that you can’t do it alone. What I’ve found to work well is to find your ‘pioneers.’ These are the people who will help you clearly communicate what you are trying to move toward in your ministry. Invest in these pioneers who are excited about the shift. Use them to help you influence and excite others. The truth is, when a message comes from a collection of voices, it is louder and stronger than if it came from just one. Who are your pioneers? Find them and mobilize them to help you make the change in your ministry.
[bctt tweet=”The truth is, when a message comes from a collection of voices, it is louder and stronger than if it came from just one.” username=pslukedm”]
So, there you have it. This has been our journey up to this point. We don’t have it all figured out, and we’re still learning, of course. Some days it feels like we aren’t moving fast enough, but patience is key with any culture shift. If you’re new to your ministry role or find yourself in a season of transition at your church, I hope these suggestions are helpful to you as you navigate new changes! Feel free to reach out with any other suggestions you have as well. I’d love to hear them!
|Luke has over ten years of youth ministry experience, and is currently the Youth & Young Adults Pastor at Kilsyth South Baptist Church in Melbourne, Australia. Luke is married to Samantha and has three children named Isaac, Emily, and Henry. Luke is passionate about seeing the next generation not only flourish in their faith, but disciple others in their spiritual journeys. He also loves to cook! Luke is coming to Orange Conference ’18 so make sure you say hello! Follow him on Instagram at @pslukedm for pictures of a town that probably has better views than yours.