A tale of 2 ministry calendars (part 1)

About a year ago, I vividly remember a mom leaning anxiously against our youth room door as she sent her son over to ask me a question. Her red headed middle school son, who was much taller than me [pretty much everyone is] walked over and asked...

“Do we have a student leadership meeting today after service?”

I replied, “Yes, we do and it will be over around 1:30pm.” He walked back over to his mom told her “yes” and she immediately seemed upset. Her demeanor changed from anxious to outright angry. I came to learn his parents are divorced and he spends every other Sunday with his mom and the other Sundays with his dad. Our student leadership meeting was cutting into her time with him as was our tech team. She already had to drop him off REALLY early that Sunday morning for him to run tech for the student worship band.

Here was a middle schooler who didn’t go to church with his mom because he was in our middle school program each Sunday. Twice. Both services he was in our student ministry. I added it up, this one student clocked a grand total of 6 hours with us in our middle school ministry on a Sunday morning. 6 hours of his time with mom cut short because of us. If I was her, I’d be angry too. Not even taking into account Wednesday night youth group or any required student worship band practice in between. He needed more time with mom and dad, less time with us. In that moment I knew something had to change.

After this experience, I championed (and it took a bit of strategic convincing) to move our student leadership meeting from once a month on a Sunday after church to Wednesday before youth group. This student leadership meeting had been in this time slot forever. Like over 15 years. “Let’s feed them dinner, do a little training and have them assigned to their student ministry responsibilities before youth group even starts.” Guess what? The number of middle schoolers serving in student leadership practically doubled. Even so...every once in awhile someone on our staff who liked it the way it was [why is change so hard for some people?] always asked “should we move student leadership back to Sundays?” Pretty much everyone with a pulse replied in unison “no.” We made a strategic change to be more family friendly in our program schedule and it was working. Working well.

How do YOU know when it's time to re-think or change [or gasp...delete!] youth ministry programs from your youth group calendar?

Questions to Ponder:

1) How many hours do students really need to be with us?

2) If parents are the number one influence, why do we take students away from family time so often?

3) Do you get grumpy when a student chooses staying home with their family over your youth event?

4) Does your youth event calendar allow TIME and breathing space for youth pastors, youth staff, and volunteers to hang with students and families organically outside of program?

5) Do your students even know who your Sr. Pastor or Teaching pastor is?

6) If you had to send a student over to "big church" would they know where it is?

7) How can you better integrate students into the life of the church and not isolate them away from the adults in the church?

8) Does the fate of all teenagers REALLY depend on whether or not you add one more event to your youth calendar or is God bigger than that?

9) If God became human to be with us, how can you create more space in your ministry for you and your volunteers to be with students, not just "in front of" students.

10) An example... If you wanted to take lunch to a youth volunteer at their place of employment or drop off a lunch to a student at school for their birthday...would you easily have time to do so?  Does your personal calendar reflect time for people over programs?

DO this: Look over your church/youth calendar and calculate how many hours in an average week a student could theoretically be away from their family if they were to attend everything available to them in your youth ministry? What did you find? What do you think about it?

I will be sharing more about how to create space in your youth ministry for students (and staff) to engage in faith practice over programs. 


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