We all know that you lie awake in bed at night with colorful, creative ways to dazzle and impress. You ponder the deeper questions of life: what game could I do with those four boxes of bubble wrap? Can people really choke to death from marshmallow eating games like Chubby Bubby? Does averaging 1.37 emergency room visits per retreat make me a bad youth leader?
But you’re not only about fun and games. More than anything, you want teens to realize their potential. You want them living for something bigger than themselves. You want them selflessly investing in the lives of other people. You want them just as psyched about being in their immediate community as they are about going to serve Haiti.
So what if you were to do both at the same time?
When people ask what the best event has been in my years of youth ministry, my mind immediately goes back to our Student Serve Lock in. Mashing the fun of a lock in with the effectiveness of a service project is the best combo since the invention of the fluffernutter sandwich.
Here is a bird’s-eye view of the schedule:
7:00 pm – 11:30 pm // High-energy fun, complete with shenanigans, tomfoolery, and a sprinkle of Mountain Dew.
11:30 pm – 1:00 am // A winddown activity. A movie with a dark environment ought to tire them out just nice.
1:00 am – 7:30 am // SLEEEEEEEP. It’s a busy day tomorrow and you need your strength!
7:30 am – 9:00 am // Breakfast and game planning for drivers and site coordinators
9:00 am – 11:00 am // Service Block #1
11:00 am – 1:00 pm // Travel back for lunch; eat lunch; travel to next worksite
1:00 pm – 3:00 pm // Service Block #2
3:00 pm – 4:00 pm // Final rally, swap stories, head home
We were sending students in all four directions of rural Indiana. They not only had a blast, but also got to change lives. We utilized a rent-a-student initiative to fill those service blocks. People in the church could request our services and pledge a donation for our cause.
Our group was a modest size but still managed to bring in $2200 for purchasing Christmas presents for their classmates who wouldn’t get one otherwise. It was essentially a double-whammy of good.
Upon reflecting on the wins of this event, two bubbled to the surface.
It Accomplishes Two Purposes with One Commitment
I don’t have to convince you that kids are busy. There are fewer and fewer available time slots for your group to meet outside of its weekly routine. This has caused many ministries to cut out the fluff and only rally people for what is truly essential.
We want to create spaces that kids can have fun and connect on a level that is outside of the weekly routine. We also want them engaged in service.
Two birds, one stone, and one smart youth leader with a beefy arm and impeccable aim.
It Gets Some Kids Serving Who Never Would
The real fruit of this event came in the weeks following. Some kids confessed that they enjoyed serving more than they thought they would. One stat showed me that these weren’t empty words.
Every third Saturday, we held a rotating service project, ranging from weeding to feeding, raking to baking, dusting to busting… down walls. At best, we would have 3-5 kids show up.
The very next third Saturday, we had 16 kids show. Those service projects were forcefully propelled forward by our Student Serve Lock In. Kids showed up for a good time but were surprised how great it felt to exercise their service muscles.
Give it a shot. It could be a huge advantage for your ministry like it was for mine.
Jonny Radcliff is the Student Ministry Director at Storehouse Church and the Philadelphia Area Coordinator at National Network of Youth Ministries. He lives near Philly with his wife and the three little monsters that they rear. His ten years of youth ministry have been spent in Indiana and Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Liberty University and Grace Theological Seminary.