Alright, let me start by describing the youth program we’ve been running for a while now.
We meet with our middle and high school students from 7:00-9:00 on Sunday nights. We gather together for a half hour of worship and a short discussion on the theme of the month. Then we break into small groups. 4 groups… High School Girls, High School Guys, Middle School Girls, Middle School Guys. All of the groups have 2 leaders (except for mine, HS Girls – can’t seem to find a partner in crime). We’re in small groups for an hour and then have food and free time. We have an awesome woman in the church who prepares something for us each week. Usually a dessert or snack food.
It’s been a great program. I love the combination of crowd time and small group time. I love that all the small groups meet at the same time (instead of individually throughout the week) so that the leaders can support each other and back each other up. It gives us flexibility to join groups every once in a while. Plus, it helps with the huge challenge of having a large age range. We have students from ages 10-18. Trying to meet their needs all at once – in one traditional “youth group” – would be ineffective/exhausting.
The format is still solid. But for us, it’s stale.
On Saturday morning I met with all of our small group leaders. I cooked breakfast and we watched “Help I’m A Small Group Leader” [highly recommend] then we discussed the program. What works, what could make it better, what could give it a fresh look and feel. After an exhilerating 30 minute hyper speed brainstorming/problem solving session, we landed here…
9:00 is too late for our younger students. Without meaning to, we’ve discrimated against the students who have responsible parents that enforce an appropriate bedtime for a school night. Can’t believe it took me so long to realize it.
Several of our students come without eating dinner. By 8:30 (food time) they’re starving and bouncing off the walls. They will focus and learn better if they’re not hungry. Another obvious one. Duh!
The 8:30-9:00 free time is hectic. Students are grabbing food, getting picked up, tearing down the A/V equipment, leaders are tired and everyone is sort of doing their own thing. I connect with my girls during the small group time but I don’t get a chance to connect with the rest of the students as much as I’d like.
Beginning in November, JUSTIFIED will move to a new time. 6:00-8:00pm
At 6:00 we will break bread together. Someone from the church will provide a meal (and stay to eat with us – giving more people the opportunity to connect with the students and the program). Students and leaders are fed and happy. We’ve all had a chance to connect with each other and enjoy a “family dinner” which is a rare thing in most homes.
After that we’ll gather together for worship and discussion around the theme. That will look pretty much the same as it does now.
Small groups will meet for the last hour. All the groups will be trying new things. More games (related to whatever they’re studying), more multi-media stuff, more special activities (example: The middle school guys will be taking off during group time for a bike ride along the canal some Sunday).
I’m pumped about the facelift. I’m hoping that some of the students we’ve lost touch with will come back to see what the new program is like. I’m hoping that students will invite more friends to check it out. More than anything, I’m hoping that, by adding more variety to what we do, we can connect more students to the kingdom.
Will you pray for us?