8.17.2007

Reaching the Un-churched 13 year old

I've been doing a whole lot of thinking lately....maybe a little too much. It seems like the majority of my recent posts are trolling for answers and insight which serves as a reminder that we'll probably never totally figure this thing out!

Here's my current wrestling match: What does a truly effective weekly junior high program look like?

In our setting, we've got a variety of programs for students at a variety of places in their spiritual journey, but we do have ONE PRIMARY program each weekend that is more of an entry level experience for students. This is the program we hope will attract un-churched students and the program we hope our regular attenders will invite their friends to.

It's a solid program, and one that I think is serving us well, but we're missing something.

Is it that we need more adult volunteers loving on kids? Is it that we need a better follow up system to help us notice when students are missing? Is it that we need better lights, a new fog machine and bigger screens (gosh, I REALLY hope it isn't that...)? Is it that we need to radically examine how we teach the gospel? Is it that the program is fine but we need to be spending more time with students on campus, at games etc. earning the right to be heard?

This could prove to be a lively discussion....so don't be afraid to fire away with your ideas, your successes, your failures and your reactions to what others say.

16 comments:

Mike said...

"Is it that the program is fine but we need to be spending more time with students on campus, at games etc. earning the right to be heard?" I think that this will give you the "something" you are looking for. But this answer is so easy that it is easy not to trust.

Kurt Johnston said...

Mike, my hunch is that you are right. I've always believed that the larger a ministry gets, the more important the personal touch is. Spending time with students, doing good follow up etc.

Here's a follow up question to you and others: Assuming that a ministry is highly relational outside the walls of the weekly program, how important is the 'relational touch' at the actual program?

Mark E. Eades said...

Kurt - my thoughts on your follow up question - I think it is huge. I think we can't build relationship enough what ever setting we are in. There are to many kids that we will still miss no matter how good our on campus and off campus presents is. Ever chance we have to develop relationship so that we can be the tools in God's hands to point kids to him I think is huge.

Dan said...

Hey Kurt
I am such a fan of the personal relationship with students that it sometimes limits what I do with programs. I've noticed that the kids who "get it" and come to Christ are normally ones I have just spend tons of time doing life with. I think anymore, the average youth worker loves on kids, but rarely knows how to do this with a lost student or knows how to effectively and simply give them the gospel.

Larry Davis (my boss) and I have been wrestling with this. He seems to have more response through an upfront invitation, but that hasn't proven effective with the middle school. I'm rethinking with you.

The fact is, most middle schoolers just want an adult in their lives. Since this is really the last "easy" time to catch them, leaders have got to make it a goal to spend time with/call/connect with at least one student a week outside of the church setting. Those relationships will prove effective in reaching the lost...but the leader needs to be ready for the dirtiness and brokenness of the lost student.

Dan said...

Whoops...just saw your follow up!

I think the initial touch at your weekly meeting is important, but it will always be surface. Follow up by a student and/or leader during the week is the beginning of the connection process. That hopefully brings them back. From there, leadership needs to begin to divide and conquer the students for relationship time. Small groups does that, but as you know, many don't do small groups.

Mike Conner said...

I was once taught, "If you want to grow larger, you must grow smaller."

I believe what you are wrestling with all of us go through. It is hard to develop that small feel in ministry regardless of culture and size of ministry. But I think along with teaching the Gospel to where students understand we must do the grow smaller.

Like you said Kurt, we earn the right to be heard.

swanzy said...

I sometimes feel like I put too many restrictions on our high school students. I wish they ran the whole show more and more often. I know it impacts our kids more often when they are present and I also think that it would work the same way if we had them doing the relational aspect of our ministry as well along side of us or like us at teh same time.

Obviously the assumption is that we are releasing and encouraging our core high school kids to do so. I think they would look more like Young Life area directors for kids and their friends in our middle school program.

I think of the non-believing and believing kid saying, "I want to go where that high school kid is going or try what that high school kid is trying."

I guess what I am saying is how do I elevate their leadership more? I think the more they are elevated the more leverage through them (hs kids to ms kids) we have for whatever we need to do.

Tony Steward said...

I know for most situations having the weekly program off campus isn't a reality. But when I worked with young life on of the things they stressed in a weekly program was that it be in a nuetral setting. Meaning that the program not be at a church, but at a students home, or a community location that would be familiar to the students you are trying to attract. Their goal was always to attract the students that were the "furthest out" with programming, me their thinking was if you did that you would get all those in between.

This in a normal situation could look like taking your entire weekend program off campus every quarter or every two months to connect with students in that nuetral setting. And them realize that when you are on campus at church realize that your location will always shape your program to point.

Just my two cents...

Tony Steward said...

haha some nice iPhone slipups in there...

Calvin said...

I agree with much of what everyone else has said. I think the thing we need to focus on is that personal touch. Students, especially middle schoolers, want to feel loved and accepted. We need to hang out at their places, but I don't think that means that a weekly event is doomed to failure on the relational front.

One idea that we might try this year with our ministry is the concept of "table fellowship." We might be trying to get some students together once a month to just sit down at a table and eat a meal together. That should be pretty interesting!

Alli Hibb said...

I wonder the same thing...is it that our time is awkward for students to bring friends? Would an outreach event/meeting be more effective on a school night instead of a Sunday morning?

'neice said...

I don't have a lot to add, but I talk for hours about the relational aspect. I am "just" a volunteer, but I have a ton of stories (from my former kids) about our relational relationship (if that makes sense) has touched them through the years...though I still cringe when one of them tells me she wants to be just like me! She is 29 now (I think) and I have known her since she was in 8th grade. When I was part of a larger ministry as a volunteer we had a 3,2,1 thing. Three calls, 2 letters and one 1:1 a week. I usually did more than that...but it was a great way to connect with my small group.

Anyway, it was very touching to hear one of my junior high girls say she missed me when she was at camp last week when she heard certain worship songs that have connected us and stuff like that.

Michael Norman said...

What a HUGE question. Being in a different culture (Oz) we have our own struggles but this one seems to be generic. I have always gone with the philosophy "what you catch them with is what you'll keep them with" and so our attraction is not in fact our program, but our relationships, with leaders and with there friends.
Perhaps the key is not to get HS involved in the program as much but discipling there friends. I know its a lot harder and takes longer but does seem to provide a healthier group in my opinion.
My 2c.

dsm said...

I love the comments that everyone has left on relationship and could not agree more. However, I think the struggle I have when trying to take a program to the next level is that the students who are coming have become complacent. They have created an environment where they come to church to see a whole separate group of friends and end up feeding a lack of evangelism.
What we have to do is create an environment where we can constantly develop momentum. When students catch momentum they get excited and start bringing their friends and in time they become more serious as their friends are asking them questions and they are gaining momentum.
A saying that I like to use a lot is this:
"Predictability breeds boredom, boredom breeds apathy and we do not want apathetic students."

'neice said...

dsm...

Duh! You are SO right. I think it is two pronged...if that makes sense. What you said for sure. But, I also think those relationships we have with the students can be a tool...if they are genuine and not "forced." The 3,2,1 I was talking about? Some leaders didn't bother because it was forced except for their favorites.

In my experience, as I developed great, real relationships with students they would bring their friends because they wanted their friends to experience the same thing. But yeah, I totally agree with the momentum.

'neice said...

I should calrify..."duh" as in I am a dummy for leaving that out...not "duh...we can figure that out dsm."

ooops!