About 6 years ago we made the decision to cancel our Wednesday night youth group for middle school students and move everything we did to Sunday mornings. For more info about what our Sunday morning program looks like click here. We also chose to cancel our Sunday morning and Sunday night gatherings for High School and move everything to Wednesday night. We saw both numerical growth and the quality of ministry increase immediately and here’s some reasons why…
1. It was a win for volunteers’ and families’ schedules. Instead of running students around to church 2 or 3 times a week (or even more), or asking volunteers to serve multiple times a week, we condensed it down to one time a week – and for middle school that was Sunday mornings. It works for us because we have 2 adult gatherings on Sunday mornings (9am and 11am) and we do the same for our middle school gatherings now. It allows volunteers to go to church at one service and serve at the other. And it’s a win for families because now they can spend their weeknights together now or engaged more in their community.
2. It was a win for our church. If we’re honest, we understand that parents will sometimes choose a church to attend based on what it offers for kids. A lot of parents tell me they heard about our children’s ministry or heard about our middle school ministry and decided to bring their family to check it out. This is especially true with unchurched families; families already engaged with our ministry now have another reason to invite their unchurched friends to get engaged – “you guys should check out of childrens/middle school programs, your kids will love it”, and mom and dad get to go to church at the same time. I believe having a quality middle school program on Sunday mornings really helps in attracting young families to engage with your church.
3. It increased our volunteer pool. Because we canceled our high school program on Sunday mornings, it opened the door for high school students to serve and invest in middle school students. High School students that can’t drive or are busy during the week now have a place to use their gifts and are engaged as greeters, cafe workers, security, and even leading a small group if they are mature enough.
It also increased our adult volunteer pool because they are already there at church – they don’t need to come back another day and time to serve. This has been huge for us and makes it easier to find quality volunteers that may be busy during the week.
4. It increased the quality of ministry to students. Because we as a staff can focus all of our attention on just one gathering a week, we have a lot more time to invest in volunteers, develop our small group environment, develop our worship environment, plan our games/fun stuff, and prepare our messages. When we were preparing for 2,3, or more events or gatherings a week, we had a lot less time and energy for each gathering and the overall quality of each one suffered. And because we include small groups in our Sunday morning program now, that means every student we are engaged with is automatically plugged into a small group. Each student that walks through our doors is connected to an adult that cares about them and a community of their peers that is on a journey of following Jesus with them.
As you can tell, for us less gatherings = better ministry opportunity. I realize every context is different and our structure isn’t the “right way” or anything, but I just wanted to share why we chose to do it the way we do.
What do you think?
We value you’re input and want to have discussion with you. How is your youth ministry structured? What are the pros and cons of how you do it and what would you recommend to others that has been successful to you?
Kenny is the Middle School Pastor at The Chapel at CrossPoint in Buffalo, NY, and creator of youth ministry websites like stuffyoucanuse.org, funninja.org, and instafeedlive.com.