Do something new this fall to get students excited. Connect with a couple other youth groups to create critical mass for an event. Invite families from your church to participate. Hype it up. Teach students to invite friends. Make sure to get connected with their friends when they do attend.
MUDFEST – The first Wednesday night of the fall ministry, the student leadership team at our church digs a huge pit in one corner of the church yard. All the students are asked to wear old clothes. They begin with an outdoor worship service and welcome from the youth ministry leader before starting with the mud. What starts as organized games using the mud pit eventually turns to organized and fun chaos. Students are not allowed back in the building afterward, but hose off outdoors. It’s been a hit the last few years. One student described it as “heaven in a pit.”
COOKOUT / NEW T-SHIRT UNVEILING – Design and pre-sell a really cool T-shirt. The first meeting of the fall, have a cookout (either at church or at a home) and unveil the new t-shirts. Continue with this tradition each year.
RETREAT – Plan to take the students some place as the summer is wrapping up and the school year is just beginning. Many groups have found this to be an effective way to involve new students, have a great time, and to raise the spiritual temperature of the group as they begin a new school year together. Do something special for your seventh graders or ninth graders to make them feel connected during this time. Allow some of your older students to help in leadership of this retreat, as they begin to continue getting their feet wet in sharing in the leadership of the body of Christ. Make it as cheap and as nice as possible – be creative. Maybe a campout. Maybe a retreat in a motel (if your group is smaller), or maybe you can go to a retreat facility to utilize their resources.
CONCERT / WORSHIP NIGHT / YOUTH RALLY – Pick a night, name the night (if you want to), and invite two – three other churches to connect with you (bring their leaders on board to help with planning). Have some games, a concert or comedian, some food, and invitation to respond to God’s love for them. You can be creative in funding for this evening – work to make it a free thing for students and friends.
STUDENT / FAMILY NIGHT– Plan a lunch for students and families. Show a video from the summer, show some pictures, possibly play some games and then share with the students and families some of the goals / visions / dates for the coming year. Pass out forms with dates for retreats, camps, and big events. You don’t have to know all the details at this point, but just letting people know what’s coming is a huge help. Share the themes / topics you have scheduled for the fall. Briefly talk about fundraisers. Start a prayer partner connection for the fall. Offer a time and way for families to sign up to volunteer for ministry tasks such as providing food for events, drivers for events, etc. This is a good way to connect with the greatest ally, the parents. Be creative in offering incentives for attendance.
Any of these ideas, as well as other ideas, can be tweaked to fit the style, size, and nature of your group. There are really just three keys to a fall kick off for youth ministry: 1) invite kids to be there 2) invite kids to be there 3) invite kids to be there.
If Harvest can be helpful to you this fall, please contact us. We would love to come for a worship service or kick off event at your church. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details about the band joining your group.
Here’s one of the many sample schedules for a typical Sunday night event:
5:00 PM – 5:15 PM Check IN
5:15 PM – 6:00 PM Games (led by Harvest)
6:00 PM – 6:30 PM Pizza or other menu (provided by church)
6:30 PM– 7:30 PM Worship Service / Devotion (Harvest)