It’s what we all want; for our students to be excited and passionate about what we’re doing. We put so much time and effort into what we do, wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone was just as passionate as we are?
Although we’ll never see everything perfectly lined up with how we envision it, there have been several things we’ve done within our student ministry to see more involvement. When I say involvement, I’m not just talking about students showing up to things. I’m talking about faces lighting up when an event gets announced and friends being invited because of genuine excitement.
Here are some things that we’ve done, which hopefully can inspire you in your context.
Create opportunities to serve
- If you haven’t noticed, teenager’s lives are busy. If all we do is tell them to show up to our next best event, that’s what they’ll do; show up. If we want our students involved, we need to create opportunities for them to serve. Here are things we’ve done over the last couple of years.
- We started with asking students to help with selling snacks and soda. Over the course of a year it’s transformed into full café with the money earned supporting a young girl in Uganda.
- 2 years ago, we were worshiping using videos. Although we didn’t have many interested, we started a worship team with people playing random instruments. The first year was rough; I’m not going to lie. There were students up on stage, however, and it encouraged others to join and even invite some friends from school who are talented to be a part of the team. We now have two worship teams because of the number of students wanting to serve.
Give ownership to students
- In the book Multipliers, Liz Wiseman talks about the importance of giving ownership to people. She talks about the willingness to give 51% ownership of something to someone. What she means by this is that when it comes to making a final decision, the person you gave ownership to has the authority to make it. That doesn’t mean you don’t give your opinion or have a say, but you’re empowering the student to make a final decision.
- Remember the café I just mentioned? One of our 10th graders currently has “ownership” of it. She asked to help, I saw her potential, and told her I believed in her. There are more than 10 other students who have asked to help in the cafe now, and students are connecting on their own without me forcing it.
- I recently gave “ownership” of our prayer team to a student; she loves praying and thought we should be praying before each service. So at 6:30 every Wednesday night, her and a group of 5 or 6 other students go in another room and pray. She created a group chat on GroupMe to share prayer requests through the week, and they’re currently putting together a list of things to create a better atmosphere within the room. She has a budget, and she can spend that money however she wants.
This hopefully isn’t new to you. Teenagers don’t want to follow a “know-it-all”. If your idea is always the best idea, you’ll lost momentum. If you do things just because that’s how you decided to do it, your students will lose interest. Have humility. Understand that your next best series might come from an idea from a student leader. Your big winter event might become the best event you ever do because it is organized and planned by a group of students! When’s the last time you allowed your students to over-rule how you thought something should be done?
As much as I possibly can, I ask for feedback using “start, stop, continue”.
- What should we start doing?
- What should we stop doing?
- What should we continue doing?
I ask these questions to our worship team, our café team, our volunteers, parents, student leaders, you name it! Whether you get the feedback anonymously or create a group discussion, your genuine interest in what other people think can break down barriers and help students get involved. Also, don’t just ask for feedback. Take it to heart, recognize your need for others, and then actually implement some of the things.
Hopefully sharing some of my own stories has encouraged you to think outside the box. What can you start doing to get your students more involved? What would you add to this list?
Rob Bergfalk is a Youth Pastor at Nowthen Alliance Church in Minnesota, and was in a variety of leadership roles in the restaurant industry for 10+ years prior. He and his wife have a son, and they love spending time serving together. Rob loves learning, writing, and speaking. He loves spending time with Jesus, and is honored to be able help others fall in love with Him as well. Find him on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/rbergfalk